By ICG member Jeremy Braune.
The purpose of this article
To be honest, there are already lots of articles out there that explore what it takes to be a great qualitative researcher. So why on earth do we need another one?
The reason is that most of them just focus on the skills required to actually moderate qualitative research (usually in the form of focus groups, depth interviews and online communities), whereas, in reality, moderation actually accounts for no more than 25% of the qualitative researcher’s working week!
The purpose of this article is to ensure some light is also shed on the other 75%!
What exactly is qualitative research and what is its role?
Before focussing on the skills required to be a ‘super-qualie’, we should spend a bit of time considering the definition of qualitative research – and its role within marketing.
Qualitative research can be described as the exploration of attitudes, opinions, relationships feelings, priorities and behaviours. Its role is not only to understand the ‘what and the ‘how’ but also the why’. It’s a journey through the conscious and sub-conscious mind of the research subject.
In a commercial context the purpose of qualitative research is to help the marketer:
- maximise brand relevance and impact
- create marketing communications that resonate
- ensure customer needs, behaviours and expectations are at the heart of new product development
- deliver customer experiences capable of creating brand loyalty and advocacy
Great qualitative research has the power to change the dynamics of entire marketing campaigns, brands and businesses.
The core skills of a qualitative researcher
The researcher who is capable of having this sort of commercial impact doesn’t succeed because of great moderation skills alone.
They also have:
- an innate interest in people and their relationship with brands
- a finely-tuned understanding of a wide range of qualitative research methods and how to apply them to best effect.
- great analysis and interpretative skills, to turn research findings that are merely interesting in to research insights that are truly powerful
- the ability to communicate research outputs in a way that gives them resonance and makes them highly actionable
The wider responsibilities of the qualitative researcher
Of course, the super-qualie won’t be applying these core skills 24/7. Unless the agency for which they work has dedicated Project Managers they will typically be spending the majority of their time performing more mundane tasks that are nonetheless vital to the quality of the final research ‘product’, including;
- Proposal writing – including costing
- Client relationship management
- Research scheduling
- Discussion guide generation
- Respondent recruitment specification
- Stimulus material generation
- 3rd party supplier relationship management (e.g. recruiters, facilities providers)
Five distinct areas of the qualitative researcher’s role
To make it easier to appreciate the full range of attributes required to be a super-qualie, the A-Z of the role can be broken down in to these 5 areas:
1. Managing relationships (e.g. the relationship with the client and with suppliers)
2. Managing project logistics (e.g. 3rd party supplier management)
3. Doing the actual research (e.g. project design, discussion guide and stimulus material generation, moderation of research)
4. Analysing the findings and compiling the presentation
5. Presenting to the client
In the remainder of this article we’ll take a look at each of these areas in turn.
You might also like to read this re-posted blog on another of our members’ websites about this.