Why do customers do what they do? You must do qualitative research to find out.
Qualitative research is about revealing detail. It shows how people are using products, or how these products are just collecting dust.
How to gather field data using qualitative market research:
- Strategize and Plan
- Engage Participants
- observe Participants
- Interview Participants
- Collect Additional Information
- Analyze Information
- Capture Opinions
- Craft Report of Findings
Field-based qualitative market research, like ethnography, can uncover entirely new or different ways to deliver value to customers. Skillful product and brand managers know that observing everyday life can reveal the how and the why of product success and failure.
1. Strategize and Plan
You need to determine the data you wish to obtain. See my previous post on 6 Questions to Ask When Collecting Customer Data
2. Engage Participants
Once you have identified the participants that you want to study, then you will need to reach out to them and obtain their permission. Consider rewarding them for their time and valuable input. Make sure you explain to them the purpose of the study and what type of information you will be gathering, and most important, how the information will be used. Even if you are observing people covertly in a store or a mall or at the front desk, you will still need to approach the management or owner for permission.
3. Observe Participants
When you are doing an ethnography study you are trying to observe and take note on how/what job the customer is trying to get done. Your job is to first of all understand what job the customers are trying to get done, and then understand the role of your product or service in the job to be done (JTBD). You will also note what their expectations are. Are they using your product/service as it was intended? How does the customer appear to feel about the job they are getting done and, specifically, your product? What are the other products/services the customer uses to complete the job?
4. Interview Participants
Depending on the product or service, you may want to consider interviewing the customers soon after your observation. The key question to ask job performers is what their measure of success is at each step as well as for the overall JTBD? If for example the JTBD is getting tickets for a concert, then there would be a series of steps leading to the completion of the job. In this case the steps could be browsing for all the concert tickets in your area, identifying the one you like, taking a look at the ticket availability and then choosing a best seat before providing your credit card and purchasing the ticket. The overall success measure for the job is to get the best seating for the concert of your choice at the lowest price. Each of the steps leading to the completion of the JTBD may have it's own success measures. It could be time, price, convenience, right seating, etc. Ask follow up questions on success measures. If there are multiple people involved in completing the job, observe all of them and interview them as well.
5. Collect Additional Information
Collect additional information you might find that the participant is willing to share. For example: Software version number, process map diagrams, etc. This can also include competitor information, homegrown diagrams, manuals, and cheat sheets. These can help you paint a more complete picture.
6. Analyze Information
With all the information you have gathered on the customer, namely through a.) observing participants b.) interviewing participants, and c.) and additional information you can find, now it is time to compile all this data and analyze it. Watch for patterns or trends that can help you hypothesize.
7. Capture Opinions
So far you have observed each of the job performers performing their respective tasks collectively leading to JTBD. In this step you will be gathering opinions of the following:
- Sales Channels
- Sales Team
- Customer Support Teams
You can leverage interviews, focus groups, and surveys to capture their opinion. You can also use this opportunity to find out more about the customer's business. This can help you be ahead of the curve in seeing if the job steps or even the JTBD might change in the near future. In other words, this data can help you forecast trends, etc.
8. Craft Report of Findings
Steps one through seven may have to be repeated for each of the job performers that have a role to complete the JTBD in your target market. Once done, I would highly encourage you to validate your finding with a larger customer base. This can help you improve your accuracy. The report of findings you will be crafting at this point will be overall for each of the key products and across the entire customer base as shared above. This documents your conclusion as well as recommendation(s).
It's one thing to build change around a company's needs. Indeed, it's only natural that those needs come first. Neither success nor failure occurs in a vacuum. To truly effect change that lasts and increase opportunities, you need to set your priorities and goals consistent with the customers' needs.
The big question becomes, which of those customer needs align with your goals and can be profitably met? After all, companies don't exist merely to fulfill customers' needs, but do so in a way that aligns with the larger company vision.
Gathering outside data may seem antithetical to how corporations are run. But as well all know, it's vital to step out of your comfort zone and see how these high-level theories, hypotheses, and product launches are doing in the real world; thus the outside-in approach becomes a valuable exercise for testing the realistic opportunities we've created for ourselves internally.