Today, I posed the question to our staff to get their feedback on the following topic: “Which methodology generates the best results?” We each took some time to give you our thoughts on which market research methodology is best and why. Here are the answers below:
- Chris, Senior Research Associate at RMS – Each and every research objective you cross will likely have its own unique methodology, but for the purpose of this question I will choose in-depth interviews (IDIs). I’ll start by saying that in-depth interviews really lend themselves to exploratory research (although they can be great for other purposes too). Currently, RMS in the process of conducting multiple research projects that contain an in-depth interview component (and this is likely the bias behind my pick). It is truly amazing how much insight a 30- to 40-minute executive interview can provide. When I speak with people who are unfamiliar with the market research process and its uses, I usually give them an example that involves in-depth interviews. Let’s say a company is looking to expand their business into a new area and hope to make it as successful as possible. In-depth interviews are a great way to help the business hit the ground running. By interviewing other businesses who went through the same or similar process, you are saving money upfront by avoiding mistakes other businesses made while establishing themselves. The value one interview can provide could essentially be equivalent to thousands and thousands of dollars worth of expert consulting.
- George, Director of Research Services at RMS – This is a tough one. It really depends on a number of factors including what the client is looking to learn from the study and whether it is more exploratory research (qualitative) or data-based (quantitative). All things being equal, I would choose a quality telephone survey because it combines some of the benefits of all methodologies including: (1) the ability to probe and garner in-depth responses like IDIs and (2) the ability to obtain a large amount of data in a short-time frame in order to make the analysis and recommendations reliable (online surveys). Online surveys offer a quicker turnaround, however I like the flexibility in a telephone survey where you can have the caller make the respondent explain answers. There is no person-to-person interaction in an online survey. So I would take the trade-off of more in-depth data over speed of turnaround. However, I would want a group of experienced callers who have proven to produce high productivity and high quality. That would mitigate some of the speed/good data trade-off.
- Vance, Senior Research Analyst at RMS – Whichever one that is best-suited to the specific research question at hand. That may seem like a cop-out, but the truth is, I don’t believe that there is any one methodology that is consistently better than others. It all depends on what you are trying to learn and who you are trying to learn it from. A good way to think of research methodologies is that they are like golf clubs – specialized tools whose usefulness is highly dependent on the situation. A 3-wood is often the best club to use when you’re teeing off, but it’s far from optimal when the ball is two feet away from the pin. By that same token, a focus group would produce great results for someone trying to get general impressions of a new product concept, but in the absence of any other research would be the wrong way to make a decision about the feasibility of a new store branch location. That’s why it’s so important to spend a lot of time and thought on the research design stage of a project. It’s essential to pick the right tool for the job.