I'm a startup, do I need to do Qualitative Research?

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Written by Jesse Caesar, Mitchell Posada, & Tom Stanek

Startups that regularly conduct qualitative research (not just quantitative) experience faster results in their quest to achieve product-market-fit.  By regularly doing quality research, you as a founder can feel more assured that the voice of your ideal customer actually becomes a part of everything your teams do. 

Not every customer carries the same weight in the early stages, as teams navigate the best or most actionable opportunities. While a survey can help identify who your early adopters and evangelists might be, qualitative research reveals who those customers really are and how to reach and convert them most effectively. It is also critical during the early stages of growth to validate and uncover how your product is truly differentiated. Qual can provide the necessary depth and dimension for understanding who you are to them.

Creating a clear product strategy from the customer’s perspective with a deep understanding of their needs and their relationships with your competition will improve your chances of success. Most strikingly, qual is not often accompanied by the “monsters in the closet” that startup founders associate with gaining information… words like “cost”, “time”, and “marginal benefit” all come to mind.  The cost and time spent gaining valuable insight with qualitative research are minuscule compared to the benefits provided.

Below are 10 qualitative research questions that will help guide a smarter strategy:

  1. What are your customer’s friction points? 

  2. Why are your customers behaving the way they do?

  3. What are your product’s strengths and weaknesses? 

  4. What are they feeling at critical decision-making stages?

  5. Where do you fit into your customer’s workflow and priority?

  6. What are customers saying about your sector, in their words?

  7. How can you bolster acquisition and retention for your business?

  8. What is the customer journey to buying your product and experience afterward?

  9. What promises are you making and how do they align with customer expectations?

  10. What’s missing in your competitive landscape, and how can your product fill that need?

“From my experience working with startups, I think qualitative is misunderstood and, consequently, not used often enough. Founders might worship at the altar of data, but they have a lot to gain from leaning into qual as a generative resource. Good qualitative market research sparks insights and adds fuel to the creative fire.” -- Jesse Caesar, CEO Jesse Caesar Consulting

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Mitchell Posada