Quantitative vs Qualitative research – What should you be considering?

Developing an online presence might seem relatively straightforward for a contractor or building product manufacturer. The aim is to showcase the work you have done, so images of completed projects with some accompanying description is enough, right? It demonstrates your capabilities to potential customers and gives them an idea of what they can expect from working with you.

To some extent, that is true – but it is not deliberate or targeted. People who want to purchase from the right manufacturer or work with a reliable contractor might look at your website. If they’re not involved in the sector in which you specialise, however, their visit doesn’t help your business. Meanwhile, your ideal clients may be looking at a competitor’s website because they were not directed to yours.

Qualitative research – what it is and how to use the data

Research that evokes thoughts and feelings, that looks at how an audience reacts, is an example of qualitative research. As the name suggests, it looks at the qualities of the subject matter. Descriptions and impressions, rather than numbers and measurements. To put it simply, it is characterised by open-ended questions that encourage a discussion of the emotions attached to the subject matter.

When developing a new website, or improving an existing one, research helps to generate the understanding of what will attract the clients you do want and implement strategies accordingly. Case studies definitely form part of your online presence. Perhaps surprisingly, they can also be used in research.

Presenting case study ideas to the target audience – the length and layout of a case study, the photographs used to illustrate it, the type of information conveyed in the text – and getting their feedback gives insight into what people find appealing. Seeking trends in the feedback can inform the best approach to take to attract clients from the sector you work in, rather than a broad brush approach that appeals to everybody and nobody.

Qualitative research is excellent for gaining deeper insights into the human element of your work and how you present it to the world. It can be the starting point for a research plan by assessing attitudes and ideas about the business, and it can be the end point by assessing the human reaction to the final outcome.

Quantitative research – what it is and how to use the data

Closed questions that produce measurable data in sufficient quantity to be analysed are the foundation of quantitative research. The ideas uncovered by qualitative research can be researched and explained through quantitative methods, like surveys and polls.

Such methods are easier to carry out in that they can be done remotely, via email and online, without requiring the active participation of the researcher. As a result, they typically generate more information to work with and produce statistics.

However, whereas qualitative research is likely to actively target a specific audience type, it’s worth keeping in mind that quantitative research is anonymised. Another risk of that ‘detached’ approach is that a proportion of the target audience may also simply ignore a survey or not feel engaged with it – particularly if it is a long survey.

Interpreting the data gathered by quantitative methods must also be done with care and attention. Drawing appropriate conclusions and presenting them in a clear way will make it easier to implement the necessary actions, but getting confused or mislead by numbers could result in going down the wrong path entirely.

What is the next step?

Quantitative research tells you how many people engage with you, your brand and your website. Qualitative research tells you why.

Where your business is and what you want to achieve defines how you choose to implement the two techniques, or which is best to focus on more than another.

Maybe you have numbers about audience engagement but need to know more about how you make that audience feel in order to develop and grow what you offer. Or maybe you know you have a brand or service that resonates with people, but can’t precisely quantify that reach or its growth.

Either way, implementing a research strategy can help to define what content marketing activities should follow to best showcase your work to your sector and get a positive reaction.

Keep your eyes peeled for our new Research eBook available over the next few weeks! In the mean time, for any further construction marketing queries, give us a call on 01908 671707.


Paul Forrester

About Paul Forrester

Paul is a creative technical writer. He spent a decade in architectural practice and six years managing UK technical services for a European insulation manufacturer.

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