Beyond the Survey

Surveys are a heavily used tool in market research – and rightfully so. Surveys allow you to collect a large amount of data in a short amount of time. They allow you to utilize closed ended questions that provide definitive answers to your questions and open ended questions to help understand the “why” behind close ended answers.

Although surveys have proven their usefulness in market research time and time again, they are not the only tool. In fact, depending on your research objectives, it might not even be the correct tool. Just like you wouldn’t build a house with only a hammer, you shouldn’t rely solely on surveys to make marketing decisions. Understanding what other research tools are available, including qualitative methods like discussions, idea sessions, and chat sessions, will help you better tackle your next big marketing project. Keep reading to learn more about how these qualitative research methods can be used to hit your research objectives.


Discussions are great for learning how consumers describe your products/services, your brand, or topics relating to your industry. By posing a broad, open ended question, you allow respondents to speak freely about the topic and engage in conversation with other consumers. Discussions reveal what questions consumers have about the topic, determine the words and phrases your target market uses to describe your industry, and uncover what problems the market is facing for which your company might be able to provide.

Idea Sessions

Idea sessions let respondents show their creative side. Initially, you present a “problem” your company is facing, whether it is naming a product that already exists, or coming up with a new product that will wow your customers. Members can submit their ideas for solving the problem and then rate the ideas submitted by others on given criteria, such as appeal, brand fit, or likelihood to purchase. The top rated ideas are then refined further to determine which ones would perform best in the market.

Chat Sessions

Chat sessions allow respondents to participate in an online focus group. Like surveys, researchers come up with a series of questions about a certain topic. However, unlike surveys, once the question has been asked, respondents can talk about their answers with one another and researchers can probe further if an interesting point arises from the organic conversation. This allows you to more fully understand your respondents’ answers, rather than leaving unclear responses up for interpretation. Chat sessions also allows for more flexibility than surveys because you can decide to ask more questions than anticipated or cut questions you feel are no longer relevant to the conversation on the fly.

Having these research tactics (and others) available will better prepare you for your next marketing decision.

Want to expand your marketing research tool box? Click on the button below to discuss what tools are right for your project.

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