As b2b market researchers we are well known for asking a huge amount of questions. Maybe even too many. We like to be specific and thorough.
For example, we want to know what a person purchases, how often, and in what quantities. We want to know what they think of suppliers. We want to find out satisfaction scores and whether they’d recommend the product or service to others. Focusing on the specific means we sometimes miss the bigger question – “Do we understand this customer?”
One of the most important and valuable questions, often asked at the beginning, is “Tell me about the main challenges you face in your job” or similar questions such as “What are the main things that worry you in your job”. While some will argue this is too broad a question, we’re certain that the question will provide valuable insights.
In fact, this one question can give us more answers than a long list of poorly formulated, leading or overly prescriptive questions. It’s all too common for the most fundamental questions to be cut in order to fit in long lists of unnecessary specifics.
The reason we ask people about the general problems or challenges they face is that it allows us to see into their world. We can learn about looming issues and everyday pressures. We can find out what influences their business decisions on a daily basis. These insights help us to learn what makes people tick and what annoys them.
Building a holistic view of respondents helps to quickly and easily understand their basic, differentiating, unmet and latent needs. For example, someone whose main challenge is getting everything done during a work day is likely to value speed and responsiveness. Someone who worries about health and safety will value product quality. Someone with tight control over budgets will want assurances over ROI.
The lesson is obvious. Asking the correct questions is more valuable than asking lots of questions. No project should forget the all-important “what keeps you awake at night?”