Halloween is just a few days away. In honor of the scariest holiday on the calendar, we here at the Bunker Blog want to provide our fellow market researchers with some spooky situations. For the most part, the market research community is a pretty even-tempered bunch. We’re not the kind of people who will jump out of our shoes at the sight of fake blood or a rubber monster mask. But there are things that are guaranteed to terrify us. That’s what this post is about.

1. When Mother Nature Hates You

It’s the night of the big focus groups. The participants have all been recruited, enticed by a lucrative honorarium. The facility has been paid for. The client has come in from out-of-town. Maybe you’ve come in from out-of-town. And then, an hour before the night’s first group, a blizzard hits and your participants stay home in droves. Looks like you’ll be rescheduling this one.  Okay, we admit it. Being located in Syracuse, NY, this one might have actually happened to us a few times. In reality, Syracusans are fortunate if it doesn’t snow on Halloween.

2. Computer Gremlins – The Online Survey That Goes Offline

You’ve launched a major online survey. Email invites have gone out to perhaps thousands of potential respondents. Imagine how ticked off they’ll be when they click on the link, only to receive an error message because a server or your service provider somewhere has gone down. Many of them won’t try a second time. If you’re lucky, they’ll start emailing and calling your office using the contact info you provided. You’ll get messages stating there’s a problem, many of which will be more irate than a group of trick-or-treaters after they visit the house of that elderly couple that gives out pennies instead of candy.   Test, test and retest your survey link before launch.  Make your IT department or provider aware of the upcoming survey before it happens. Control the things you can control.

3. Scary Silences – The In-Depth Interviewee with Nothing to Say

The great thing about B2B in-depth interviews (IDIs) is that they are usually conducted among people who are experts on a given topic, unless it’s a general B2C study. When they start talking, they have a wealth of information to offer. The problem comes when they don’t start talking. Sometimes interviewees clam up when you get them on the phone – or worse yet, you have traveled to their office to talk to them in person. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re naturally shy. Whatever the cause, when the cat gets the interviewee’s tongue, it leaves you with not much other than a lot of awkward silences and unanswered questions. When you’re in the middle of a bumpy qualitative research project, nobody can hear you scream (unless they sit next to your cubicle). There are a lot of different tried and true techniques an interviewer can use to probe for information, but sometimes there is nothing you can do.

4. Tiny Terrors – The Minuscule Survey Response Rate

Your call center has two weeks to get 400 completes for a telephone survey that needs to be done by the end of the month. On the first day of putting full resources on it they get…three. Discovering that people aren’t completing your survey at the rate you had budgeted for is always good for a pit in the stomach. You are faced with the situation of having to relax the screener criteria, putting maximum resources on a project, or having to tell the client that the timeline will be delayed. Or all three. It’s like going to the mansion on the hill for trick-or-treating to get that king size Snicker’s bar you get every year, but as you see it from a distance the porch light is off. Again, doing some pretests up front will help you judge the response rate before going all-in.  After you’ve done enough similar studies in particular industries like RMS has, we can estimate a response rate with a specific audience quite accurately.

5. More Computer Gremlins – When PowerPoint Gives Up the Ghost

This is perhaps the most classic nightmare scenario on the list. Equivalent to the feeling you had when your cheap rubber band snapped on your Spiderman mask when you were 6. You’re standing in front of a board room, maybe even an auditorium. You’re there to deliver a summary of research findings to an eager audience. Minutes before the presentation, you discover that PowerPoint doesn’t work properly. Even worse is when it breaks down in the middle of the presentation. Worse still is when the breakdown results in the image of your computer desktop with all the non work-related shortcut icons being displayed for the whole room to ponder. “How much time did this guy spend playing solitaire when he should have been writing our report and figuring out how to use PowerPoint?” It’s always a good backup plan to save the presentation beforehand in various locations.  Or even have a 2nd computer available for such issues.  All in all, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about this gremlin.  Even if you don’t feed it after midnight.

If you work in market research, those situations probably gave you cold sweats just thinking about them. Perhaps even some of them have happened to you. Sleep well tonight. Bwahahahahaha!!!

Feel free to share any nightmarish stories you might have from your market research history – the Bunker welcomes some additional frights.