The use of MROCs is burgeoning. They enable the researcher and the marketer to immerse themselves deeply in the lives of their consumers. The experience is incredibly rich. We can hear consumers in their own voice; we can peek into their homes. They can show us the things and images that are meaningful to them and their families. And, they still are able to talk among themselves in ways that make the most sense to them. It's an embarrassment of riches.
How do you make the most of these riches? MROCs are qualitative research. Right? Yet, unlike a focus group or an individual interview, they don't come at us as a simple, single stream of information. Rather, they give us different types of information, both synchronous and asynchronous, and they give us tons of it.
As we have mastered the operational aspects of this approach, we have also developed principles for maximizing the learning it delivers. Here are a few rules to follow if you want to get the most out of your MROC:
- Get your team organized and focused. More so than with traditional qualitative research, it is important to assure that all team members understand the goals of the project and the specific details of how those goals will be achieved. This is essential because most MROCs are built with a range of discussions, stimuli, and projective exercises. There are lots of little pieces to keep straight.
- Give everyone on the team a research buddy or two. Rather than ask every member of your team to pay attention to everything happening in the MROC, assign each member of the team one are two of the participants. Have the team members follow everything that just their "buddies" say and do. This makes the task of following the community much more manageable for each team member. Moreover, by immersing themselves in the experiences of just one or two participants, team members will feel the consumer experience much more deeply. In your meetings, they will become advocates for their research buddies.
- Use the technology platform to communicate questions and comments among the team members and with the community leaders. It may be tempting to e-mail, text, or simply grab someone in the hall to talk about the community, but using the technology platform will allow everyone on the team to see every comment and serve as a repository for those comments when the project is completed.
- Hold a "study hall." It is important that the team not let the rush of information get ahead of it. Therefore, we have found it essential to bring the team together almost daily to share the current state of its learning. Since everyone has a research buddy, the regularity of these meetings is less onerous than it sounds. We all want to give voice to our new friend.
- Give the team a framework. While the study hall is great for collective sharing, we also find it useful for the group leader to send almost daily, but brief, summaries of the three or four key insights of the day. Not only is the information valuable, but these insights focus the observations of the team members for the next day.
Following these simple rules will assure that your team gets the most from its MROC experience.