The 8 Steps in the Qualitative Market Research Process

Although the very nature of qualitative research is to allow for flexibility and more opportunity to delve into unexpected responses, it is still very important to carefully plan and design your study.    Focus groups are more than just spontaneous chats, you need to recruit the right people and plan a discussion guide so you ensure you cover off everything you need.

The following is a step by step guide to setting up your own qualitative research project.

Step One             Identify your Business Objectives

Seems obvious really,  you need to understand exactly what strategic decisions, or business problems you want the market research to answer.

Step  Two            Specify your Research Objectives

What do you need to know in order to answer your business objectives?  Are you trying to find out why people aren’t responding to your ad? 

OR What drives satisfaction among your customers?

Step Three          Write a Screening Questionnaire            

You only want to talk to your target market, therefore you will be wasting a lot of money and a lot of people’s time if the wrong people turn up to your groups.  So put together a short screener questionnaire that you can conduct over the telephone when you are recruiting people to attend your focus groups.  

Step Four            Write a Discussion Guide

As I mentioned earlier, even though groups need to be flexible in the direction of the discussion, there will be certain topics you will want to ensure are covered off.  Write down a broad area of topics and sub topics, and put approximate timings next to each.   That way you it will be easier to keep to schedule and know when you need to move to the next topic.

Step Five             Recruit Participants

Using your recruitment screening questionnaire to ensure you are getting the correct mix of respondents.  The easiest way of doing this is via telephone but you don’t have to, you can use any other research method.

Step Six                Hire Group Rooms

If you are doing traditional face to face focus groups, it is ideal to hire proper group rooms with one way mirrors if you have stakeholders who wish to observe the groups.  Be careful if you decide to do it in another venue as you will probably need to set up your own recording equipment, and food.   Group rooms tend to organize everything thing for you from recording equipment, TV and DVD players for showing ads, and food for respondents.

Step Seven         Conduct the Groups

If you are moderating groups, you should not take notes, it is important that you are really listening to what the respondents are saying, and allow them to talk freely which is difficult to do when taking notes.  That’s why it is ideal to hire proper group rooms as staff will handle all the equipment and press record and all you need to do is focus on moderating a great group.

Step Eight           Analyse your results

Watch the group recordings when analysing them.  Not only should you be listening to individuals who are talking, look very closely at nonverbal cues as well.  Also notice the group dynamics, there may be one dominant individual that does a lot of talking or who is very negative.   Try to ensure that you are not tainted by one person’s view alone.

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