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Discover the steps to follow to ask yourself the right questions before carrying out your qualitative market research. You can read our initial advice on this blog and download the complete guide in .pdf format

Episode #5/9 – In the previous episode, we completed the observational phase with Competitor Analysis. This followed Trend Analysis and the PESTEL Analysis.Now we have arrived at the crucial stage of your market research, one which could influence the success of your future enterprise: qualitative market research.

Here we are only going to cover individual qualitative interviews, leaving more specialised or anecdotal methods to one side. However, at this stage, you should remember that focus groups are not a recommended method for extracting the essence of qualitative market research. We are going to explain all this to you in more detail in this article.

Today’s episode will enable us to prepare the qualitative phase of your market research by answering the most frequently asked questions and also by giving you some tips and advice. How to perform the qualitative interviews will be addressed in the next episode.

But before anything else, let’s start with a short summary.

An overview of the different stages of a qualitative interview

Usually, a qualitative interview is a face-to-face between two people: the interviewer and the interviewee.
Performing a qualitative interview involves accepting a certain number of rules, in particular the one about not skipping steps. It involves good preparation, and conducting and analysing the interviews in order to draw some interesting insights.

Here is a summary of the different stages of a successful qualitative interview:

  • Prepare the interview guide
  • Prepare the coding guide
  • Carry out the qualitative interview
  • Immediate debriefing
  • Transcribe the interview
  • Code the interview using specialised software

These 6 steps are repeated for each interview. At the end of your series, the software in which you have performed the coding will allow you to analyse all the interviews at once and draw some robust conclusions.

Remember that an individual interview allows you to gather 10 times more information than you would from an average focus group. Thorough organisation is therefore essential in order to analyse this mass of information and to make use of it as you move forward with your market research.

We are well aware that it is difficult for a project promoter or an entrepreneur to follow all of these instructions to the letter (this is why we offer guidance services starting from €249/month). But if we had just one piece of advice to give you on the subject of individual interviews, it would be to not spare the expense of a well-written interview guide. Don’t believe that you can conduct interviews without one. This is pure fantasy, and you can be certain that your interviews will serve no purpose.

Who should I interview for my qualitative market research?

The answer is obviously the following: interview your future clients in priority!

In fact, in a B2C market, it is vital. In complex markets (B2B for example), the situation is significantly more complicated because many stakeholders can play a role in the value chain.

For your qualitative market research, you may find it interesting to interview the end users (those who will be using your product or service) as well as other upstream stakeholders (buyers, distributors…) whose decisions may affect the success or failure of your business.

In B2B, it is not enough to have a product that is appealing to final consumers; you will need intermediaries (distributors for example) to put it on sale.

There are therefore more barriers to overcome other than reaching the end consumer, and you are well-advised to take this into account before you start. Indeed, what is the use of developing an attractive product for a client if no intermediaries agree to sell it? You will find yourself at a dead end that will put an end to all your hopes and efforts.

During your qualitative market research, don’t hesitate to interview the clients of your direct competitors. They could offer you valuable information about your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses.

B2C or “Business to Consumers” is a generic term used to describe companies that sell their products or services to individuals.

B2B or “Business to Business” refers to businesses trading with other businesses. So, a baker falls under the title of B2C, while an industrial cleaning company will come under B2B.

The qualitative interviews will inform you about certain competitors you may not otherwise have noticed, highlight purchasing habits, factors of satisfaction, and also those of dissatisfaction.

This knowledge will be valuable when drafting your business plan and in particular when drafting your marketing strategy.

Can I interview professionals for my qualitative market research?

It is perfectly possible to question professionals during the qualitative phase of your market research.
You can even imagine that the interviews take the form of a prospection meeting during which you will try to sell your product or service and you can note any signs of interest (or lack of interest) as well as direct feedback about your idea (which will allow you to improve it accordingly).

These interviews are different from those that you might conduct in a neutral setting (a meeting room, for example), because they will be carried out on location, in other words in the same environment as the field of qualitative market research. Be aware however that by immersing yourself in your future professional environment, you may well change it. You will no longer be a neutral, non-participating observer.

Be sure to trace the entire chain of distribution (from manufacturing to purchase), in order to identify the most important players. These are the people you will need to approach to interview them. Use your network of relationships to convince them! But don’t be surprised if it is difficult to get a meeting. Professionals are busy people with little time to devote to this kind of exercise. In general you will need to contact 10 people in B2B in order to get a single appointment.

Interviewing end consumers will prove to be a much easier task. Once again, your network will be invaluable in unlocking these doors. To facilitate making appointments, we can also recommend offering some form of small financial compensation in order to encourage them. This is compensation for the time spent with you, as a qualitative interview can easily take up to 90 minutes.

What financial compensation for a qualitative interview?

The question of financial compensation is central to carrying out qualitative interviews, a crucial stage in market research.

Financial compensation (when it cannot be replaced by “in kind” compensation, i.e. in the form of products), must be high enough to compensate the respondents for their time, but not too high, as this may attract respondents who are only interested in the money.

We therefore advise you to compensate respondents to a qualitative interview lasting one hour with €30 when possible and to never exceed €50.

How many interviews should I hold for my qualitative market research?

This is a recurring question to which there is no ready-made answer. Scientific studies into the subject show that the ideal number of interviews varies from 5 to 60. Isn’t that helpful!

A universal principle does however apply: conduct interviews to the point of exhaustion. We don’t mean that you will be exhausted by the exercise, but that all the themes that may emerge during the discussions (see next paragraph) will be exhausted. If the 11th interview reveals nothing new compared to the 9th one, you can consider that you have reached the point of exhaustion and a 12th interview will not be necessary.

Further reading for more information about the qualitative phase

Here are a few suggestions for further reading for those who would like to take their learning about qualitative techniques (individual interviews, focus groups, ethnography) to the next level. They are all useful and complementary when it comes to studying a market and understanding its dynamics.

“A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Qualitative Research” by David Silverman

This book is perfect for those seeking an introduction to the field of qualitative research. David Silverman is one of the high priests of qualitative methods. He occasionally holds seminars in Europe (but they are only for a public of academics).

Comparison between focus groups / individual Interviews

As confusion reigns about the purpose and interest of focus groups, we published this comparison and it is one of our most-read articles.

How to perform a qualitative interview?

An article published on this blog will allow you to deepen your knowledge and prepare you for your first interviews.

Using the data from qualitative interviews

Serious market research can only be done on the basis of solid figures. Read how to analyse your qualitative interviews seriously.

Don’t miss the next episode which will be devoted to carrying out the qualitative interviews

In the next episode, we will go to the heart of the matter: conducting these famous qualitative interviews.