Research is an incredibly powerful tool. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, your goals will be easier to reach if you have the data needed to make informed decisions.
It’s how you can keep up with trends in the market, anticipate what customers want before they even know it and find new ways to outcompete other companies.
Building materials companies know this. It’s why their marketing teams research the customers they’re trying to reach.
However, most of them don’t do nearly enough research – or don’t do the right kind.
I want to help point you in the right direction by covering the difference between quantitative and qualitative research. Knowing what each of those are and when you should use them will help you learn more about your customers and get all the information you need to help you become more successful.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research: What’s the Difference?
Broadly speaking, quantitative research is aimed at gathering numbers and statistics. It gets you the kind of results you can put in graphs and charts.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, is about things that are a bit too fuzzy to put into numbers. It helps you understand how your customers think and feel.
Qualitative research is exploratory. It is typically used to develop new ideas, test concepts and gain insights into customer preferences and motivations.
There are multiple ways to collect qualitative data, including:
- Open-ended questions
- In-depth interviews
- Focus groups
- Recordings of interviews or conversations
- Text documents like emails and social media posts
Once you have collected your data, you can’t simply run it through an algorithm to get some results. Instead, you have to comb through it and look for common themes, analyze the type of language people use and just get a general sense of how your customers feel about certain things.
Quantitative research is used to clarify a particular problem by collecting data, analyzing it and converting it into usable statistics. It is used to test hypotheses, validate concepts, track the results of your activities and make data-driven decisions.
Since quantitative research is a quest for solid numbers, you should collect easily measurable data using methods like:
- Structured surveys
- Statistical analyses
Pros and Cons of Each Approach
- Deeper insights. Qualitative research gives you detailed information that can help you better understand your customers or see the bigger picture.
- Can help you generate new ideas. Qualitative data is full of rich information that you can explore to develop new hypotheses, come up with new approaches to sales and marketing, or refine your current methods.
- Greater flexibility. Qualitative research is highly adaptable. If you discover interesting themes that you want to explore, you can ask follow-ups or pivot to a different set of questions.
- More input from the participants. Qualitative research methods allow the participants to share more information, elaborate on what they think or feel and provide feedback in their own words.
- Takes the big picture into consideration. Instead of looking at data in the abstract, qualitative research allows you to consider the social and cultural context of your participants.
- Results may not be generalizable. Qualitative data is collected from a small sample size, which means your findings might not apply to all your customers and prospects.
- Time-consuming. Putting numbers in a spreadsheet and running them through an algorithm is quick and simple. Analyzing qualitative data – not so much. It takes more time and resources to take the raw information you get and convert it into insights you can act on.
- Results are more subjective. Qualitative data has to be interpreted and those interpretations can be influenced by the biases, opinions and assumptions you bring to the table.
- Results are difficult to quantify. It’s difficult to put numbers on the results you get from your qualitative research. That makes it more difficult to compare results from different surveys and studies.
- Lack of statistical power. Numbers are persuasive. If you want to convince management to sign off on a project, showing them statistics is a great way to win them over. Qualitative data feels less definitive and you might need to do more work to make your case.
- Results are objective. Quantitative research takes interpretation out of the equation. This practically eliminates subjectivity – your assumptions can’t change the numbers that are right in front of you.
- Highly generalizable. Quantitative research allows you to collect data from a large number of customers. For the most part, you can assume that the results will also apply to the customers you didn’t survey.
- Better statistical analysis. The data you get from quantitative research can be used to test hypotheses, identify patterns and clearly track changes over time.
- Precise and accurate. Because numbers are easier to analyze and interpret, you can be confident that the results you get are accurate.
- Strips the context out of your data. Quantitative research flattens the result. You get numbers and stats, but those don’t reflect details like your customer’s background, the type of company they work for or what kind of values they identify with.
- Oversimplification. Statistical results are clear and straightforward, but that’s because they ignore a lot of nuances that might be important to consider.
- Limited insights. Gathering quantitative data involves asking your customers yes or no questions, getting them to pick from a list of pre-written responses, or having them rate how much they like a product on a scale from one to then. This leaves very little room for them to elaborate or give detailed, personal responses.
- Highly rigid. For your results to be valid, you need to keep the exact same process throughout your research. That means you don’t have the flexibility to tweak the questions as you go or follow-up on unexpected responses.
- Can have added costs. Gathering and analyzing qualitative information can be fast and efficient, but it often involves large sample sizes and specialized software, which can cut into your marketing budget.
Which Method Should You Use?
The question you’re asking or the problem you need to solve will determine what kind of data you should gather. Here are some examples of when to use each:
- Learning what architects think of the distribution channels you use to sell your products.
- Gaining insights into user experience with your product. Do they find it easy to install? How well has it performed for them so far? Have they ever run into any maintenance issues?
- Testing prototypes or product concepts with a small group of customers before investing in a larger production run.
- Identifying the major factors that motivate your customers’ purchasing decisions.
- Measuring the market share of your products in a specific region.
- Gathering data on customer demographics.
- Analyzing the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns, promotions, or pricing strategies.
To Become More Successful, Ask the Right Questions
For your sales and marketing efforts to be as effective as they can be, you’ll need to make use of both types of research methods. You can’t know how well you’re performing without looking at the numbers, and you won’t understand your customers or anticipate their needs unless you take the time to gather qualitative data from them.
Every challenge you face when selling building materials can be overcome with research, but only if you take the right approach. You need to start by correctly identifying the problem, gathering the right kind of data and turning it into actionable insights.
If you’re struggling to learn more about your customers and grow your business, get in touch with us so we can help you formulate the right questions that will get you the answers you need.
Schedule a free consultation today for more information.