I had a conversation recently with someone who didn’t really understand the concept of qualitative research and said ‘ok, tell me what you can do for me with this research you do then’. I replied that first of all I would consult closely with them to understand their business issue or challenge, and then work out the best way to go about addressing it using first-hand feedback from their customers so they were fully informed and able to make considered and constructive decisions.
Somewhat to my surprise this prompted a response that was somewhere between aggressive and dismissive, stating that research would not be able to help any business problem (should they have one) because they knew everything there was to know about their customer attitudes based on anecdotal feedback and 5-line customer satisfaction questionnaires, plus they couldn’t see how spending money on telling them what they already knew could be in the least bit worthwhile.
I demurred and congratulated them on their confidence, but this kind of attitude towards customer understanding and insight can be worrying. All too often good, in-depth consumer research can be seen as a cost rather than an investment, with marketing departments preferring to make assumptions about their target audience without really knowing that they’re right.
If this is you it’s a dangerous strategy. People rarely see us the way we see ourselves, and if you’re not sure about a direction for your marketing campaign, or have a sense that the competition is stealing a bit of a march, there’s no substitute for just going out and asking the punters what’s going on from their point of view.
You might not like what you hear, but it’s amazing how a small amount of good quality insight can refresh the perspective of those who’ve got to the cloth ears stage by being too close to their product, and it’s very unusual that a bit of objective external input in the form of a few focus groups doesn’t shake up the thinking a bit and tweak the direction along tighter lines,
The temptation may be to do it as cheaply as possible and run a freebie on SurveyMonkey, but the real value is going to come from first-hand feedback via qualitative research and even a small amount of spend here can make a significant difference to the effectiveness of a marketing campaign or development strategy (whatever the budget).
The exciting thing about qualitative research is that it doesn’t just tell you what people think, but why they think it and therefore how this might affect their behaviour. A good researcher should guide you to that nugget of understanding, and it’s this information that enables a customer message to develop into something that is really going to hit the mark.