Qualitative research adds valuable insights into healthcare research.
Healthcare marketers often turn directly to quantitative solutions when it comes to market research. The hard numbers allow executives to see, at a glance, where their brand stands in consumers’ minds and against competitors. However, quantitative data cannot always give the insight needed for informed business decisions. Qualitative research can inform your branding healthcare decisions by allowing consumers to express their opinions in a guided, yet open manner.
Qualitative research, according to the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, helps businesses identify customer needs, refine marketing messages, generate product improvement ideas, and/or gain perspective on how a product fits into a consumer’s lifestyle.
Qualitative research is often done as an exploratory phase or to confirm hypotheses before further research. The research allows people to share their thoughts from a series of guided questions or discussions. Business leaders learn the ‘why’ behind consumer’s thoughts and decisions.
Kit Smith wrote, “Brand research assists with the creation, development, and online management and strengthening of brands.” Brand research can help understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, along with understanding your customers, their values, and their concerns – and where your brand falls in relation to those. Continuous brand research is vital for the health, growth, and success of a company. Qualitative research allows your customers to state their opinions on re-positioning statements or other branding decisions in an open environment, allowing you to understand their thoughts and feelings behind their answers.
In-depth interviews, focus groups, and online communities are valuable resources for gathering healthcare brand information. Healthcare companies can learn about patient’s perceptions of them and their competitors, which then inform media and branding strategies. For example, a company could be perceived as ‘not technological’. The company could then focus resources on optimizing their website, updating or creating an app, or implementing features such as online scheduling depending on the needs of their patients.
Additionally, qualitative research can gather reactions to brand positioning statements before they are publicly released. Consumers share their opinions, including whether the new statements ‘match’ the company’s perception and values. By gathering qualitative input, the healthcare provider make an informed decision as to how to move forward.
Finally, health system providers can better learn the patient’s journey by using qualitative methods. An online community allows customers to easily share their stories, pictures, and videos on how they make decisions, utilize the services, and their healthcare experiences.
A health insurance provider approached MDRG asking for assistance in further developing their branding strategy among members and non-members. MDRG created an online community. Activities included Online Metaphor Elicitation (OMET), journaling, storytelling, and discussions. The activities utilized – particularly OMET – were chosen for their ability to explore both conscious and unconscious associations with health insurance companies. The findings from the online community helped the health insurance company gain confidence in continuing their current brand strategy, while also providing guidance on which marketing communication strategies needed strengthening.
Qualitative research provides valuable insights into your healthcare branding decisions. Whether you choose to invest in online communities, focus groups, or interviews, each brings new information to light from your consumers. As with any research, the best methodology includes information from multiple sources. We recommend beginning with qualitative data then continuing the research process with quantitative research to measure your findings and prove the hypotheses generated from the qualitative research.
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