Here at HelloInfo, we use a number of different research methodologies. Our HelloHow? blog series outlines how we approach research and analysis. This week we are investigating in-depth interviews and how to source participants for them.
Secondary research is essential to HelloInfo’s core methodological approach, and we use it in the majority of our projects. But often the best way to obtain insights is through primary research. This allows us to go beyond publicly known information and understand both the reasons behind certain actions, as well as understand what may happen in the future. Given our focus on qualitative insights, we often conduct in-depth interviews to support our clients.
Clients often ask us how we source our participants for our in-depth interviews… and how we get the participants to share information about their company and market with us.
What are in-depth interviews?
In-depth interviews allow us to talk one-on-one with someone connected to a particular company or market. We get to understand their perspective on a number of topics such as their market, their customers, their company, or on their supplier. A typical in-depth interview is 30-45 minutes, and it is conversational in tone and format. While the interviewer has a discussion guide at the ready, that is meant to help guide the conversation, rather than being used as a formal survey instrument.
Given the nature of these discussions, interviewers must be seasoned in the research field and very familiar with the topic at hand. This provides a level of trust and camaraderie between the respondent and interviewer, and also allows the interviewee to move between topics as needed and guide the conversation.
Why in-depth interviews?
In-depth interviews are a great source of qualitative insights that allow clients to get significantly more depth on topics than surveys or focus groups do. They are sometimes used as a follow-on to a widespread survey to better explore certain themes or trends emerging from the survey. But often they stand alone in a project, allowing for in-depth insights into specific companies, markets, or customers.
In-depth interviews are flexible, allowing clients to explore topics that may not have been on their radar previously. For example, in talking to a customer to understand why they elected not to purchase from a particular company, a new outlier reason may emerge that can be explored in depth, when a survey format would not necessarily capture the alternate reason in the first place.
In-depth interviews are particularly well-suited to certain types of projects such as:
- Competitive intelligence projects, such as company deep dives
- Customer projects such as win/loss or voice of the customer
- Market trends analysis and future-looking market projects
- Customer segmentations
- Competitive landscape analyses
- Inputs into content marketing or other thought leadership
Sourcing interview participants
How we source contacts depends on the type of research we are conducting and the type of in-depth interviews we need to do. A single project may use multiple methodologies. Some approaches are:
Leveraging existing networks
HelloInfo’s primary research teams are well-networked, having years of experience in conducting in-depth interviews. Many of our team members have specific backgrounds in the target industries in focus.
Due to their deep industry expertise, our primary research teams have extensive contact lists that they can connect with at the outset of a project. Perhaps they do not have someone in their network that is a perfect fit for the project at hand, but they are able to leverage existing relationships to find the right people to speak with.
This approach is especially well-suited to competitive intelligence research, where interview respondents need to have worked or be currently working at a target company. It’s the approach we used most often, given it is an efficient and effective source for interview respondents.
While challenging, cold reach-outs through LinkedIn or even actual cold calls are used to connect to the right individuals. Once primary researchers have made one connection, they can then leverage that connection to potentially connect to others.
While cold reach-outs are not a preferred approach as they are time consuming and often lead to dead ends, we find they are sometimes necessary to achieve a project’s objectives.
Purchasing panels from third parties
If a partner company already has a list of willing interview participants that match our potential interviewee profiles, we will engage with those companies to access those lists.
This approach is especially useful for projects where we are seeking large numbers of interviews with thought leaders, with particular demographic profiles, or with roles that work at a broad list of companies.
Obtaining targets from client contacts
Depending on the research topic at hand, there are many circumstances where our clients may give us contact names of people to speak with. Sometimes they even set up the interviews for us or introduce us to schedule ourselves.
This approach is typically used when conducting win/loss studies or voice of the customer studies.
Why people speak with us
There are a number of reasons why someone may choose to speak with us. It could be they are proud of their work or their market, and they are happy to have an educated dialog about it. In the case of customer interviews, it could be that they genuinely want the company to succeed and are willing to offer their perspective on the products or services.
In other cases, we may offer a data incentive, for example, a sanitized one-page deliverable approved by our client for sharing with interview participants. And lastly, in cases of customer or thought leadership research we sometimes offer monetary incentives to participants for their time.
What comes after the interviews?
This is the most important part – one can have conducted a very impactful set of interviews, but how that information is collected, collated, and shared determines whether the insights will be valuable for your organization. At HelloInfo, we are skilled at harvesting insights from secondary and primary research to create a comprehensive, approachable deliverable for our clients to make strategic decisions with.
Has this piqued your curiosity? Schedule a call with us to learn more about our primary research methodologies and how in-depth interviews can help you uncover valuable insights on your market, competitors, and customers.