The Missing Link: Analyzing Qualitative Data

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It’s well past midnight and the only light visible is the gentle glow of your computer screen. The only sounds are the clicks and taps of your keyboard and mouse.

This is the third consecutive night you’ve worked in the darkness trying to solve the puzzle. Your eyes dry by the computer screen as you study the analytics, the content, and the strategy.

You feel like giving up, but that isn’t an option.  After all, you have an important job to do . . . You’re responsible for the digital marketing strategy for your company.

If you’re involved in online marketing you’ve probably felt like this at one point in time or another. The metrics and dimensions jumble together, and sometimes you wonder what quantifying these numbers really means.

Was that piece of content really that much better than another? Is your home page optimized for the buyer personas and keywords that you’re targeting? Will Google penalize you for taking a specific action?

These questions can seem relentless and endless. Although I don’t have the answers to these specific issues, I do believe there is another way. The missing link in online marketing. The thing that nobody ever talks about, qualitative data.


Qualitative data is typically expressed as data that cannot be described with numbers. These are characteristics like colors, textures, smells, demeanor, gender, race, and thousands of others that cannot be described by software or computer programs. At least not yet. As digital marketers, we know these exist, but we have a tendency to ignore them even though we see their power on a day-to-day basis.  These characteristics can change our thoughts, shape our feelings, and even influence our everyday decisions in a positive or negative way.


So now that we know that qualitative characteristics are important, how do we use this information to improve our digital marketing strategy? The answer is relatively simple. Continue to quantify your marketing, but start analyzing the qualitative data that your customers and buyer personas provide. Find their emotional triggers, their needs, wants, and behavior patterns, and do it in a way that gets you honest genuine answers.

Although this may seem difficult at times, even small companies can engage with their potential and past customers in a way that doesn’t require a lot of investment or resources.  Here are a few ways to get started above and beyond traditional focus groups.

  1. Survey your current customers: One of the easiest ways to start gathering and analyzing qualitative data is to start reaching out to your current and past customers with surveys.  Resources like SurveyMonkey or Typeform provide an easy and cheap avenue to connect directly with your clients. Figure out why they purchased your product or service, what barriers or concerns they had, and investigate their interests outside of work. This will give you a deeper understanding of your current client base, and how to better target them in the future,
  2. Create An Online Community: There’s no better way to get direct customer feedback than to create a user-based community. This gives you the advantage of seeing what verbiage your customers are using, and what pain points they’re experiencing, and gives you valuable insider information on how to better develop your content and product. If you lack the resources to develop this on your own, Digsite offers a service that looks, feels, and behaves just like a social media site.
  3. Mobile: Whether your organization is in the B2B or the B2C space, there’s a really good chance that your customer base is using mobile phones. Companies like Facebook use their app to track where you’re going when you’re going there, and who goes with you. This gives them a treasure trove of data to better understand who you are as a person. As scary as that may sound, we willingly provide this information daily on social media and blogs. But you don’t have to be a large company to use these types of tactics.  Getting an email or a phone number is all you need to get real-time feedback from your customers on their mobile devices.  There are also companies like Dscout, that give you the ability to recruit “scouts” that provide real-time feedback on your service or event. Getting this information in real time provides the most valuable and honest insights.
  4. Images: A picture says a thousand words.  We’ve all heard this before, but in online marketing, images have become more and more relevant to capture our audience’s attention. They can connect with us at a subconscious level, and online marketers should be using images to lead the imagination, create comfort, and satisfy the critical mind.
  5. Use Tools: It’s important to understand not only why people are using your product or service, but also how.  Is there a particular feature that people are drawn to? How are your customers interacting and using your website, software, or products?  Several inexpensive tools can answer those questions.
    • Crazyegg: This shows you what your customers are clicking on and how they are interacting with your website.
    • Gutcheck: This tool allows you to do one-on-one video interviews with your target audience.  You can target your customer base with specific filter criteria to make sure you’re interviewing the right people.
    • Google Analytics: The most popular analytics tool in existence can give you important information like geolocation, gender, and the websites your customers regularly view.

Using these methods and resources mentioned above gives online marketers another perspective in which to analyze their data.

Much success,

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