Digging deeper

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When marketing budgets are watched closely by the corner office, one way to instill confidence and secure the budget is to demonstrate that your marketing investment is based on a true understanding of your customers' motivations. Too many b-to-b marketers are left scratching their heads when a campaign doesn't work or underperforms. Marketing campaigns are often driven by creative execution, politics or preconceived notions of what customers want rather than on deep insights that actually reveal what customers want. The practice of qualitative research—the technique that gives marketers the deepest understanding of their customers—is a lively, colorful discipline that is rich with myriad tools that can be integrated together to get at the all-important customer truths that marketers crave. ? Focus groups are a core technique in qualitative research and remain enormously popular because they elicit truthful, deep-seated emotions from customers, truths that are key to developing great campaigns to which buyers respond. ? Online research through blogs, bulletin boards and live chats are another set of tools that provide an opportunity to observe customer behavior in an online environment, allowing for rich interaction and producing findings that can be acted upon quickly. ? Individual depth interviews (also called IDIs or one-on-ones) help guide marketers to relevant knowledge and are beneficial when it is necessary to explore each respondent's experiences and perceptions in greater depth. ? Ethnography studies buyers in the context of their everyday lives, often in natural environments such as the workplace, purchasing office or construction work site. Ethnography elicits provocative new insights through the observation of real-life behaviors rather than planned responses deemed to be “socially acceptable.” Not all qualitative techniques work for all situations. In fact, a primary role of an experienced qualitative research consultant is to help you determine which of these methods would work best for you. Our association offers a “find a researcher” link at Take the time to research and truly understand your audience; you might be amazed at what you discover. Steve Richardson is director of communications for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association. He can be reached at [email protected]
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