from the desk of Carole Schmidt

“Really? It costs that much to interview a few people?” Maybe it’s some form of tough love, but I’m just going to say it: “Qualitative really isn’t expensive.” Sure, spoken like a dedicated qualitative practitioner. But allow me to share why qualitative research is actually a bargain.

  1.  The risk of making a brand or product decision without customer understanding or context is always higher than the cost of the research. Can you afford to enter a new category, develop a new line extension, make a packaging change, or produce a new ad without understanding how your customer thinks and feels? What if shoppers don’t intuitively know what your product does? What is the cost of promoting features no one cares about? How much will it cost to choose the wrong spokesperson for your communication?
  2. Great moderators don’t come cheap (‘cuz we’re more than moderators)! Do you trust your new positioning development to your summer intern? Heck, we all make sure our hair cutters have enough experience and training to do a terrific job! Our great moderators are strategic thinkers, standouts in the field, expert listeners with smart business acumen, with the experience and skills to nurture rich discussions that lead to fantastic insights that help you make better business decisions. We care a whole lot about what goes into every report. And when we’re not moderating for you, we’re honing our skills with continued training and certifications, we’re developing best practices, we’re driving innovation in the qualitative field.
  3. Qualitative provides faster answers to those burning questions: As Jack Welch said, “You have to learn more about your customer faster than the competition.” Today’s online qualitative capabilities make it possible to expedite input from the consumer or customer trenches. Mobile video diaries allow you to hear from your customer while they’re making shopping or purchase decisions, all without leaving your office. Rapid Prototyping Groups tap your target users for iterative input to move from concept to benefits to product form in a single day. With QuickQual, you can be in the field in one day, with results the next!
  4. Qualitative ensures your quantitative dollars are spent smartly. There’s nothing costlier in research than testing on a large scale, only to find out that the concepts or products or packaging you tested weren’t communicating as intended. One of the best uses of qualitative is to investigate with your target that your stimulus is understood and therefore judged without clouding or confusion.
  5. We do more to find your Waldo’s. To get the most out of every qualitative dollar, we share your belief that it’s important to find the right people with whom to talk. So, we’re not going to quit until we do everything in our power to do so. Our crack field team is picky about the best recruiting partners, and we’re known to get creative about finding qualified, articulate, helpful people who will take time out of their day to share their candid thoughts and opinions about home networking or the shampoo they use, or the operations procedures of their restaurants. We’ve posted flyers on beaches to attract sunblock users, we’ve advertised on Craig’s list, we’ve walked the conference floors to find just the right participants to make sure you get the most accurate feedback. And we don’t kid ourselves about what it takes to get a respondent to come out on a dark and stormy night. Participants don’t work for free whether it’s while shopping, at a focus group, or online. Nor should they. Respecting our participants’ time as much as our clients’ time means we get better show rates, more engaged participation, richer insights. In other words, you get what you pay for.

When budgets are really tight, we’re understandably asked, “Is there any way we can lower the cost?” Heck, yeah, we can always lower the cost. We can change the deliverable, we can reduce the number of participants, we can adjust markets, or explore online methods to reduce travel costs. There’s more about that here: But when you consider all that’s at stake in making marketing related decisions for your business and your brands, rethink the bargain value of qualitative research.