Buyer Behavior Research – Qualitative and Quantitative
Highlights from this Episode
Hosts: Dave Green and Jonathan Greene
Topic: Demand Gen
Subtopic: Buyer Research- Qualitative and Quantitative
Duration: 12 minutes
[0:00:26.2] JG: Deep in the heart of Texas and live from the pine forest of North Florida, it’s the Green and Greene Show. Today, we’re going to talk about different types of buyer behavior research and hopefully what the implications of those are. My esteemed guest and colleague, J. David Green, welcome. Thank you for being here.
[0:00:43.6] JDG: Thanks, Jonathan.
[0:00:45.3] JG: I think the way to approach this is to make some broad buckets out of it, so let’s jump right in. I think qualitative and quantitative research is a good place to start. How do you feel about that?
[0:00:56.5] JDG: Yeah, sounds perfect.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
[0:00:57.9] JG: All right. Let’s talk qualitative research. When we’re talking about researching buyer behavior from a qualitative standpoint, what are some of the things that jump out in your mind as being important, or some of the main thrusts of that?
[0:01:12.1] JDG: First of all, I think how you go about this depends on how big your company is. We’re a small company, and we don’t have a big fancy research department with a bunch of PhDs running around, so we have to figure it out on our own. A lot of marketing departments are like that. Some practical things with qualitative, those are interviews. That’s gathering subjective information about the customer’s behavior, and you can do that directly with focus groups; you can do it directly with interviews.
You can also go to the people who are having conversations with those customers by proxy, salespeople and customer success-type people and even industry experts who are really steeped in the customer segments that you’re going after, and learn a lot through their perceptions of the customers. I think all of those are valid things to do.
[0:02:09.8] JG: I think you said something really important there in that it’s subjective information, which is important. I think a lot of people tend to filter by their own perspective when they’re doing this. At a brand level, this is extremely important, especially in a startup type scenario where you’re first doing this, because the people who are looking at the qualitative data are going to be exceptionally close to the problem.
I think it behooves you to involve maybe some outside influences and some people, not just from marketing, but also from product and from the general leadership team to give you an additional perspective on this. If you don’t do it correctly, you can get pigeonholed into your opinion and your pain point and have that reflect upon the research as a whole, so that’s extremely important in that stage.
[0:03:02.4] JDG: Well, you raise a really good point. I think you have to go into this kind of research with a plan of what you’re trying to uncover about the customer. I really like Clayton Christensen’s jobs-to-be-done theory in terms of content marketing. Your customers have some job that you’re hoping your content will solve for them as part of their journey, and you need to have some deep conversations where you’re really open to wherever they want to go with it.
I think in that regard, you want to know what triggered their consideration for your solution. What problems do they have related to your solution? What obstacles do they have that get in the way of them moving forward? Questions like these really try to understand that through the journey and the different people who are involved in that journey. I think if you go with that approach, while you’ll have bias, you’ve really just opened yourself up in an empathetic way to trying to understand without having that much of an opinion about it.
[0:04:15.0] JG: It’s funny. I think the qualitative research is exceptionally important. I particularly enjoy things that involve people who have no prior brand knowledge in terms of adding value, like focus groups online. You can use things like the Harris Poll or usertesting.com and get perspectives from people who have no prior connection to your brand.
A lot of times, the things they’ll say about your brand and your product offering are startling. It’s funny. We have on our team a brilliant UX design thinker in Yvette, and she always loves qualitative information. I do push back and say, “No, I want qualitative data,” but that’s because I’m a conversion marketer. The truth is that the more that we allow her to do that and dial in our value proposition and identify and uncover the pain points of real people who are engaging with the brand, the more effective the quantitative side of the research is going to be dialing in, ultimately.
[0:05:16.0] JDG: Yeah. I think the thing about qualitative is it can give you a context and a perspective on any quantitative research you’re going to do, and it can inform the quantitative. Qualitative doesn’t tell you how often this thing is true. I think a good rule of thumb when you’re doing qualitative research is you interview usually five to seven people or get a focus group or two like that.
If you start hearing the same thing over and over, you can know that you’re getting to the end of needing to do that. You have a sufficient amount of the basic context of what’s going on and you can now move into quantitative and start to see, “How often is this true within my audience, and what part of my audience is that true of?” That can really help you dial some things in. I think that putting it into context is really, really helpful.
What is the goal?
