We have all been there – in focus groups – either observing or moderating a group of consumers. We all know that in-person qualitative can tell you a lot about the consumer and their reaction to various stimuli. How they are feeling, what they are thinking and their honest reactions come out when they are asked the right questions by a talented moderator.

However, the voice of the consumer doesn’t always depict the mind of the consumer. Consumers sometimes say one thing and do another or can’t tell you the whole story. So, how can you make sure to capture what you need to capture to connect people to your brand?

Here are 4 tips/tricks to ensure that you get the complete picture (the voice and the mind!) of the person behind your consumer in your next qualitative research project:

  1. Don’t hire someone based on experience in X industry, hire someone that goes deep– Industry experience doesn’t tell you whether a moderator can go deeper and uncover the why’s behind your consumer’s actions.  You want a moderator that can connect easily with consumers and go beyond the surface, not someone who is just familiar with industry jargon.
  2. Avoid Consumer Thinking at All Costs– People don’t live in a thinking state; they live in a feeling state. The brain works by thinking first and feeling second. Standard questions often get consumers to think first, feel second.  Questions need to be asked in very specific ways in order to uncover hidden or driving motivators of behavior. IIM employs several strategies to “avoid consumer thinking” and get at these subconscious core drivers:
    • Using indirect questioning to do triangulated probing -Wow – that is a mouthful!  What exactly are we talking about here?  Well, the idea of triangulation is that data from different, nebulous questions converge to reveal the truth. Oftentimes individuals cannot articulate their values or personality, but instead provide hints or make references to them when answering indirect questions or discussing their preferences and behavior. Compiling data from multiple indirect questions can unveil a persons’ true core motivator – what makes them tick – an essential part to any consumer understanding.For example, here is a great example of this in action:
      • A standard qualitative research question asks “How many times did you use X product?  Why did you use X product? Why aren’t you using it more often?”
      • An indirect, triangulated line of questioning asks “How would you like to feel when you use this product? Have you ever felt this way when you use this product or not? What has helped you/kept you from feeling these emotions when using the product?”
    • Initiating Rapid Fire -Another technique to get research participants out of thinking mode is to not give them time to think. Tell respondents you want them to react from their gut not from their head and have them quickly write down their reactions in as few words as possible. Make your lines of questioning quick and force people to only talk about what they wrote down during their initial reactions.  Using this rapid fire technique keeps the thinking brain quiet helping to get at true emotion and reaction to concepts, messages or products.
  3. Likability Is Key– The simple truth is that people are more honest and open with other people that they like. So, how likeable is your moderator?  Does he or she go into the room and make friends fast, immediately break down barriers, or do you have problems relating to your consumers? A good indicator of their likability can be seen in how you, the client, feels when talking with them. If you have difficulty than so will your target audience!
  4. What a person doesn’t say is as important (and even arguably more important) as what they do say– Dr. Albert Mehrabian author of Silent Messages says that only 7% of any messages is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal elements (tone, inflection, etc.) and 55% through nonverbal elements. How good is your moderator at reading and unpacking things like body language and facial expressions? If this isn’t an important part of his or her strategy, than you are missing over half the message your consumers are sending!

Achieving the complete consumer picture through qualitative research is possible. However, you really need to surround yourself with moderators and colleagues who work to delve into the mind of the consumer. Without this information, you will never truly capture the complete picture of your consumer and authentically connect people to your brand!

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