Don’t forget qualitative research

Direct marketing programs can succeed or fail based on an often undervalued piece of the puzzle — customer motivation. Sure, some DM programs are driven solely by volume, but one marketing axiom is always true: The more you know and understand about your customers, the more likely they are to respond to your offer.

So how do you uncover deep consumer insights? Many direct marketers are turning to qualitative research, a lively and colorful discipline that is rich with myriad tools.

Focus groups are a core technique in quali­tative research and remain enormously popu­lar because they elicit truthful, deep-seated emotions from consumers — truths that are key to developing great campaigns to which consumers respond.

Online research tools such as blogs, bul­letin boards and live chats are another set of tools that provide an opportunity to observe consumer behavior in an online environment, allowing for rich interaction and producing findings that can be acted upon quickly.

Individual depth interviews (also known as IDIs or one-on-ones) help guide direct marketers to relevant knowledge and are beneficial when it is necessary to explore each respondent’s experiences and percep­tions in greater depth.

Ethnography studies consumers in the con­text of their everyday lives, often in their homes, workplace, automobiles and retail outlets. This elicits provocative new insights through the observation of real-life behaviors rather than planned responses deemed to be “socially acceptable.”

Projective techniques such as memory sto­rytelling, sentence completions, and photo collages help uncover respondents’ inner­most thoughts, feelings, attitudes and motives toward a product, brand, or idea. These techniques are used to get beyond a respon­dent’s potentially defensive reaction to direct questioning.

Not all qualitative techniques work for all situations. In fact, a primary role of an expe­rienced qualitative research consultant is to help you determine which of these methods would work best for you.

Take the time to research and understand your audience – you might be amazed at what you discover.

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