Qualitative vs. quantitative research: Which type of research should you be shooting for?

Join us as we break down the pros and cons to qualitative vs. quantitative research when selling SaaS products.
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This one’s for the marketers, managers, and those product leaders looking to fully understand the benefits and pitfalls of qualitative vs. quantitative research. 

Qualitative vs. quantitative research methods are still up for debate in the SaaS community. They can both be fantastic for developing your product messaging, but which one comes out on top? What should you prioritize in your customer research and buyer intelligence strategy?

You’ll walk away from this article with a firm grip on the difference between quantitative vs. qualitative research, and which type of research is the best fit for your product growth goals. 

🗝️ Key takeaways:

  • Qualitative research is best for gathering actionable feedback to develop product message testing, cold email campaigns, and other SaaS marketing efforts.
  • Quantitative research is best for quantifying opinions and understanding the popularity of two previously tested theories. For example, A/B testing final renditions of a product messaging landing page headline.
  • The best way to gather qualitative research is by running buyer intelligence surveys with vetted open-ended questions.

To support this article, we leaned on the experience of two co-founders and innovation leaders. You’ll see their thoughts peppered throughout the piece as they share ways they’ve relied on quantitative and qualitative data to build better products, and advise or operate Agile product marketing teams. 

Our two contributing experts are: 

Guy Nachum: Co-Founder at Layla Electric. Layla Electric is a software that uses AI technology to help businesses and property managers reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, improve efficiency, and save money.

Daniel Dumig: Previously new business and innovation manager with Asics, Daniel is now an innovation and capability consultant at Zurich, and a Co-Founder at U-Skale: a C-Level corporate and startup experience hub propelling SaaS businesses into a sustainable future. 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of qualitative and quantitative research methods, let’s cover the basics. 

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research is the study of non-numerical data to prove a hypothesis, theory, or support a project. Researchers can gather qualitative data by asking open-ended questions in surveys, focus groups, or 1:1 interviews. 

What is quantitative research?

Quantitative research is the study of numerical data to split test a closed amount of hypotheses, identify patterns and trends. Researchers can gather quantitative feedback by asking close-ended questions; like multiple choice, multi-select, or Likert scale questions. 

What are the differences between qualitative vs. quantitative research?

In short, a lot. 

The two research types are very different. How you go about collecting each data set will dictate how useful this information is to your product marketing team. 

Let’s take a look at the typical differences between quantitative vs. qualitative research:

One thing you’ll notice is that typically qualitative research requires a great deal of time to understand. And transferring your research into actionable data can be tricky, to say the least. 

At Wynter, we quickly realized that as time-pressed as product teams are in their marketing efforts, it shouldn’t restrict their access to qualitative data points. 

That’s why we created a qualitative B2B buyer intelligence tool, to help fast-moving product marketing teams understand what their target market thinks in 12-48 hours. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it? 🧁🥄

What are the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative data?

Quantitative data certainly comes with a list of advantages and disadvantages, and it largely depends on the type of input you’re looking for. 

Advantages of quantitative data:

  • Objectivity: Respondents will not be influenced by their own opinions or feelings when they’re limited in their responses.
  • Scalability: Often easier to collect many inputs than collecting qualitative inputs.
  • Speed: Requires a one-time ask, with no further follow-ups. Quantitative-focused questions are often easier and quicker to answer for respondents.
  • Cost-effective: Using the right platform to send surveys and manage information is often easy on your budget.
  • Anonymity: If you’re looking for slightly sensitive information, respondents can rest-assured knowing their responses are completely anonymous. 

“A huge advantage of quantitative research is having a definitive answer at the end of it. For fast-paced teams that simply need a yes or a no, close-ended questions: like multiple choice or multiple select questions are an easy win in helping to make critical product-led decisions.” - Guy Nachum, Layla Electric 

Disadvantages of quantitative data: 

  • Limited viewpoints: Responses are limited to the closed-ended options at hand.
  • Requires a hypothesis: Your researchers will need a hypothesis to form questions in the first place.
  • Subject to researcher bias or lack of diversity: Questions will be limited to the theories, opinions, and diversity (or lack of it) of your researchers. 
  • Requires subjects to scale: You’ll need to source a large survey group in order to collect a fair amount of data to make decisions. 

“I’ve seen many teams miss innovation opportunities when they’re limiting customer research to quantitative data. This is especially the case when your product marketing team is small, as is often the case with startups. 

Naturally, you lack diversity in your people and their experience, so cannot expect them to bring diverse solutions to the table when it comes to marketing your product. Quantitative-focussed customer surveys won’t help either.” - Daniel Dumig, U-Skale & Zurich 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of qualitative data?

That’s not to say that qualitative data is the be-all and end of product-led growth teams, it definitely has its pros and cons too. 

Advantages of qualitative data:

  • Captures attitudes and sentiment: With open-ended questions giving respondents complete freedom to express opinions.
  • Opens doors to innovation: Qualitative data can often highlight new thought processes and ideas. 
  • Profile-specific: This research method is fantastic if you’re looking for answers from a niche target market.
  • Avoids bias responses: Your answers will not be limited to options provided by researchers, responders will have total autonomy over what they can share.