[0:06:13.0] JG: I think the goal of qualitative research is to lead with a complete understanding of who your ideal person is that you want to target and what their pain points are. There are a lot of ways to uncover that. We mentioned interviews and focus groups and sales panels, etc. Also, there are a lot of psychological tools in the way of empathy mapping. What are these people thinking? What are they feeling? What are they hearing?
I know we did that with our team, and we were able to perhaps uncover some perspectives on things that people had not really identified before, just by asking a few simple questions. I highly encourage you Google “empathy mapping” if you’ve never heard of it and give that a stab.
I think you want to leave with an ideal customer profile, or a persona, and a list of pain points of what they’re going through. Then, in my mind, quantitative research is about dialing that in and eliminating waste. What do you think are some of the ways to approach quantitative data-driven research?
Ways to approach quantitative data-driven research
[0:07:19.7] JDG: Before I go there, I just want to make one quick point. In addition to buyer persona profiles, which is absolutely something you want to be able to do, I think you also want to develop a hypothesis of the journey that the people are taking, and what role those personas are taking in that journey, in order to lay out your content strategy against that.
[0:07:42.2] JG: The scientific process doesn’t change, but I feel like marketers in particular are sometimes guilty of shortchanging the scientific process. They enter into their quantitative research without having developed the hypothesis, which is obviously the first step of the scientific process. You end up running tests without being sure what the objective is. Everybody seems to think that the objective is to increase conversion rates or whatever, but really, it’s to dial in your understanding of your ideal clients and how they behave and how you can reach them most effectively.
[0:08:18.6] JDG: There are lots of ways to do that stuff, like surveys. I love surveys that are specific to a point in time of the journey. Right after a customer signs up, you can ask them about how they got there and what their journey was like, and they are more likely to have a little bit of context at that point. Things are on your website that pop-up. You can get specific feedback like that.
Then, really, there’s your whole area that I think you’re so good at, which is the behavioral data and setting up AB or multivariate split test. You want to talk a little bit about that? I think the thing you said is just how to learn something about your customer.
[0:09:05.0] JG: Yeah. I mean, I think the key to it is beginning with the hypothesis and understanding, at least on some level, the statistical implications of hypothesis testing. For instance, I set up page A and run it against page B in a multivariate format and page B wins, but there are 11 different variables that have changed. What have I really learned?
I’ve learned that page B is better, but why and how can I extrapolate that learning across all of my brand interactions? At that point, I really can’t. There is a place for multivariate testing, specifically when isolating variables is not producing a list and you need a completely fresh take on things. Ultimately, however, I would understand a confidence interval and understand the desired outcome.
When I’m in visual website optimizer, or Optimizely, or whatever, and I’m looking at a test result that’s saying version B won with a 95% level of confidence. If you read that as a confidence interval, what it really means is that I can be 95% certain that version B is better than version A on average, all else equal. Those last two parts are very important because, a lot of times, if you were to allow the test to run longer, a lot of these learnings will regress to the mean. They work for a little while on a small number of people, and you’ve very quickly exhausted that demand generation potential.
There’s a lot of nuance of in terms of testing and it needs to be done correctly. There are a lot of good resources out there. I would say start with a hypothesis and understanding what it is that you want to learn and isolating variables, so that you can leave with that knowledge after the fact.
[0:10:51.5] JDG: Jonathan, I think we’re at the end of our time. I wanted to let everybody know that we’ll start to talk about this on the next one with how you translate this into targeting your market. Then, secondly, by the way I always forget this, one great way to get a lot of interaction in a short period of time, because I know we’re all busy, is to go to an event where there’s a ton of people who are part of your target market. You can have 30 conversations in a day. I really encourage marketers to go do that as one of the mechanisms for qualitative research. You can get right out there and rub elbows with people.
[0:11:25.6] JG: Absolutely.
[0:11:26.6] JDG: Anyway, did you have anything you wanted to add?
[0:11:28.3] JG: Yeah, it’s scary in the beginning, but climbing the mountain of knowledge in terms of quantitative testing will yield results like almost nothing else.
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[0:12:32.0] JDG: Because we’re really smart guys.
[0:12:34.8] JG: Well, I mean, you are anyway. I’m the good one.
[0:12:40.3] JDG: Okay. Thanks everybody. We really appreciate it.
[0:12:41.8] JG: That’s it. Thanks, guys. That’s episode 3 of the Green & Greene Show. I hope you guys have a great day. Go out there and do some research. Have a good one.[END]