|Qualitative Research: In-Depth Interviews|
Continuing with our focus on qualitative research, this issue of Brand Matters explores the in-depth interview, or IDI, as one qualitative approach.
Blacksheep Strategy has been helping organizations get meaningful answers to their marketing and brand strategy questions by conducting in-depth interviews with their top customers and prospects, key stakeholders, as well as internal staff members. As researchers, our expertise in brand building aids our ability to drill down to discover and gain in-depth understanding of the tangible and intangible connections customers, stakeholders, and internal staff members have with a brand.
Q & A - What are in-depth interviews?
In-depth interviews are one-on-one discussions designed to uncover how target customers/stakeholders/employees/etc. behave, think, feel or make decisions about a particular topic. Interviews last anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes and, if possible, are conducted in-person. In-person interviews not only allow for greater rapport building, the interviewer can observe the respondent’s non-verbal behaviours. That said, telephone interviews are also effective and may be the only viable approach if respondents are scattered across the country, or if timing and/or operational constraints make an in-person interview impossible.
Why conduct In-depth interviews (IDIs)?
In-depth interviews offer the following advantages over other qualitative research approaches, such as focus groups:
In our experience, we have found that successful in-depth interviews are conducted by a senior research professional that has invested the time to understand the business issues at hand. Once respondents have agreed to the interview, it is a good idea to send them a brief outline of the discussion topics prior to the interview so that they feel prepared (everyone wants to do well, and feel that they can contribute). They do not have to answer the questions prior to the interview; it is simply to get them thinking about the topic. The interview itself should be semi-structured allowing for the natural flow of questions based on the feedback provided by the respondent. Flexibility is key - it’s important to let the respondent guide the flow of conversation. Respondents need to feel they are being heard and this is often where the really important findings emerge.
Qualitative research – top ten reasons to use it
It's summer time and the living is easy. People are out soaking up the summer sun and enjoying the all-too-short Canadian summer. But it's also a great time to start planning for the fall. This issue of Brand Matters takes a look at research methods. People who have been taking a more traditional, quantitative approach to research might want to consider investing in qualitative research to gain better customer insight. Stay tuned for more details about research. The next few issues of Brand Matters will highlight various qualitative research approaches.
Q & A - Why should we use qualitative research?
What makes your customers and prospects tick? How do they make decisions in your product or service category? Why do they choose to do business with your company or your competitors? What is the emotional connection that customers have with your brand and how strong is that connection? Are you differentiated in ways that matter to your target customers?
Answers to these questions form crucial input to brand strategy development, review or validation. But often, there will be varying (and sometimes opposing) views within a company on the answers. A quantitative survey or data mining likely won't shed light on the answers either. The best way to address these questions is through well-designed and well-executed qualitative research. Qualitative research looks to address perceptions, expectations, attitudes and motivations by talking in-depth, and at length, with representative consumers either individually or in small groups.
Here are the top 10 reasons to use qualitative research:
1. Reduce risk in strategy development: Enter into strategy development with an understanding of what drives the decisions of customers and prospects to do business with you and your competitors, what is important to them, how they view you and your competitors, what emotional and rational benefits they are seeking and what will drive loyalty and growth.
2. Hear and integrate the voice of the customer: Qualitative research provides a depth and richness of information not possible with quantitative research. Metrics will only get you so far. You need to be sure that you hear what your customer thinks and why, not just how many and who.
3. Let the customer talk about what is important: Qualitative research is highly interactive and responsive. If customers have concerns or issues that are not anticipated in the research design, we can delve into and explore what the customer considers important.
4. Research designed to interlock with strategy: Good research design and intelligent questioning can address the underlying strategic issues and feed perfectly into the components needed in strategy development.
5. Real live customers: Qualitative research has interest and immediacy. Rather than perusing statistics, you hear and see real customers talking about your company, your competitors, and their experiences and decision-making process.
6. Experience talks: Experiential qualitative research takes place where the customer experiences your service or makes their decision. They discuss the rational and emotional aspects of their buying process, with the immediacy of being on-site.
7. Talk with small or hard to reach segments: Some types of customers are so rare that they may not be well-represented in a quantitative survey, or may not respond at all to a survey. Often, however, they will spend significant time providing one-on-one feedback or talking within a small group of peers.
8. Customers and prospects feel heard and appreciated: Qualitative research provides an interesting and positive experience for respondents. It results in positive perceptions of the sponsoring company and can sometimes be a relationship building activity.
9. Quantify your qualitative: Some qualitative research can be quantified and analyzed. A quantitative survey can include some well-designed open-ended questions. Qualitatively, we can analyze the content and tone, then categorize and code the responses to see how many and who said what. This technique is used to derive brand levers, which uncover your brand attributes with the most power to drive loyalty and growth.
10. Hear and see what they might not tell you directly: Provide customers and prospects with an opportunity to candidly express opinions to a third party researcher. Although you may talk to your customers everyday, there may be things that they will discuss with other like-minded people or with an arms-length researcher that you may not hear any other way.