Tips, tricks, advice, and answers for the 21st century global workspace.
Q: Dear Baird’s CMC,
What is the difference between conducting qualitative and quantitative market research? I have just started out at a market research firm, and we often work on
projects that require us to get the “pulse” of a demographic. How do I connect with people to receive honest, thoughtful answers and information?
– Waiting to Connect
You’ve already partially answered your own question!
Qualitative research seeks to understand; quantitative research measures. To answer the questions “why and how” (reasons and processes), you need qualitative research techniques. To answer the questions “what, who, how many, where, when, how often”, (numbers, volumes, demographics, statistics) you need quantitative research techniques.
Hema Viswanathan, our associate based in Mumbai, India, is a veteran of market research, with more than 25 years of experience. Over the span of her career, she has talked with everyone from international CEOs to corporate giants; from senior policy makers to people in the poorest tribal villages in India.
Hema’s tip to rookies in the field is, “Empathise with the person you’re listening to, put yourself in his or her shoes – these basics have stood me well in work and in life.” Lastly, here are a few of our favourite interviewing techniques, which help foster thoughtful and informative conversations (an essential building block of solid qualitative market research):
1) Warm up. Begin your interview with small talk or “warm up” questions to help put your subject at ease.
2) Ask open questions, beginning with what, who, where, when, why and how. Try and avoid questions that elicit a simple “yes” or “no” response.
3) Don’t be afraid to leave the beaten track. Follow-up questions often yield the best material even if they may not be on your question list. These could be along the lines of the following: “What happened next?”; “Why do you think this happened?”; “How would you change things?”; “Why is this important to you?”; and “What has this experience taught you?”.
4) Ask one question at a time, and then listen, really listen, to the answer.
5) Always make eye contact (though not scarily so!) with your subject and stay engaged.
6) Questions like “How did this make you feel?” or “What is the hardest part about your job/life?” often elicit thoughtful responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.