Qualitative Researchers Uncover the Secret to Valentine Romance

“Honey, what would you like for Valentine’s Day?” Are you taking a logical approach like this to understanding your customers? Is it working?

In most cases, this approach falls flat. She (or he) expects you to know what the gift should be. Just like purchasers and users of products and services, who aren’t good at expressing what they think, when asked a direct question, your loved one has all sorts of rational screens that keep them from giving you an easy answer. The buying process isn’t just about rational decision-making. It’s also about emotion. So maybe you just need to find a way to read emotion!

Unfortunately this won’t get you any further ahead. “Like” isn’t sufficient. She might think that new vacuum cleaner she saw in the paper on the weekend is the best one she’s ever seen, but trust us: Don’t buy it! (Ditto the exercise bike). Similarly, when individuals make a decision to part with their (or someone else’s) hard-earned cash (or credit) just seeing their excitement isn’t enough.

Buying a present that you think is awesome won’t work either. (Please, no more scanty lingerie, especially in Canada. In February). Likewise, just because you have created an amazing product, doesn’t mean everyone else will have the same reaction. Even if they do love it, knowing that your brand makes their heart skip a beat, or their hands get sweaty, or puts stars in their eyes, misses the one question that lets you go from “That’s Great” to “Wow, this is amazing. I love you!”….Why?

So if the consumer (or your girlfriend) can’t tell you why when you ask, and you can’t figure out why by statistics or science, what can you do? Unfortunately there’s no “magic button”. You simply have to do the work.

By using projective techniques, much as a psychiatrist helps a patient travel a path of self-discovery, a professional moderator can get at some of what’s going on in the dark recesses of the customer’s subconscious, and help them to express it. Observational researchers and ethnographers can see the buyer in a real-life, real-time usage situation, and let you look inside what’s really going on when the user is engaging with your product or service. Diaries (photo, video, online or old-school) can capture what’s going on as usage is occurring – rather than counting on the individual’s memory while they’re being surveyed (and would prefer to be eating dinner).

And as for you…as you’re rushing out this weekend to buy your significant other a gift for Valentine’s Day, we hope that you’ve been taking the time to listen, watch, and pay attention to them, so you can capture their heart with the perfect present.

With heartfelt wishes,

Megann and Steve


Make better decisions, get better results, grow your business. We use a deep toolkit of specialized techniques help clarify your objectives, identify decisions that must be made, and eliminate knowledge gaps, resulting in strategy with a firmer foundation and better results.

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