Qualitative market research doesn't work.
It doesn't work if you don't read it. It doesn't work if your company has a merry go round of brand managers suffering from raging cases of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. It doesn't work if you've delegated it to the most junior team member or outsider.
Qualitative market research works only if you are truly listening. Munching on gourmet food while sequestered behind the focus group mirror doesn't count.
I refer to "focus groups" as the "F word," because beyond the sterile environment and stale potato chips that are served to your target audience, marketers don't give the group their full attention. This wastes money, talent and time.
True listening is hard work and requires uncompromising discipline. Your organization has to believe that customers are important and must place a priority on translating research into action.
This is particularly true when you are trying to learn from women, who are uniquely wired to be good talkers and problem solvers. They tend to articulate solutions that are good for humans, not just for themselves, and are generous with their time and ideas.
When you are drowning in numbers from your quantitative efforts, talk to women to gain clarity. Remember: women make or influence over 80% of all consumer purchases. So, they are basically your boss. You listen to your boss, right?
There are eight traps to beware of during qualitative research. If you hear yourself saying any of the following, you should stop for an immediate reality check:
Jen Drechsler is the co-director of brand consulting for Just Ask a Woman (www.justaskawoman.com), a marketing consultancy specializing in women's consumer behavior. She is based in New York, NY.