Qualitative research is a lot like great investigative journalism. The end result is nearly always a testament to truth.
One of my greatest joys is having a client tell Joe Hengemuehler Consulting there’s a problem in need of a fix.
It may be a brand that isn’t resonating. It may be a curiosity about which ad will cut through to consumers the fastest and with the most lasting impact. Or, it may be about how consumers feel about the company’s customer service. I’ve even had clients who want to go deep on the shape of the packaging of their product.
While the problems (let’s call them challenges from this point forward) that businesses face are varied, in most cases, each client is looking for the exact same thing from us; to help them unravel and reveal the truth about what motivates their current customer base and what might attract new business.
When clients come to us, one of the first things we do is put on our reporter’s hat. We start asking questions. Lots of questions: When this research project is done, what’s the most important thing you want to know about your own business? What will you do with the information you learn? In what areas do you see yourself as vulnerable? [We never ask the Barbara Walters question ‘If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”]
In a reporter’s world, all those questions would end up in a nicely packaged story told to television viewers at 6pm. “In 3, 2, 1, cue talent!”
In our world of qualitative research, those questions are just the beginning. We take the information and design a highly strategic discussion guide to be used in the focus groups.
For us, the focus groups are ‘show time’. It’s where we start to find truth. And I will tell you, there is nothing more gratifying than building a discussion guide that results in answers and insights that a client can act upon.
Let’s be honest. The insights aren’t always what the client wants to hear. But that’s why we do research. You’re being intentional about asking people to tell you what you need to hear so that you can grow your business and strengthen your brand. We all want to hear we’re great. It’s good — well, it’s great for the ego. But it doesn’t always help us forge ahead.
My advice to clients is consistent: You’ve already taken a courageous first step. You’ve commissioned a research project. The next step – and arguably the most courageous one of all, is to do something with the findings. To have information and do nothing with it is like a reporter missing the story of the day. No one wants to get scooped –especially when the success of your business and your brand is on the line.