Much to My Surprise: 5 Things I’ve Learned in Research
As I reach my third year as an insights analyst with the Fountainhead team, I can’t help but think back to my last year of undergrad. I knew the basics of market research. I knew that I was interested in people and their motivations. I knew that there was so much I didn’t know. The funny thing about learning on the job is you don’t notice how much you’ve learned until you take a second to reflect and think how little you knew before. Looking back now, here are five key awakenings I’ve had from my time with Fountainhead.
Different analytical techniques for almost every challenge
My marketing program in college didn’t focus a great deal on various analytical techniques. We administered surveys as a way of determining a winner. Admittedly, I missed the one day in my market research course where we discussed analytics, because it was the same day as my in-person interview with Fountainhead. So, you can imagine my surprise as I kept getting introduced to different analytical methods: TURF, MaxDiff, Segmentation, Cluster Analysis and more. There isn’t a “one size fits all” when it comes to ways to dig into data. We use a variety of methods to get at our specific research objectives.
I used to think qual vs. quant was an either/or decision
Definition–wise, the difference between these two methods is pretty clear. They can accomplish different objectives, one providing hard data and the other richer feedback. (I also didn’t understand the point of qualitative research, but we’ll get to that). Prior to my time with Fountainhead, I always considered them as a “one or the other” type deal. However, we often use them together, incorporating both types to help us with our objectives. Sometimes we’ll start with quantitative and then follow up with qualitative (online community, phone interviews, etc.) to get a deeper understanding behind our data. In the reverse, we sometimes start with qualitative and use our learnings to help us write the quantitative questionnaire. The two approaches can truly complement each other.
Numbers are not the only useful findings from research
Previously, I mentioned my lack of understanding of qualitative research when I was an undergrad. The research I grew up knowing was using numbers to pick a winner, so qualitative seemed less valuable. I’ve learned in my three years that while quantitative data has its rightful place, the emotional motivations that you get from qualitative help make the data actionable. The deeper “why” gives you a connection point that can be leveraged in creative, messaging and other areas.
There’s a wealth of learning to be had with implicit
In addition to the huge variety of analytical tools I mentioned earlier, there are also many tools that can help us really dig into the “why.” Implicit methods and tools help us uncover emotional motivations which sometimes might not even be realized by the respondent. We are always on the lookout for implicit tools that complement our current process and can provide us with new and deeper insights. These tools let us go past the thought–through and outward–facing explanation and into motivations consumers might not even realize they are following.
Research rides on the details
Whether it’s the question wording, the specific sample or just managing the project, research really does ride on the details. When it comes to writing questions or discussion topics, the wording is key. My understanding of a question may not always be the same as someone else’s, and it’s important that the question wording doesn’t allow for misinterpretation. Sampling details are especially important with tracking studies. if we change the sampling criteria year to year, then we lose the ability to trend the data. Other details like scheduling and process are also important. We involve our data analysts early in the questionnaire writing process to make sure we’re getting the data they’ll need in order to do the analysis we’re aiming for.
Let’s find ways to apply my lessons to your research needs. Reach out to us and let’s get talking.