Disadvantages of qualitative data: 

  • Difficult to manage or source: It can be tricky to handle a large enough focus group.
  • Difficult to quantify or analyze: You’ll have all sorts of answers and reading that data can be quite the task.
  • Opens too many doors: If you’re already on one go-to-market path, qualitative data can make you rethink your strategy, putting you back a step or two. 

“Qualitative research methods are an absolute go-to for those product marketing teams stuck in an innovation rut, noticing a decline in sign-ups, or finding their keyword SEO strategy is no longer serving them organic traffic. 

Qualitative buyer intelligence can bring a fresh perspective to the table, heck, it can flip the table altogether.” - Daniel Dumig, U-Skale & Zurich 

How to conduct quantitative and qualitative research for SaaS product messaging?

In order for product teams to better go to market, and ultimately sell more products, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research can do wonders. 

Let’s look at how you can implement this type of research into your own product marketing strategy: 

quantitative and qualitative research differences

How to conduct qualitative research to benefit your product?

Qualitative research can help your marketing team find message-market fit, get internal consensus from ICPs, validate product messaging, identify customer pain points, desires, and jobs-to-be-done. 

It can ultimately help you set your product apart from the competition

So, what areas of your product marketing strategy are on the table when it comes to benefiting from qualitative research? It’s a great opportunity to test your website or landing page messaging, cold email sendouts, and ad messaging. 

If you’re using Wynter, you can get qualitative feedback on your messaging in five steps, and get your results in under 48 hours. Qualitative research has never been so attainable or rapid for B2B buyer intelligence. 

Here’s how you can set up your message test: 

  1. Pick your target audience based on job title and three different seniority levels 
  2. Filter that audience down by employee headcount and industry 
  3. Specify your audience size, and rope in an optional Wynter CRO professional to help manage your feedback
  4. Set up the messaging you want to test: from a landing page to email flows
  5. Customize your questions: or take your pick from tried and tested template questions designed to get you valuable qualitative feedback 

How to conduct quantitative research 

Of course, there are plenty of ways you can use quantitative feedback to further your product messaging, and product positioning. You’ll need to ensure you have some firm hypotheses in place first though. 

Once you’ve got two or more messaging ideas you’re willing to test against each other, then quantitative data is great for helping you decide on a firm answer before you invest too heavily in the messaging. For example, before you start plugging an ad spend behind it. 

Run preference tests to determine which arguments, benefits, headlines, and more resonate best with ICPs. These tests will deliver a quantifiable outcome to put an end to internal marketing debates and guess-based decisions. 

However, these tests go a step further. They assist your efforts with qualitative feedback, enabling you to understand the why behind your buyers’ decision-making processes. 

You can run a preference test in five steps:

  1. Tap into the hand-validated B2B audiences that Wynter has available 
  2. Filter down your audience to drive into the specific ICP you’re looking for 
  3. Select your audience size 
  4. Upload up to six creatives you want to test: from headlines to full-length LPs
  5. Ask your quantitative and qualitative questions. For example, your quantitative decision-maker could be something like: Which landing page resonated best with you — the first or second option? Your next question can build on this: why did you make this decision?

Which type of research should you choose? Quantitative or qualitative? 

Everyone’s a winner! 

Hold on, hold on, hear us out a moment. 

Although, hands-down, qualitative research is far more valuable to product marketing teams looking to differentiate themselves in the market, one type of research cannot come without the other. 

Assess where your product marketing maturity is at. 

Are you a new contender in the market? Is your marketplace overly saturated? Perhaps you’re an old player, but noticing an alarming churn rate that seems to have crept in overnight and called your product home?

“When a product is no longer selling at the same trajectory it previously had, it can be easy for Agile teams to make mistakes in their marketing decisions. Throwing money at ads doesn’t work, nor do drastic or poorly thought out campaigns. Yes, there’s a call for change, but that change still needs strategy and research to be successful." - Guy Nachum, Layla Electric

Qualitative research is a fantastic starting point when you’re looking to ideate product messaging and market fit. It’s proven to help generate ideas, give a greater understanding of your ICPs’ thought processes, and will enable you to build marketing flows that resonate better. 

However, quantitative data should not be disregarded altogether. Quantitative data points can help you further down the line, when you’ve got your ideas almost ready to launch but are slightly unsure on specific wording, or placement of a USP. 

Quantitative research will help you polish your product messaging and enable it to drive those results home; smoothly evicting that churn rate that so rudely disturbed your flow a few weeks prior. 

Wynter gives you all-important qualitative feedback, with the same agility and usefulness quantitative data is so famous for providing. The next time you need to ideate, validate, or hone in on product messaging, consider giving qualitative research methods a try and turn testing into a habit.

Out now: Watch our free B2B messaging course and learn all the techniques (from basic to advanced) to create messaging that resonates with your target customers.

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