I have to share something with you — I’m upset. Why? Because many clients have no idea of the value of good, solid qualitative research, nor the investments needed. Recently, I was discussing a prospective qualitative research project; upon revealing the cost of such a project, one of the group members replied, “That is the same price as for a quantitative project; how can you justify that price?”

The conversation reminded me of my favorite quote from the movie You’ve Got Mail: Tom Hanks inquires about a book with hand-tipped illustrations and asks, “That’s why it costs so much?” and Steve Zahn retorts, “No, that’s why it’s worth so much.”

So, why is qualitative research worth so much?

Because there is a lot of skill involved in uncovering insights from qualitative research. Qualitative research is not about putting a couple of quotes on a page. It requires time, thought, and creativity to produce successful insights. What and who you put into your qualitative research process will determine what you get out of it. And it requires special skills. Unfortunately for us qualitative researchers, there aren’t many tools to help us with data analysis. Usually, it’s a manual process combined with a natural ability to read between the lines to pull out those impactful findings — combined with a creative mind to transform these into a compelling story.

In a recent blog post entitled “How to know you’re asking the wrong questions,” Tom Webster highlights how Lexus successfully broke into the luxury vehicle market by asking consumers about their lives rather than playing “the features game.” In this case, asking the right questions made all the difference.

But why are qualitative insights so valuable?

Because they change the game. But unless you invest money in the proper resources, you can expect subpar results from your qualitative research projects.

However, if you’re still not convinced, there is another big reason why qualitative research projects are worth just as much as quantitative projects. Understanding the “why” requires a lot of time and resources but is an important element for any marketing or advertising strategy. It’s only when a researcher immerses himself or herself in the project, understands the industry and the market dynamics, and develops a feel for consumers’ needs and drivers that the “why” will uncover real opportunities — not just fancy pictures or quotes. And these new opportunities often give the organization a competitive advantage.

I’d love to hear about your qualitative research experiences and if you believe qualitative research is undervalued.