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Walk a Mile In Their Shoes - Quirk's 2007


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Articles explains how to achieve better qualitative research outcomes by using client immersion.

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Walk a Mile In Their Shoes - Quirk's 2007

  1. 1. Walk a mile in their shoesqualitative research A s third-party qualitative research consultant (QRC), I have the luxury of being able to easily maintain pristine objec- By Martha E. Guidry tivity about my clients’ products and services. I realize that this luxury is extremely difficult for the internal market research professional to maintain. While working on several business lines obviously provides some degree of neutrality, the internal market research professionals can’t help but “drink a bit of the Kool-Aid.” They are, after all, employed by the company that is marketing the product(s) or service(s), and some adherence to a company bias is almost unavoidable. Couple this with the fact that he or she often works with a client who is heavily invested in the product or service and it becomes even more difficult to maintain clear neutrality. Think about it: The internal professional’s clients spend at least 40 hours a week hyper-focusing on how to get toilets cleaner, how to make eyelashes longer or how to differentiate their bank’s checking account from that of every other financial institution. In this situa- tion, bias is everywhere, inescapable, part of the very air that each of the company’s employees breathes. A well-prepared QRC can help with this situation, becoming an invaluable resource and partner, enriching both the idea-generating phase and the actual research process. Although some marketing clients want their moderator to just “ask the questions,” finding a QRC who can help move the companyAchieving better to a new level of understanding and objectivity about their productqualitative research or service adds significant value to the company’s qualitative researchoutcomes through efforts. And, as a research buyer, internal market research profes-client immersion sionals can become more discern- ing purchasers of qualitative research services if they demand more than “just a moderator.” Although a variety of approaches can be used, this article presents six Editor’s note: Martha Guidry is surefire ways that a QRC can help clients become immersed in their president of The Rite Concept, an business and develop a fresher, more creative perspective. Avon, Conn., research and consulting company. She can be Backward-integrate reached at 860-675-5522 or at Let’s first start with the ideation process. No QRC likes to bring © 2007 Quirk’s Marketing Research Review ( Reprinted with permission from the May 2007 issue. This document is for Web posting and electronic distribution only. Any editing or alteration is a violation of copyright.
  2. 2. lackluster ideas into the focus reacquaint themselves with the realize that assumptions that aregroup room so the best way to product or service through what I true for one region may not beprevent this from happening is to call a new set of radar. true for all.backward-integrate into the idea- Often as part of an ideation ses- One particular example comes togenerating phase. Several approach- sion, I’ll ask the client to use their mind. I was working on conceptes can be utilized to help a client product. For example, I’ll have the development for a North America-think a bit more creatively about client’s R&D team make a toilet or based household cleanser brand intheir own business: shower filthy and have the clients Brazil. As part of the session, I • Casual, client-led interviews. clean it. Many clients hire a clean- asked that the non-Brazilians watch Similar to asking a respondent ing person for these tasks in their some in-home cleaning with theirto make a collage prior to entering home - they haven’t cleaned a toi- products. Imagine the surpriseinto a qualitative experience, I let in 10 years! To really engage when they watched tapes of bare-often ask a client to conduct some their thinking I’ll typically divide footed women cleaning their bath-informal interviews with friends, the team up and add some con- room with a giant broom-like mopfamily or colleagues who don’t straints to the process. For example, and a hose! Clearly, this experiencework on their business. It doesn’t one team cleans the toilet using changed many incoming assump-matter whether the client follows only their right hand, one team tions and paradigms about the newall the appropriate guidelines for cleans only with their left hand, product concepts.asking unbiased or leading ques- and one team cleans while blind-tions. My goal is to ensure they are folded. Why the constraints? It Help with immersionhearing from a neutral source helps the client think about the Let’s now think about how actualsomething potentially new about experience in a fresh way.You’d be qualitative research can help withtheir product/service to prime the surprised at the output from an immersion. Triangulation of yourpump prior to the session. exercise such as the one described. qualitative research using a variety I always provide several specific The same outcome can be dupli- of approaches can create a morequestions that should engage the cated for a service business. Have complete picture for your clients.client and highlight some aspect of the client call his/her own or a Imagine research on a new healththeir business with plenty of blank competitor’s customer service line drink. Triangulation could mean alines for the answers. The rule of and evaluate the experience. Ask a combination of secondary researchthumb is to put more lines on the client to mystery-shop several on the topic (what’s on theresponse sheet than you think the competitors’ stores for a particular Internet), some focus groups withrespondent will need to answer - product or service or be a mystery the end consumer, in-depth inter-often they’ll fill the entire space. diner for a restaurant. They could views with subject experts (such asSuddenly you have lots of food for even Google key industry words doctors or fitness professionals),thought before you even start your and see what comes up and deter- and intercept interviews with thoseideation session. mine whether the information was purchasing drinks in a health club. A great example of using this confusing or straightforward. The While this will provide a rich con-approach was with a manufacturer possibilities are endless. However, text of understanding for theof watches. As pre-work for an they do require some creative pre- client, let’s think about how theideation session, I told the client thinking by the QRC to insure the clients can actually roll up theirparticipants to ask several questions experience is carefully incorporat- sleeves and get involved. Here arein an interview; however, one of ed into the ideation session. my three favorite research-relatedthe most engaging learnings prior • Watch in-context product usage approaches to get them the session was a very simple videos. 