By Mary Aviles
There has been a great deal of speculation lately in market research circles that qualitative research lacks a strong voice, or representative body. Which is why it’s so significant that the Market Research Association (@MRAmrx), a body we’ve traditionally considered to be more focused on quantitative research, dedicated their entire third quarter ALERT magazine to qual. I can honestly say that it’s one of the first times I’ve devoured an industry magazine cover to cover! I printed out three articles, highlighted takeaways for immediate application on our current client project, and I discovered one new Twitter/LinkedIn contact I hope to look to as a future resource. In case you didn’t get a chance to pick it up yet, here are my Cliffs Notes:
In her article, Qual and Quant Are Like Peanut Butter and Bananas, Not Oil and Water, Jessica Broome dispels the notion of EITHER qual OR quant, favoring instead mixed methodology directed at solving the research objective at hand. This is one of those pieces I just want to frame and hang on my wall! It so clearly (and entertainingly) validates what we believe our about approach to client research problems.
I view qual and quant as allies in the goal that we as market researchers are always pursuing: conducting the best research possible.
Dr. Broome discusses four applications for using qual and quant in tandem:
- Using qual to inform quant – “for when interest is there, but specifics aren’t”
- Using qual to perfect quant – to pretest question verbiage/lexicon to “make sure that all your respondents are answering the question that you think you are asking”
- Using qual to enhance quant – “Layering qual and quant approaches can be a great way to show the people behind the numbers and make important data points come alive”
- Using quant to supplement qual – “By incorporating both open-ended responses and quantitative questions…for a similar investment…This approach keeps everyone happy: It’s quantifiable enough to inform decisions, but rich enough to give the client a sense of how consumers are talking about their message.”
The next thought-provoking piece comes from Rob Lles, “The Overnight Qual Debrief” It’s Possible, Profitable and Actually Kind of Fun. We dedicate significant effort and attention to our deliverables, with continuous focus on improvement. Our goal is to deliver something that appeals to both visual and textual learners and can stand on its own long after we’ve completed our engagement. We struggle to balance the client’s need to feel they’ve “gotten their money’s worth” without overwhelming them with minutia. We feel the constant pressure to deliver less quantity but more context faster, faster, faster. As such, I appreciate Rob’s practice of offering a “premium priced” (four-to-six percent of the total project cost) overnight debrief. He describes it as a custom template of “no more than six or seven hard-hitting and bulleted pages.” He also acknowledges and shares some tips for developing the discipline necessary while preparing and conducting the research to be successful with this method. He also provides some helpful guidelines for positioning this type of offering to clients. It’s exactly this type of content that we appreciate for it’s immediate relevance in improving our own practice!
Finally, again as it relates to our deliverables, Duncan Stuart’s Storytelling for Market Researchers, offers some practical considerations with immediate application to the report we are currently drafting. While he provides 10 Useful Guidelines, there are a few that standout:
- “Include some backstory.” While we always include a section on background, objectives and methodology, I prefer the nuance of situating the background as more of a back story. We’re definitely going to give this a whirl.
- Duncan talks about “developing good characters” and this can be challenging with some of our business-to-business clients, so we’ve tried to develop and incorporate customer mindsets to humanize the end target.
- “Involve the audience.” This is a great reminder to use a convention to signal a transition point in the presentation, as is the idea of “reminding the audience of what’s at stake.” We often rely on a related trend reference for this purpose, but I like this suggestion for an alternative approach.
- He talks about breaking reports down into chapters and using action-oriented headlines; these are two areas we’ve already addressed. But we could certainly apply his idea of introducing deeper themes via an “I’ve been thinking zone.”
We fully concur with his main takeaway which is the all-encompassing goal of delivering “evidence and conclusions [that] all reek of similar authenticity.”
Well done MRA! Thank you so much for such a valuable publication!