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In-depth Market Research


Disciplines > MarketingIn-depth Market Research > In-depth Market Research

Personal interviews | Focus groups | Survey | Follow-up | See also


Here is a method of doing primary market research using a strong level of interaction with customers and three powerful and well-understood interaction tools, starting with deep, open analysis of a few people and ending with shallow verification of many people.

Begin the research by drawing up a research plan which describes the intended learning and output. This includes the target demographic, the numbers of people to question at each stage, the principles of concept development and the final marketing material and campaign that will be created.

Personal interviews

Start with one-to-one interviews of the full range of customers who will be involved in buying your product. If you will be selling to businesses, include buyers, managers and users. If you will be selling to families, include men and women from a range of socio-economic and key demographic groups within your target.

Do at least 10-20 interviews and maybe somewhat more if you are in a large company. Interview recent customers, non-customers and internal people who interact with customers (such as sales and service personnel) typically on a 50-25-25 percent split. Face-to-face field interviews are best, though talking over the telephone may be a practical alternative. Phone interviews should be kept to 15-20 minutes. Face-face interviews can be longer but should not go over an hour.

Use a semi-structured format, where you have both questions to ask and also space for freer exploration. Identify the major forces acting on them, from competitor innovation to bringing up a family. Learn about their lives and problems and how they would use and relate to a typical product. Find out when and why they would buy, and their sensitivity to price.

Ask them what would persuade them to buy. Capture 'their words' phrases to use in marketing campaigns. Start thinking about how best to market and sell the product and ask for their views on your early ideas.

Focus groups

Now move to focus groups. These are still face-to-face but now engage more people in social groups where they have some social interaction. seek people who will be open and honest yet not dominate the group in a way that would sway the views of other people.

Whereas interviews are good for gathering raw information and ideas, focus groups are best for concept testing, where early drafts are put before live people to gain unfiltered reactions.

Show the group trial material, including color schemes, product packaging, marketing messages, advert formats, and so on. Look for their immediate reactions and likely response, including seeking more information and buying the product. give them alternatives to see which they choose (then ask why).

Test the power of key phrases and images to grab and hold attention. Test the recall of candidate communications. Check for ambiguity and misunderstanding in messages. Look for ways to improve communications, including wording and layout.

Stay open to their ideas while neither going blindly with their suggestions nor ignoring what they say. Use their responses to help narrow possible messages and campaigns.


Finally, use a wide survey to verify your intended communications. if you can afford it, a phone survey will get a far higher response rate than paper or email and will remove the effects of self-selection in responding. If you have an active online community you can use these, but do beware of bias.

Use multiple choice answers to increase your response rate and allow for tabulation of responses. Ask 'Which do you prefer?' Look for the key points that will get the best response.


Collate findings and create the 'final' communications.

Write up the research with two reports. The first is for internal marketing consumption and contains deep information about research methods, operation, data and findings. The second is for senior and wider consumption to build confidence in your final proposals.

See also

Social Research


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