5 Tips to Help You Better Understand Your Financial Customers

Leave it to quantitative research when you want answers to questions like “where?” “what?” and “how much?”

When you want to know “why?” it’s time for qualitative.

You know all about debt-to-equity ratios, discounted cash flow and option pricing—clear cut areas that you can determine through quantitative research. But what do you know about the drivers of industry cycles? Consumer insights? Management skills? These subjective areas can be measured using qualitative analysis, valuable research that lets you peer into consumers’ minds and better understand what makes them tick.

Professionals in the banking and financial services industries can leverage qualitative research to make financial forecasts based on consumer opinions, more deeply understand customers’ desires and fears, better understand their own teams and areas of expertise, and so much more.

Ready to get started? Here are a few key guidelines when using qualitative research to deliver the powerful insights you need.

  1. Know your objectives.While it seems obvious, it’s amazing how often a very excited and well-intentioned team dives into research before completely buttoning up the objectives of the work. You probably don’t start a road trip without knowing where you need to end up. Starting a research initiative without clear and aligned-upon objectives can have a similar result: lots of wandering around, mixed opinions about where you should end up, issues with timing, and potentially an irrelevant or otherwise less-than-impactful result. Ensuring that the entire team is comfortable with the approach and on board with the timing is also helpful at this early stage, but even those points stem from the objectives so, again, objectives come first.
  2. Focus on the screener. Ensure that your screener specifies the appropriate characteristics, demographics, and product experience of the people with whom you need to connect. And, be sure to allow sufficient recruiting time to find the appropriate target consumer. Once recruiting is underway; the focus shifts to the guide, stimuli creation, and other elements. However, if you’re not engaging the right consumers, even the most well written discussion guide and best developed stimuli is useless.
  3. Design your discussion guide around your objectives. Your research objectives should continue as the leading driver of your topic and discussion set. Work with your consulting partner to ensure that lines of discussion will address the objectives appropriately.
  4. Listen carefully for the themes. While your research objectives should guide your path, be sure to really listen to what the information is telling you—it may be different than what you expected. Going into qualitative research with a hypothesis is great. Reviewing the data and trying to make it fit into what the team “needs” to hear is a huge mistake. Listen to the data with an open mind and to allow the research to guide the findings.
  5. Have an experienced partner. It’s important to find an experienced, capable and trained partner who can work with the entire team to help achieve the research objectives. Conversations should be open and welcoming of additional perspectives. And, sometimes, the role of a true partner is to push back and tell the team things that are important, even if it’s not what the team wants to hear. Valuing and, in fact, encouraging open (and sometimes uncomfortable) conversations leads to deeper analysis and a stronger initiative for the team as a whole.

Through in-depth interviews, group discussions, online forums, and other qualitative methods, you can learn more about who your customers are, what they want, and how you can best deliver what they need.

About Jessica Ritzo: Jessica is director of qualitative research with Insights in Marketing (IIM), a research-based marketing consultancy that helps clients develop the most complete picture of their target audience so they can build emotional and lasting connections with them. 

Written by Jessica Ritzo