1. Participate in in-context inter-and almost obvious question of Often clients have lost touch views.“What is time?” with what their consumers are One way to reconnect with the • Product/service experience. really doing with their product or consumer is through in-context The nature of the client’s busi- service. Occasionally, a refresher on interviews. Although I would neverness will determine whether real- what is happening is appropriate. suggest that the clients conduct thetime experience with the This is particularly helpful when a actual interviews, having a fewproduct/service must happen product may be used in a variety of come along for the experience isbefore or during the session. applications or across different very enlightening. Typically thisInterestingly, what often happens countries. If the marketing engine works best with two to threewith clients is that they might not for a product is based in one par- clients who are given a specificeven use the product or service ticular region, like the U.S. or role in the process (note-taker,they sell. As such, they need to Europe, it may be staggering to videographer, etc.). For this to be To purchase paper reprints of this article, contact Bryan Durham II of FosteReprints at 800.382.0808 x111 or
  3. 3. successful, clients need some train- team has adequate time to review themes and have a much moreing and coaching on what is and the transcripts and the entire con- engaged and involved debrief.isn’t appropriate in such a setting. sumer interaction can be used as Although this may require someBut more importantly, the QRC helpful fodder for a discussion additional time to sift through themust prepare some type of feed- guide development or even to information, the learning is expo-back form to capture the data in a divide the participants based on nential and it saves a debrief inconsistent manner so that once their experience with like-minded which tired clients scroll up andthey are back in the office the respondents (i.e., liked vs. disliked down on their computer lookingteam has a wealth of information product) for some type of focus for informational evaluate. I will typically create a group. I’ve used this technique quitestandard, fill-in chart that captures 3. Active listening in the back successfully in new-product con-observations such as current usage, room. cept development, although itsproblem/opportunity and current Probably one of the biggest chal- application could be much broader.options in addition to probing lenges faced by any QRC is com- For example, say a client is devel-questions to push the client’s puter usage in the back room. oping a new hair care line focusedthinking - such as, how does the Although we want to believe that on individuals with fine hair. I’dproblem observed flow into a ben- the client is intently listening to post a number of flip charts in theefit and what support might be the front-room dialogue and franti- back room with topics such as:appropriate? cally typing notes on their com- consumer insights/habits and prac- The worksheet approach is par- puter (and some do!), often we are tices, problems/issues, desired ben-ticularly helpful when trying to plagued with the distraction of efits, reasons to believe, andgenerate new product concepts. clients responding to e-mails or sparks/conflicts/ debates (oftenThe in-context interview might writing another document great ideas evolve from friction).suggest news ways that a consumer throughout the entire research and The clients would then place allis using an existing product in only half-listening to the conversa- their Post-its in these broad cate-addition to seeing the substitutes tion. gories at the end of each qualita-which might be an opportunity for To engage the client, I typically tive session. When the debriefa product enhancement (like have them listen for particular comes around, we have a volumeadding baking soda to toothpaste). themes and record their comments of great information captured in 2. Bulletin-board (BB) virtual on Post-it notes - one idea per the consumers’ words and are readydiaries. Post-it. to evaluate and start building prod- Using the BB is merely a new Now that you’ve fallen out of uct concepts.twist on an old technique - con- your chair, let me explain why thissumer diaries. However, the rich- works so well. First, clients have to Get re-engagedness of getting real-time feedback close their computers to write Whether you’re a moderator want-and the flexibility to occasionally Post-its, so you’ve solved the previ- ing to add more value to the clientprobe and ask questions adds a new ously-stated problem. Second, or a client who wants more fromdimension to the process. In addi- clients capture with more detail the your moderator, some or all of thesetion, the clients can go in and individual ideas or suggestions approaches might get you re-review the BB periodically to mentioned in the group when engaged with the consumer. At theimmerse themselves in the research forced to “sound bite” their learn- end of the day, if you are armedas it is occurring. Although I’ve ing. Third, clients capture the actu- with better information, know moreprimarily used this in new-product al respondent words rather than about the consumer and have addedtrial experiences, it could be easily their summary of the idea. And a healthy dose of reality to the mar-duplicated for a business-to-busi- fourth, at the end of the research keting approach, everyone is in aness situation or with an interac- you’ve generated tons of informa- better place. Just remember: happytion with a service. tion that you and the client can client and happy moderator equals a If scheduled appropriately, the sort through and cluster to identify productive partnership. | Q © 2007 Quirk’s Marketing Research Review ( Reprinted with permission from the May 2007 issue. This document is for Web posting and electronic distribution only. Any editing or alteration is a violation of copyright.