Author Archives: Bruce Winning

Online Qualitative Research: Tried, Tested and True

You might think online qualitative research is new and leading edge, even though it’s been around in some form for roughly two decades. As with many technology developments in commercial marketing research, our industry repurposed and modified technologies to meet our own needs.

Online qualitative really started with the online focus group, live text-chat sessions that were conducted in AOL chat rooms. The first known such session was conducted by Marian Salzman in 1992, but competitors quickly followed, and private chat rooms were not far behind.

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Facilitation, research, co-creation: What’s the difference?

photograph of beach houses used to illustrate similarityThe skills of group facilitation and qualitative insight hunting aka research are very similar. Which is why many qualitative research consultants, including me, also facilitate. But there are a few important differences. (Which might explain why so few facilitators also conduct qualitative research.) Co-creation is a fusion of the two.

Some skills are common to both

When I think about the researchers and facilitators I know, these skills and orientations are generally common to both groups. Continue reading

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How to Research Your Start-Up Business

There’s nothing quite so exciting as a brand new idea to a researcher – a chance to help a fledgling business get off the ground. Unfortunately, the budgets for professional research are not necessarily start-up friendly.

But the wise entrepreneur knows they need the insights to refine their ideas. Because even very skilled marketers have launched failed products. The Nielsen company, who studies this kind of thing, finds an 85% failure rate.

When we are approached by a start-up who wants help but has almost no budget, here are the steps we suggest they consider.

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How to Conduct Research With Introverts

Research methodologies, especially real-time qualitative methods, force introverts to respond too quickly.
One would have to assume that many introverts would not choose to participate in a focus group discussion. Others will go with the plan to spend most of their time listening.
This is not a problem as long as everyone understands they are not recalcitrant or a recruiting error: they are just thinking quietly, and perhaps waiting to be asked for their view.

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How does a mutual fund reverse poor sales of its portfolios?

people working at a large whiteboardChallenge: Our client was the mutual fund management division of a major bank. They had met with success selling a specific portfolio type through internal channels, but not through third-party financial advisors.

Previous research had not identified a solution.

Approach: We conducted in-depth interviews with successful internal advisors and sales managers to understand where success was coming from. Then we collaborated with the client to create a series of concepts isolating individual benefits.

An online discussion forum was used to obtain detailed feedback from a national sample of third-party financial advisors.

Outcome: The client has a clear path to market this product successfully: messaging, barriers, and training approaches. We were able to identify inflexion points in terms of advisor experience levels that will assist them in crafting the right messages.

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Five Ways to Improve Your Qualitative Projects

1. Think small
Qualitative is not projectable. It is about human truths. Think Shakespearean soliloquy: one memorable voice expressing lived experience. A small project is better than no project. A few in-depth interviews are better than many short ones.
You can do iterative or extended communities with smaller numbers. Collaborate with your qualitative specialist and you can figure out clever ways to get things done on a tight budget.

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How does an electronic publisher find a different way to deliver and price expert information?

person with brain plugged into world of informationChallenge: Our client, an electronic publisher, needed to move to a different way of delivering and pricing the expert information they provide to lawyers, accountants, tax and HR professionals.

Approach: Team ethnographies were used to form an in-depth understanding of their clients’ needs across a wide spectrum. Customer labs were used to refine and validate new value propositions.

Outcome: The client was able to see a clear pathway forward for the development of new systems. A range of usage patterns from surface needs to deep research were identified and used to guide development.


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What are some of the ways to facilitate strategic planning?

signpost of speed bump aheadCase study #1

Challenge: A B2B division of a major telco had been through multiple re-organizations and mergers. Internal processes were frustrating staff at all levels.

Approach: We designed and facilitated a half-day workshop that identified the barriers to delivering quality. Teams created blueprints for making organizational change.

Outcome: The management team had only a few hours at a national conference to make progress on a huge challenge. We helped them leverage this very small window of time to get things moving.

blank signposts in several directionsCase study #2

Challenge: An industry association needed to refresh their strategic plan in a one-day board offsite. The board directors are marketing executives in a wide variety of industries.

Approach: We facilitated a full-day workshop, working with the association executive to formulate the plan.

Outcome: The executive director was able to focus on content instead of process. A successful event helps keep volunteer directors engaged.


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8 Tips for Do-it-yourself Focus Groups

Running your own focus groups is a bit like doing your own tax return – it all depends on how complicated the job is and the results you want. It’s one thing if your return is simple; another if you have complicated investments.
But clients sometimes ask me for guidance in this area. I generally explain why running focus groups is not as simple as I try to make it look. But I know they are just going to look for advice online.
So if you have to or need to do it, here are some things to consider.

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