Custom Web Module Helps Hagen/Sinclair Zoom in on Market Research Candidates

MailChimp Web Form Development Simplifies Candidate Selection Process & Emails

Hagen/Sinclair Research Recruiting is in the business of rounding up articulate, qualified respondents for online studies and in-person focus groups. Seeking a MailChimp web form developer, the market research firm contracted with eXcelisys for a custom web app and MailChimp integration to streamline its candidate selection and email processes.

Lacking a Magic 8-Ball to consult for answers to burning questions, many entrepreneurs, health-care enterprises and NGOs turn to market research to assist with decisions about new products and services. But the key to acquiring key qualitative data lies in finding the right respondents. That’s where Hagen/Sinclair Research Recruiting comes in.

Since 2001, Hagen/Sinclair has been tracking down target audiences for market research projects. Say a client needs 150 people with diabetes for a focus group, or a start-up wants to interview married males who earn more than $75,000/year and who reside in metro areas of 250,000 people or less. Hagen/Sinclair will find them–no matter the niche or quirky demographic desired.

Monkeying Around with MailChimp

For years, Hagen/Sinclair relied on a FileMaker database to store and sort its ever-expanding participant pool. When someone filled out the participant intake and consent form on the website, the demographic data was captured by FileMaker. The recruitment process looked like this: Hagen/Sinclair recruiters would scour the FileMaker database to locate potential candidates for a project. The recruiter would create a “project list” in MailChimp to communicate with the candidates.

But MailChimp got wary of the ever-evolving Hagen/Sinclair subscriber lists. The campaigns began triggering Omnivore warnings for suspicious activity and getting shut down (i.e., MailChimp thought Hagen/Sinclair was sending spam).

At her wits’ end, Hagen/Sinclair Chico President Cynthia Hagen Cross contacted eXcelisys for help. As far back as 2009, eXcelisys had been taking care of Hagen/Sinclair’s FileMaker needs. Satisfied with eXcelisys’ FileMaker development work, Cross decided to give their web app developers a try. After discussing her needs with Project Manager Kurt Knippel, they came up with a plan — build a custom web app that would integrate the website intake form with MailChimp so all data and contacts would be captured in one master “respondent” database (or audience) in MailChimp, which would be custom-coded with tags for searching and segmenting populations.

Instead of transferring emails in and out of FileMaker, the emails would be stored in MailChimp, thereby complying with MailChimp’s terms of use and subscriber opt-in requirements. One of the biggest benefits Cross received from the project was relief in “feeling like I am clean in my email operation.” 

With the new system built by eXcelisys, the market research recruitment process looks like this

  1. To launch a new project, Hagen/Sinclair recruiters open the new web app (hosted by Amazon Web Services).
  2. The recruiter sets up the new project by entering the search parameters (say “women” in their “40s” who like “wine”).
  3. The web app connects to the MailChimp API and queries the MailChimp database to compile a list of candidates who meet the criteria.
  4. Using this list, the recruiter creates a new “segment” audience in MailChimp to communicate about the specific market research project.

Putting it All Together

As eXcelisys delved into the project, Mailchimp web form developer Michael Suhrbier initiated several upgrades to Hagen/Sinclair’s web technologies, including migrating the site to a new, responsive WordPress design; implementing SSL to ensure data transfers would be encrypted; and securing access points for Hagen/Sinclair recruiters working from virtual offices.

The project included many moving pieces. Here are some highlights:

  • New Intake Form with MailChimp Integration: eXcelisys created a new participant sign-up form for the website. 
    • Data captured on the form auto-populates the master MailChimp database 
    • Sign-up form now conforms with MailChimp’s consent and privacy policies
  •  Migration to WP Engine for hosting with setup for nightly backups











Left: Old intake form; right, new intake form, complete with privacy and consent statements to meet MailChimp guidelines.

That’s a Wrap

One of the things Hagen/Sinclair co-founder Cynthia Hagen Cross liked about the engagement with eXcelisys was the help Kurt and Michael provided with decision-making and project management. “They supported me through all of the platform changes we needed to make,” said Cross, who admitted her eyes have a tendency to “glaze over” when she has to delve into the technical nuances of running her business.

“As a small business owner, you have all of this critical infrastructure to handle by yourself. Having eXcelisys there to recommend how best to do things, the steps needed, and reviewing and taking it forward … their being there helped. They chaperoned me through picking the technology and putting it all together.” ~ Cynthia Hagen Cross


At a Glance: Hagen/Sinclair Research Recruiting, Inc.

What: Recruits participants for paid research studies across the U.S. (consumer & B2B — in-person, online, phone interviews, focus groups)

Where: Northern CA – with offices in Chico (run by Cynthia Hagen Cross) & Oakland (run by Anita Sinclair)

Fun Fact: Hagen/Sinclair Chico President & CEO Cynthia Hagen Cross studied humanities at UC Berkeley, then grabbed a master’s in literature, dreaming of a future filled with dialogues on Lord Byron. “By the time I got out, I was like, ‘Ugh, give me something real that happens.’ I wanted to be engaged in commerce or something.” Cross discovered market research recruiting and found she loved talking to the movers and shakers in different spheres of industry. In 2001, she co-founded Hagen/Sinclair with Anita Sinclair, President & CEO of Hagen/Sinclair Oakland.


Tech Specs: the eXcelisys Web Module Solution

Challenge: The client used a FileMaker database to store demographics on its participant pool (people who signed up to take part in studies). To recruit for a new study, Hagen/Sinclair searched the FileMaker database, then created a MailChimp campaign to contact participants who matched the criteria—but the practice did not meet MailChimp’s terms of use standards and the campaigns got shut down.

Solution: web app module with MailChimp integration

How it works: To start a new project, Hagen/Sinclair recruiters enter search parameters into the new web app, which connects to the MailChimp API and queries the MailChimp database looking for candidates who match the criteria. Taking this list, the recruiter creates a new segment audience in MailChimp to communicate about the project. Because the emails originate from segments within the MailChimp database, no warnings are triggered.

Snazzy Sides:

– New intake form with MailChimp integration: Data captured on the new web sign-up form auto-populates the MailChimp database

– WordPress website conversion from an old and now defunct CMS

Technologies: WordPress, WP Engine, AWS, Contact Form 7, Updraft, WordFence, Yoast SEO & MailChimp

Results: The owner feels relief that the company’s email operations are clean and the infrastructure is taken care of. “I get to focus on the craft of recruiting,” said Cynthia Hagen Cross.

Contributing Editors:

Lisa Frick
Kurt Knippel