November 21, 2013

Quantitative research provides facts and stats to prove your strategy is solid

By Allen Sewell, Senior Associate, Entira

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad made history this past September with her record-breaking swim across the Atlantic Ocean from Cuba to Florida. Extensive research and lessons from four prior attempts helped Nyad and her 35-person team prepare for every snag and threatening obstacle she might encounter. Every move was pre-calculated: the time of year chosen for the trip, everything she ate, everything she wore, every stop for rest. Knowing conditions could change at any moment, her team stayed with her, monitoring the weather and the water temperature, measuring currents, and watching for dangerous marine life in case they needed to adjust strategies. And 53 hours later, she made it to her destination.

In business, we test the waters by doing research—it’s how you know what you’re dealing with before you dive in head first. It’s how you anticipate what threats might be lurking and what strategies are most likely to succeed.

From Entira’s point of view, we firmly believe good consulting can only come after completing fresh, solid and thorough research. We don’t believe we can do our job effectively without adding high quality research on the front end, and that becomes our basis for strategic counsel that leads to actionable results. The scene is constantly changing in agriculture. What may have been true three years ago could easily look entirely different today. So we can never stop doing research.

In a previous posting, we talked about the “off the grid” style of qualitative research, which we use to find underlying reasons, opinions and motivations. Through the more structured quantitative research approach to data collection, you find numbers to validate your qualitative findings, transform them into useful statistics, and confidently project results over an entire population. You can identify patterns and statistics that confirm or contradict whatever hypothesis you began measuring in the qualitative phase. This gives you the facts you need to really match the issues to specific groups and demographics. From there, you can make informed decisions and take action based on concrete data, rather than soft speculation, and design a tailor-made strategy that appeals to the needs and mindsets of your customers.

While qualitative research is built around open-ended questions, and is generally accomplished through a discussion or interview, quantitative methodologies are more structured and include traditional survey techniques—“closed” questions, as in rating scales, multiple choice, yes/no responses—to discover the prevalence of a mindset within a population. Quantitative research "counts" actions rather than exploring the "why" of an action.

Entira uses both research methods and is skilled at blending the two to extract the most meaningful data for the most comprehensive insight. Typically, we write quantitative questionnaires after exploratory qualitative research has been completed. We are great at sitting down to conduct 1:1 interviews with farmers, but we also excel at administering large sample size quantitative methods to test hypotheses and measure actions. With each level of research conducted, you’re honing in further on an approach that works.

Whether a business proposition is best suited to a qualitative or quantitative research methodology, Entira is poised to offer the highest quality work plan to provide actionable insights to our clients. Entira understands market research and business strategy, and we also understand farming. We know all the ways agriculture marketing is different than other industries, so our people are well-equipped to lead you in the right direction.

Never stop testing the waters. The temperature will change and the winds will shift, and it’s critical to stay on top of that so you don’t swim into your own version of shark-infested waters. If you would like to explore how quantitative or qualitative research—or a combination of both—can help your business strategy, please contact me at 919.817.1015 or asewell@entira.net.