Quota Management: Keepin’ It Real…Time

ObamaIn addition to the more obvious benefits of a live session such as speed and the ability to adapt and change course on-the-fly, there are less tangible benefits that rise to the surface. One of those is unpredictability. And unpredictability shows its face in many different ways. It may be seen in a number of responses grandly challenging hypotheses or it may play itself out through one humorous yet enlightening response that gets the room talking. Either way, unpredictability has been a part of probably every session I have conducted and is a big part of what makes the research we do thought-provoking, unique and fun.

However, as necessary as this unpredictability is to successful real-time research, it has always carried with it one challenge that has been a tough nut to crack. When recruiting for a real-time session, they are often run on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that respondents are let in based on when they show up. In addition to this, for real-time research we have to over-recruit respondents to ensure we hit our required base size.

The combination of these two factors can make the recruiting process a challenge if a client has specific quotas and sub-segments to hit.  For example, imagine a client wanted specific percentages attached to geographic regions or client-defined consumer segments or, heaven forbid, both. Ensuring that these specific percentages would be hit has traditionally been a struggle and hitting them has always carried with it a “best effort” promise. In rare cases, if a quota was too hard to hit in a live session we would have to offer alternatives such as an asynchronous session or, if a real-time session was a necessity, we would have to tell our client that hitting such a tough quota might not be possible.

If we were going after quotas such as these, in the screening process, we would of course recruit based on these percentages and use our experience to define when to over-recruit for specific segments when we know they have lower show-up rates (males and business travelers, for example, are habitual no-shows) but there is never a guarantee. One segment could have a bunch of early birds show up and throw the balance off, which would require some scrambling and adjustments to ensure the specific percentages are met. Measures could always be taken to combat these over-quotas such as letting in more respondents up front and weighting on the back-end or complementing a live session with an asynchronous session after the fact to backfill lacking quotas. These types of solutions, however, have the potential to add additional time and/or costs to a project.

For me personally as someone who prides himself on conducting solid research and delighting clients, those moments before a live session as I would watch the segments fill up would always be somewhat intense and involve a lot of finger-crossing! Mainly this was because I knew that if quotas fell short, some uncomfortable conversations would have to take place.

I am, therefore, very excited that Invoke has just released its Real-Time Quota Management™ tool (RTQM™). This tool uses screener data already collected and works as a pre-qualifying “gatekeeper,” allowing in only people that meet the specific study criteria to fill up segment quotas, while keeping out others who are no longer necessary. And in the event that a quota falls short, the tool has an adaptive mechanism that will allow more people in to compensate for the shortfall in specific segments. For the respondents, this process takes no extra effort.

This has really changed things for us and while this type of news may not be as exciting as our other capabilities, for me it has made things so much better. Now, it feels like the final piece of the real-time research puzzle is in place. No more finger-crossing. I feel confident that my clients will go into the session confident that their necessary quotas have been met and we are hearing from the respondents they want to hear from.

Just recently, this enhancement got me through a pretty tight recruiting challenge. Doing some work for a major U.S. automotive products manufacturer we were asked to not only recruit two separate evenly distributed respondent groups (users and non-users), but we also had to recruit an identical ethnicity mix within these two groups. This would have been extremely challenging to do in a real-time setting prior to RTQM.

Using RTQM, however, we were able to stay on-target with the client’s requests as the table below illustrates:

Invoke Solutions real time market research online qualitative quantitative







As you can see above, we would have not met our client’s needs had we not used RTQM in this situation. As I mentioned above, if this were the case I would have offered up some alternative solutions such as offering to fill these quotas in an open, asynchronous session but this would have added more time and potentially more cost to the project.

Going forward, I am excited to be able to offer more targeted quota management for our clients in a live session and I do feel that this really enhances our real-time capabilities by adding a real-time layer into our recruiting processes.

And you can “quota” me on that (see what I did there?),


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