I don’t always write discussion guides. But when I do, they’re supposed to take 30 minutes, but they actually take 45.
In-depth interviews are fun experience for experiential marketing researchers. It gives the opportunity to have an engaging conversation with a respondent without the rigidness of a quantitative survey. I started my career in field services before shifting to the client side, so any direct contact with respondents was mostly recruiting and scheduling interviews. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but once I got my feet wet doing the interviews themselves, I wanted to manage more qualitative projects. As a researcher, I derive satisfaction from learning about consumers’ attitudes and behaviors, how they differ from mine and others, and why.
In the past couple years, I’ve had the opportunity to write a few discussion guides for in-depth interviews. I’d like to share some tips that help ensure the research is high quality.
1. Avoid asking leading questions in experiential marketing interviews.
I recently wrote a blog post disparaging leading questions in survey research. I would say the same about in-depth interviews as well. Questions need to be worded so the respondent will provide a true “top of mind” answer. This can only be done if the interviewer has in no way created bias toward a particular answer.
One way to avoid bias is to omit value statements from questions. If you’re asking about past experience with a product, asking, “How much did you enjoy the taste of the product,” implies the respondent was satisfied. In fact, he or she may not have enjoyed the product at all. Consider re-wording to something like, “What did you think about the taste of the product?” This allows the respondent to provide an answer that’s purely his or her own.
2. Utilize the “Four W’s” (Who, What, When, Where) and their companion, “How?”
It sounds like common sense to phrase the majority of your questions using that convention. However, I find when I’m writing the first draft of a guide, it’s easy to include a lot of questions that evoke yes or no answers. Those answers won’t tell you anything you could have asked in a simple survey. Using “How” and the “Four W’s” allows the respondent to give an open, more-detailed response.
You’ll notice I left out “Why.” This is because “Why” may imply that there’s a correct answer. There should be no right or wrong answers in an in-depth interview. It’s OK to use “Why” sporadically, but its use should be limited. I often like to ask, “What reasons do you have …” in place of “Why.”
3. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper.
In-depth experiential marketing interviews are designed to obtain more detailed feedback than a quantitative survey. Questions should be asked with that goal in mind. It’s helpful to have potential answers in mind, but use caution when doing so, because that is how leading questions are unwittingly created.
If I want to know what a respondent likes most about the taste of their favorite brand of coffee, I’ll plan to probe for attributes like boldness, flavor,or additives. Doing so may add another 15-20 seconds to your interview, but the point is to get as much detail as possible.
If you’re an experiential marketing researcher, what techniques work best for you? If you’ve been in an experiential marketing interview, what did you think of the discussion?
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