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Getting Better Insights from Market Research

I had an interesting chat with a fellow yesterday, who explained that he had done some market research in the past, but it hadn’t told him anything. Interestingly, I hear that comment quite often when organizations do market research.  The problem is, they don’t use the right approach. As a result, they end up verifying things they already knew instead of uncovering anything new.

So, I thought I would give you some insight into how Tenato approaches research, so that you can take a second look at how you are doing it in your organization.

Step One: Set the Tone of the Interview

First, rather than ask a lot of close-ended questions in our research, we prefer to let people really talk. When we’re doing research for a client that really needs to understand issues, it’s not so much about measurement, it’s about finding a richer in-depth answer. Instead of relying on yes/no/’on a scale of’ type questions, try something like ‘why do they come here?’, ‘why do they choose to buy from us instead of someone else?’, ‘how do they go about choosing our products or services?’ or ‘how does it fit into their lives?’ It really works better when you do exploratory research.

In order to make that work, we get permission from the client to share the purpose of the interview with the participants. For example, to say that the client is trying to figure out how to grow their business, or make some changes, and they’d really like input from someone they view as a valuable customer. Explaining the intent behind the research makes interviewees go, “Hmmm, okay, this might be important to my relationship with that business, so maybe I should put some real thought into my answers.” So, setting the interview up in the right way is the first key.

Step Two: Don’t Stick to a Script

When you’re asking people questions, it’s good to have a list of questions, but you also don’t want to force people to answer them in that sequence. You want to make it feel like it’s a natural conversation. If someone wanders off topic a little bit, you don’t have to rein them in every time. Sometimes getting a little sidetracked is okay. It often puts the interviewee at ease and makes them feel that you’re really listening.

You can also share a few of your own ideas or thoughts here and there so that they get an idea of what kind of information you’re looking for. It’s not uncommon for people to be closed in their answers initially. They might think you just want a short response, so they’ll say ‘not really’ or ‘I just I just found them on the web.’ A really simple answer. You have to probe a little bit to get people to really talk, whether it’s by using a bit of humour or going off on a tangent. The point is, sometimes people just need to be listened to. Just be natural with them and the more that you show that you’re really listening, the richer and deeper the answers you get will be.

Step Three: Establish a Rapport First, then ask the Tougher Questions

It’s jarring to ask questions like ‘what would you really pay for this service?’ right off the bat because it could put people on the spot. However, if you ask easier questions that establish a rapport first, and you’ve joked along with them, and you’ve listened to them, then you can really start to dive into more difficult questions. Like, ‘so would you really give this business all your business? Or do you wish that they did other things so that you wouldn’t have to go to their competitor for some of those things?’ Putting them at ease lets them know that, whatever they have to say or whatever they need to vent about, you’re gonna listen.

In a nutshell, it’s okay to divulge the intent of what you’re using the research for, so they really think about it. Secondly, you want to be exploratory – let the questions breathe and have a natural conversation. Finally, save the difficult, more probing, more intimate sort of questions until the end because, by then, they’ll trust you better and they’ll be more willing to share. The more in-depth and at ease the conversation is the more interesting insights and groundbreaking things you’ll uncover about how you can improve your business.

So, with that, I wish you all the best in your research and, if you need some help delivering on those particular talents, I hope you’ll give us a call here at Tenato.

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."