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
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
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.
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
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.