From the desk of Carole Schmidt
At the recent Quirk’s Event and in subsequent workshops, one recurring message for research practitioners was loud and clear—brand managers and marketing directors want SPEED SPEED SPEED! Decisions need to be made yesterday. Pressure to get to market sooner is stronger than ever. Can we really produce valuable and actionable insights, faster? And just because we can, should we?
Admittedly, the tendency among us qualitative strategist types is to balk at such a notion. Isn’t real insight–that latent gem or “aha”—discovered through distillation, incubation, reflection, analysis, and consideration?
In truth, real behavioral or attitudinal insight can be expedited with an agile moderator and a collaborative team spirit. Here are 6 ways you can gain rich, actionable insight in a hurry:
Be laser focused: Instead of the conventional “narrowing funnel” approach to discussion, generate 3 specific hypotheses (not questions) before the research to optimize the recruit and focus the discussion on specifics first, to get to that revealing understanding sooner.
Go small: Individual interviews or mini-groups readily enable “laddering” or the use of projective techniques for higher order understanding, and reduce/eliminate respondent posturing.
Embrace the iterative approach: Question the need to mechanically repeat content from interview-to-interview in favor of debriefing after each mini-group to identify remaining gaps in learning, then, narrow the discussion scope in subsequent groups to gain clarity and richness.
Divide and conquer: Splitting your research design into two methods conducted simultaneously (e.g., an online community and a series of depth interviews) taps into different perspectives tackling the same hypotheses. Following up fieldwork with a robust, joint debrief leverages the contrasts for introspective insights.
Do your homework: Put your target respondent (and your team!) to work before you engage with them. Even the simplest exercises (an image representing everyday YOU and where-you’re-going YOU) captures emotional depth that grounds responses (and your team’s perceptions) in your target’s reality.
Look beyond the obvious: Examine social media first to observe conversations that surface language, imagery, and pertinent topics on which to probe further. Check out “dark social” too: peruse fans’ profiles and their “liked” sites/brands. Post a key question in your own social media channels and follow the positive and negative buzz to round out–or challenge–the insights gained in primary research.
There is no doubt that thoughtful design + incubation + comprehensive analysis = insights. But, to say that valued insights cannot be obtained through speedier approaches is hogwash. I’ve witnessed (and led) 4-days-to-the-finish-line projects. Admittedly, these projects take passion, energy, and rigor to focus narrowly — “go deep or go home.” Yet these sessions produce! And we all know that the cost of not doing research always exceeds the cost of doing it. So whether it’s 4 days or 4 weeks, with real insights come smarter business decisions.