Why it’s important to hire a professional moderator

Internal researchers might think they’ve seen enough focus groups, usability interviews or bulletin board projects that they could moderate them themselves. Especially if doing so would allow them to complete projects within a tight budget. However, research conducted in this vain is akin to throughing your money right out the corporate window. And … you wouldn’t take this approach with your surgeon or your auto-mechanic would you? (Well, maybe some of you would. Oy vey!)

In-house researchers can increase the return on their company’s investment tenfold if they recognize the incredible value a professional moderator adds. Aside from the obvious OBJECTIVITY a professional moderator brings to the table, here are five of the myriad of reasons why you should hire a professional moderator:

  1. A professional moderater knows how to establish rapport, create a safe environment and encourage participants to share “no holds barred” thoughts and feelings. THAT’S what good research gets you … you want that.
     
  2. A professional moderator has … and there’s no other way to say this … they have skills. A professional knows how to handle group and individual dynamics, juggle the flow of the conversation, meet the needs of both introverts and extroverts, manage dominant respondents, avoid group think and bias, use projective and creative techniques … SKILLS.
     
  3. A professional knows when and if they need to dig deeper throughout the discussion to get you golden nuggets of insight. There’s an intuition that professionals develop that helps them know when to probe, when to ladder (e.g., to higher-end benefits from simply top-of-mind funcational), when to press on and when to move on.
     
  4. A professional knows the right questions: what to ask and how to ask it. Professionals understand how to get at the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs behind a typical response. They understand statements shouldn’t always be taken “at face value” and know how to leverage contact to understand why something is or what makes a participant feel the way they do. (If you don’t believe in the importance of asking the right questions, google the New Coke debacle of 1985 … you’ll see it matters GREATLY.)
     
  5. A professional takes insights and turns them into inspiration for innovation — alright, this one takes more than just a professional. It takes a trained, skilled, seasoned, and credible professional. A moderator who is all that and a bag of chips can lead a research team to face brand challenges head-on, come up with ideas based on insights, tease out the possibilities, develop an action plan and implement the most innovative solutions. (Here’s my shameless self-promotion. It takes me. Of course I want you to hire me because … I’m good.)