Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Are Thirty Surveys Enough?
Will 20-30 interviews or surveys of customers or prospects give you enough information to make good business decisions? Small qualitative research studies can be more useful than large statistically significant quantitative studies for business-to-business (B2B) products and services, consumer durables, and consumer electronics, reports Gerry Katz. Katz is the Executive Vice-President of Applied Marketing Science and author of "Better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong: What B2C Can Learn from B2B," Quirk's Marketing Research Review, June, 2015, p. 36.
In depth interviews and other qualitative studies of 20-30 people can often give you "far-superior insights for both product development and marketing," maintains Katz. He adds, "We rarely need to go beyond 40 interviews," unless it is a global study. Quantitative researchers conduct surveys of 300 or more participants because they want statistically significant data. To Katz, if results are statistically significant, it means that the results are sound and not the result of a sampling error.
Qualitative Studies Yield Unexpected Findings
Winett Associates is finding that smaller qualitative projects usually provide the data our technology and other B2B clients need. And, these smaller studies are generally more cost-effective than larger studies. Recruiting qualified participants for B2B studies has become increasingly more difficult and increasingly more expensive. We used small surveys and in-depth interviews in the following two cases and obtained unexpected insights:
A startup was developing a medical device that measured cardiac output. Investors in the project asked for interviews of various healthcare providers and device manufacturers to ascertain the need for this device. Although the device was designed for use in ambulances and emergency rooms, the device was impractical in both settings. Moreover, the device provided healthcare workers with information they did not know how to use. With our results, the investors concluded that the company had no future.
An aeronautics software company thought energy companies could use the company's software to detect emerging problems in large rotating equipment in power plants. During in-depth conversations, power plant managers conveyed skepticism about our client's products. Upon probing, we learned more than we would have in a quantitative study. The plant managers were afraid adoption of the software would make them superfluous. To overcome these fears, the client would need to invest heavily in marketing and education. Also, they would have to find a role for plant managers, who also had were involved with purchase decisions.
Qualitative studies can help you identify trends and pain points and gauge customer satisfaction. From interviews and focus groups involving 20-30 qualified people, you can learn much about customers' or prospects' wants and needs and how their companies operate. These insights will help you make the right strategic decisions. However, when testing new drugs or self-driving cars, larger studies are necessary.
Business research for growing companies
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