Frequently Asked Questions about Uncovering Actionable Qualitative Insights

By Andrea Ruttenberg, Ph.D.

As a follow up to our webinar, “Find the Ah-Ha’s: Uncovering Actionable Qualitative Insights”, Applied Marketing Science (AMS) Senior Manager Andrea Ruttenberg answers a few frequently asked questions about uncovering qualitative insights.

During the webinar, you talk about building a sample plan, to ensure you’re talking to the right people. That makes sense, but how do I find these people, and how do I convince them to talk to me?

Recruiting is one of the most challenging parts of completing a market research study, for the exact reasons you mention. It’s one thing to say you want to talk to 15 engineering managers at mid-sized OEMs located in the Northeast (for example!). It’s another thing to actually find those folks.

At AMS, we use a few techniques for recruiting. First, we often work with large recruiting firms who specialize in finding hard-to-reach respondents. This can be costly, but it takes the pressure off us (and our clients); we can rely on our recruiters to do the hard work for us.

If working with a recruiting firm is out of your budget, we typically recommend starting by interviewing your current customers. There are likely a few who would be eager to share their perspective with you. But, don’t stop there. You’ll also want to interview non-customers. Of course, this is more challenging, but you may be able to get referrals from current customers, find qualified people on LinkedIn, or purchase an industry list from a reputable vendor.

Convincing the right people to talk to you can also be tough. While some may be willing to talk as a favor, the best way to convince people to complete an interview is by offering an incentive. This often comes in the form of cash, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to a preferred charity. Even offering promotional materials from your company – like a t-shirt, hat, or fancy pen – may help. The incentive doesn’t have to be big or expensive, but it should communicate to the respondent that you appreciate their time.

By recruiting the right people, and using a smart qualitative research methodology, you’ll get more actionable qualitative insights.

I’ve conducted a few interviews, and they just didn’t go well. The respondent wasn’t very talkative, and they seemed bored by the questions. Do you have any tips for improving the quality of my interviews?

First, it’s important not to take the quality of an interview – bad or good – too personally. Some respondents are naturally less talkative or may have a more subdued demeanor. Others will have such an engaging way of speaking that even a first-time interviewer could come away with many new qualitative insights. So, it may not be your fault that the interviews didn’t go well.

But, even if it was the interviewee (not you) that led to sub-par interviews, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. And like most things, practice makes perfect, so I highly recommend you do several practice interviews with colleagues or friendly customers. After you finish the interviews, ask for feedback – did the interview feel natural? Was it interesting for the respondent? How could it have been better? If you’re feeling brave, you may even want to video or audio record the practice conversation, and then play it back for yourself to see how it sounds. The main goal is to have a friendly, interested, and non-judgmental demeanor. You want the respondent to feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions with you – even if those opinions are unpopular or not what you want to hear.

Of course, you also need to get your questions right. Make sure you spend time developing your discussion guide, and get input from those on the project team and key stakeholders. Ask yourself – if I were a respondent, would I want to answer these questions? Would they be interesting for me to talk about? Would I feel like I was “supposed” to answer in a particular way, or would I feel comfortable answering any way I want?

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous response, be sure you’re talking to the right people. It may be that your respondents acted bored or uninterested because they really weren’t qualified to answer your questions.

To learn more about uncovering qualitative research insights, watch Andrea's webinar on demand

Watch the webinar



If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to Andrea.




Tags: Voice of the Customer , Recruiting Respondents

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