I've decided there must be a lot of bad qualitative research going on. Otherwise, why would so many people make disparaging comments about it? I saw another one today, in an issue of Internet Retailer -- a quote in an otherwise good article by Mary Wagner on listening to customers.
One of the experts Ms. Wagner quotes provides a list of things marketers should monitor, like blogs, e-Bay, newsgroups, Flickr, etc. It's a great list. Except for when he says you can learn things from Flickr "that would never be found in a focus group".
Well, now just a minute there. You certainly can learn things from Flickr and from blog searches and e-Bay with a relatively small investment of your own time and resources. You might call that "Poor Man's Qualitative", and of course you should be doing it. Indeed, these are some of the things I do to brief myself when I start a new project for a client. But if you didn't get at least that much learning and much more from your paid research, you didn't get what you paid for.
So I think there is a lot of bad research going on, so much so that people no longer know what good qualitative research looks like and how to get it for themselves. And getting good qualitative is a bit like understanding fine art -- there's a considerable amount of judgment involved. The good stuff has tremendous value. And you need a bit of education in the topic to be an informed buyer.
Insider secrets will be revealed. Tips and tricks of the trade will be shared. But I'm not worried about letting you in on all this. Because, oddly enough, the more informed you are, the less likely you are to think you can paint a masterpiece in your basement, and the more you'll want the good stuff.
Here's the short list of topics that I plan to include, just to whet your appetite:
- Asking the indirect question
- Using imagery
- Using storytelling
- Talking to the right people
- Going beyond rational and functional
- How to find a good qualitative researcher – questions to ask, where to look
- Listening at right angles
- Having a conceptual framework to put the content into
- It’s not just leading a group discussion
- How to introduce bias, and how to avoid it
- Putting people at ease
- Research ethics
We probably won't need 15 articles to get there. As I tell clients, "we will cover all these topics, but not necessarily in that order".
Mary Wagner, Talk it up: The web turns up the volume on the consumer voice. Internet Retailer, May 2006 issue. link