Qualitative Research Methods


We often find that not enough is known about a marketing problem or situation to be able to design a structured study that yields representative or quantifiable results. A qualitative approach allows us to explore issues in-depth in a relatively unstructured manner, yielding insight into how people really think and behave and - more importantly - why. The main purpose of qualitative research is to find out what is in an individual's mind; emotions, beliefs, intentions and perceptions are just a few examples of things that only qualitative methods can reveal.


As the number of respondents is small and only partially representative of the target population, qualitative research is usually a prelude to, but not a substitute for, larger-scale quantitative surveys. In B2B research, qualitative approaches are typically used to:


  • explore and define issues in more detail
  • suggest hypotheses to be tested more rigorously
  • generate problem solutions, lists of product features, etc.
  • get reactions to stimulus materials (adverts, new product concepts, etc.)
  • learn the respondent's point of view and vocabulary
  • provide the researcher with insight into an unfamiliar environment: needs, satisfaction, usage situations and problems


Some of the techniques Business Advantage use in our qualitative research include:


In-depth Interviews

In-depth Interviews


In the business environment, target respondents are often both busy and hard to reach or geographically dispersed. Personal interviews, whether face-to-face or via telephone, are easier to schedule and thus frequently used in B2B research. Using a relatively unstructured topic guide, the interviewer can spend more time exploring a particular individual's thoughts and opinions with no risk of influence from others.


This is therefore the most effective method of interviewing high level corporate executives, industry experts and opinion leaders, or of gathering information of a more sensitive nature. By conducting a series of in-depth interviews we can, for example, piece together a comprehensive picture of a particular industry sector, profile prospective partners or competitors, or understand pricing strategies.



Focus Groups (traditional face-to-face and online)


Online Focus Groups

a quick, convenient and

cost effective way to gather qualitative data.


Online Focus Group demo


Click here to see our Online Focus Group demo

This is an example of one of the many types of Online

Focus Group systems that Business Advantage uses

A group of between six and ten participants is invited to get together, either face-to-face or online, to express and exchange their opinions over the course of one or two hours, the discussion being guided by an experienced moderator.


Respondents in a group typically have something in common - similar demographic profiles or a shared problem - and the discussions often provoke more spontaneity and candour than in a one-to-one interview.


Group discussions have a particular advantage in terms of observing non-verbal communication; often facial expressions, gestures and body language reveal far more than spoken words alone.


"The quality of the Business Advantage process was superb. The results knocked us back on our heels and made us reassess if we were doing the right thing."
Workstations Marketing Manager, Hewlett Packard


Triads or Mini-Groups

One disadvantage of conventional focus groups is the difficulty of getting large groups of busy business executives together in the same place at the same time. Smaller groups of 3 to 4 participants overcome this problem to some extent. They are also more easily administered by telephone and video link, thereby eliminating the need to travel to a central location. While the group interaction may not be as dynamic, small groups allow all individuals to express an opinion without undue influence from the majority.


Qualitative Research Case Studies


For further information, contact us on +44 (0) 1689 873636, or info@business-advantage.com.


Calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes