5 Creative ways to inspire clients with online qual

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is Founder of Feeling Mutual, the agile online and mobile qualitative research specialists. He helps clients and agencies run global studies and offers training in the space. Tom has been a Digital Skills trainer for the Association of Qualitative Researchers (AQR) and is a regular speaker at industry conferences, including the MRS, MRMW and IleX.

Winning projects can largely depend on your ability to impress potential clients with the rewarding possibilities of using online qual. It’s one thing being able to cost and highlight the advantages of online qual, but it’s another to be able to inspire your clients.

A quote that inspired me, to inspire you (to inspire your clients) comes from Stan Sthanunathan;

“…we as researchers focus on how to use technology to collect insights in a better way. Instead we should be thinking about the technologies we have available to us that can help us collect insights that we could never collect before…how we [can] use technology to visualise our insights differently so that they make people sit up and (a) take notice and (b) register what we have to tell them.”

(Stan Sthanunathan, Sr. Vice President – Consumer & Market Insights, Unilever Full interview here)

From this perspective online qual is less about replicating offline ‘live’ focus groups or diary studies. Instead online qual offers a way of getting new, more vibrant insights that invigorate the whole process. Here are my five tips for inspiring clients with qualitative methods unique to online and mobile:

1. Use mobile video to illustrate emotion

A 30-second piece of video can capture emotion better than any quote, schematic diagram or animated powerpoint slide. Your clients, and their stakeholders, are far more likely to remember and share a powerful video than a flat, hefty presentation document. Get even more vivid video by offering a prize for the most insightful account, thereby incentivising people to share their personal feelings. Mobile video can also be used selectively to avoid drowning in too much content. A few participants who made emotionally salient points, in their written online qual, can be asked to repeat them via mobile video. This also works well in pitches.

2. Bring research to life by coaching consumer correspondents

You can see into the ‘real lives’ of participants by asking them to interview their peers and commentate on their feelings, experiences and environments. This not only removes the ‘researcher effect’ of having a moderator or videographer present, but also creates vivid footage of participants in a natural context. Most people are adept at using the video camera on their mobile phone and can easily interview their friends or film themselves. Some of the ground rules of moderation – such as not leading the witness – will need to be explained, but with a little coaching participants can help you gather natural and authentic content from their own worlds. The way people interpret the actions of their peers says a lot about how they construct the world around them and can provide a fascinating lens for a deeper level of understanding.

3. Unite hard-to-reach people for a unique perspective

Researchers often default to tried and tested customer samples; why not think laterally and invite people from diverse backgrounds with special perspectives? For example, invite an academic, journalist or even a super-fan. Online qual makes it easier to access and bring together a variety of interesting people from around the country (and world). A specialist perspective can take you to a novel and provocative place. Recruiting people from social media is another way to target those with interesting perspectives and can be more cost effective than traditional recruitment.

4. Use real quotes to energise client workshops

Have you ever paraphrased a quote from face-to-face research in your report to the client? The chances are you have. Quotes that are paraphrased lack authenticity, colour and that real-world flavour that your clients commissioned the project for in the first place. Online qual gives you instantly available verbatims (no transcription required) to use as stimulus in any workshops you facilitate for the client. Most strategic and creative workshops should be rooted in the insights and needs of the customer. Verbatims and edited video are inspiring and compelling parts of this process.

5. Be more agile with follow-up phases

It is easier to iterate in online qual because reconvening people for a second stage of a discussion (once the ideas you are testing have been developed) is so much easier. Take advantage of the relatively low cost involved in doing a second round and see how well the changes have been integrated. Even though this group may be sensitised to the project, so can’t be considered representative of someone coming to it fresh, they still represent a valuable input.

By thinking about the way online qual helps you do things you can’t do as well in the offline world, you will end up in a more creative and inspiring place.

If you’re interested in mastering online qualitative research and would like to find out about our Masterminds training sessions then please get in touch with

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