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Let Customer’s Imagination Flow for Effective Research
If you want to increase sales, increase membership, improve volunteer engagement, increase market share, or find new profit niches, the best methods start with knowing your target audience. One of the most effective ways to do this is to listen to them. How you listen and how you organize and collect the results of that listening is the determining factor in how useful your data is and how accurate and actionable your analysis is. Obviously, a lot depends on the goal, but the type of research you select will drive the type of information you receive and determine how reliable it is.
For sales, membership and interest organizations, a method called “right brain” research could be the key to profitable, actionable insights that you can use quickly and effectively to increase your knowledge of potential customers. The human brain is made up of two “hemispheres” left and right. Based on Roger Sperry’s Nobel Prize-winning research in the late 1960s, it was determined that each has different functions and associated characteristics. Sperry’s research showed that the left side of the brain is responsible for more linear functions and thoughts: math, computation, organization, languages (not directly speech), rational analysis, prioritization of values, and decision making.
The right side is responsible for the more interpretive and sensory aspects, such as art, music, philosophy, creativity, visualization and imagination. The left is rational, the right is more intuitive and emotional, while neither is exclusively so. In fact, the aspect of “craft” is reversed; with the right side controlling the motor and other functions on the left side of our body and vice versa.
Often in decision making, especially when it comes to purchasing behavior, the left side is informed by the right. The left rationalizes the emotional inputs of the right to drive a purchase decision. In order to drive sales, it is essential to appeal to this tricky right side. When anticipating the needs of the group of customers or prospects you want to reach, it’s important to gather and record the output directly from the right side.
One way to achieve this is through verbal communication. A long, personal, one-on-one discussion with customers, but on a large scale and organized, will yield results that you can use to build a strategy for approaching the entire pool of potential customers. In short, the data resulting from research in such small groups is projectable.
Right-brain research has been used to test new products at the prototype stage, test new concepts for advertising, film, even measure the effectiveness of customer service or test brand attributes to to entire companies. It can be very effective, but it requires a high level of organization, some time and patience to listen and interpret the results, and some resources to create the components and organize the interviews.
The components of this method are quite simple:
* A set of objectives for the research should be established and communicated to all involved: What do you hope to discover or achieve when you are finished?
* Describe the target audience for this objective. Find out what attributes they have in common, what characteristics can be used to select them from the general population, and how they differ from the rest of the public.
* A profile of the ideal participant is developed. This profile is used to select a representative sample of respondents to participate in interviews. This profile may include age, gender, marital status, purchasing behavior, geographic proximity, socioeconomic status, professional status or experience, education, organizational membership, and many other properties.
* A Discussion Guide or Study Guide is created. This is the plan for the interviews, the guide for the interviewer to integrate into his questions and discussions with the participants. It starts with the objectives from the first step, to ensure that the questions generate answers that allow the researcher to answer the objectives. It sounds simple, but if the goals are unrealistic or the scope of the study is too broad, it will show up at this stage. This study guide is the key to the effective implementation of this type of research. Questions should be phrased in a way that elicits an answer that is accurate, honest, direct, and emotionally unguarded. Questions are often asked several times in different ways to check for consistency of answers.
* Create the list of possible participants. In some cases, especially for consumer research of this type, the facility may offer some assistance in this area, as they often have pools of potential respondents and a good database of names and demographics from which to select a group of candidates. Selections are made based on how well they fit the profile’s selected set of attributes.
* Candidates are recruited over the phone, either by your staff or the facility, and the offer is made. Most participants are compensated for their time, either with cash or an incentive gift of some kind that will appeal to the intended audience. Professionals like doctors and lawyers are usually compensated at a higher level because their time already has a certain “value” in monetary terms, an hourly rate.
* Respondents are scheduled for their interviews, which usually last 60-90 minutes. It is not recommended to conduct more than 10 rounds of interviews per day per interviewer, as interviewer fatigue tends to contaminate the results. More than one interview may be conducted at a time, depending on the availability of interviewers and the size of the facility. Reserve each day initially to account for no-shows when you confirm your schedule the day before phone interviews.
* Interviews are conducted by qualified, professional interviewers who are personable, knowledgeable, aware of the goals to be achieved, perceptive and skilled at interpreting human emotions and the associated verbal and physical signals that telegraph them. They are excellent listeners and are adept at guiding the conversation to keep it on time. Facilities can often recommend or have interviewers on staff.
* Each interview is recorded to capture both audio and video, and the tapes are labeled and packaged with each subject’s release form for later reference.
After the interviews are conducted, the tapes are reviewed and transcribed, to eliminate any “image bias” generated by the subject’s appearance. These tapes and transcripts are used to analyze and code the results, to distill them into some kind of organized format that can be used to make recommendations for action.
How do you make the leap from transcripts to action? Analyzing the results of this research is a skill in itself, as the interviews generate a wealth of data, buried deep within the responses. It takes time and patience (and a very left-brained person) to organize, sift and distill all these conversations, picking out the commonalities and similarities between them, and highlighting differences and inconsistencies that might indicate false or emotionally charged results. monitored answers
Once this excess of data has been distilled and interpreted, these interpretations are brought together in an organized manner, categorized, classified, and coded, just as you would with survey data or focus group data. These ratings and rankings are included in a report, along with recommendations for action.
The uses for the final analysis vary widely. Some distill the video recordings, editing them down to a few representative responses for each main question, some for and some against, and present them in video form alongside the written analysis. Sometimes the transcript alone is enough to get an idea of the trend of the responses and can show glaring problems or highlight positive areas easily and quickly. Sometimes the two are combined in a multimedia presentation for added impact.
This type of research can highlight any number of aspects of the prospect pool, depending on how the research guide is structured. The more aspects of the potential audience that are included in the study, the less depth you will get in any one area. For an accurate study that is statistically projectable and has a high degree of confidence, 30-40 interviews are usually sufficient. Depending on the small area of interest or niche you want to study, the hardest part may be finding enough respondents to interview.
How does the right brain approach complement other research methods?
The right-brain approach measures emotions, not people. Quantitative data is valuable, but the information it provides can be even more valuable when used in conjunction with Right Brain Research. For example, if you do right-brain research before a quantitative survey, you’ll know what the key issues are, and you’ll be able to ask the right questions and ask them in the right way based on the actual language consumers use. Once the results of the right brain research are known, future surveys can target the factors that affect purchase decisions more precisely.
How can we use what we learn from right brain research alongside the results of our quantitative research?
What you gain in understanding Right Brain Research will illuminate the information gathered in quantitative assessments. Now is your chance to learn the rest of the story! Indeed, Paul Harvey’s analogy is excellent. It tells you all the facts without an interpretative framework. Your mind goes in all different directions trying to make sense of what he’s saying. Then it hits you with a surprising ending or twist and all the facts make sense in a surprising way. This is what Right Brain Research can do for your company/brand/packaging.*
Regardless of how you approach it, speaking directly to a population that is roughly representative of your target audience is extremely empowering because it has the ability to accurately inform your creative, sales, membership recruiting, or product development activities. You can never know too much about customers, and this method allows you to obtain information that cannot be accessed in any other way quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.
*Extracted from Kenney & Associates FAQ section, The Right Brain People website.
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