Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is original company research ("primary") on a subject in the normal course of company business ("non-experimental"). It is primarily concerned with getting a subjective "feel" for the research topic, not a numerical, statistically predictable measure.

More concretely, you can think of qualitative research as in-depth subjective interviewing or conversing with target buyers or potential users of your product or service.

For example, asking friends and neighbors about how they "feel" about political candidates and their election platforms is technically qualitative research. However, a good researcher would make sure they all qualify as registered voters who do cast their ballots regularly in order to provide a comfort level for the results of these conversations about political candidates in a given election. And even if you conclude that 100 percent of your friends and neighbors will vote for the Republican party, this information may not be reliable in predicting election trends. The information is biased by your friendship with the respondents, their demographic and geographic location, and lifestyle influences.


Qualitative research results might not accurately represent the entire market!

However, if you were to discuss the wants and needs of these voters and any other group of voters, you could probably conclude that most people want to have lower taxes, reliable public transportation, good schools, and safe neighborhoods.

In other words, the results of qualitative research depends on the subject matter, the background of research respondents, and the skill of the researcher.

Focus groups and interviews. Traditionally, qualitative research consists of focus groups and individual interviews. Focus groups can be thought of as "group interviews," where a manageable number of target buyers are brought together, presented with an idea or a prototype product, and asked to discuss their opinions with a moderator and with each other.

You can hire a market research company to locate the focus group members according to criteria you specify, and to conduct the session using a professional moderator, while you watch from behind a one-way mirror. Or, you can do it the economical way by conducting the sessions yourself, using target buyers you've located via the phone book.


Save Money

Focus group participants generally expect to be paid for their time. Rates might range from $30 to $100 or more per participant for a two-hour session, though you might be able to get away with providing a free meal instead. Generally groups that are discussing business products or services are paid more than groups discussing consumer products.

You can also conduct your own individual interviews with potential target buyers or with people who already purchase a competitive product.

Even better, have a prototype for people to examine and try. Assuming you have already researched secondary databases and found that the size of the industry available to you is large enough to sustain your company with a modest market share, conduct interviews with a short questionnaire.

Qualitative data analysis is subject to large statistical errors in accurately predicting the behavior of the total market of users. However, lack of funds, quick turnaround times, low startup costs, and staying close to the market and customers are all trademarks of smaller companies. And some of these attributes may allow smaller companies to recover from actions taken as a result of inaccurate qualitative research.