Quantitative vs. qualitative research: Choosing the right approach

Sep 28, 2023



In the fast-paced world of B2B marketing, understanding your target audience is crucial for success. As businesses strive to develop effective marketing strategies, the debate between quantitative versus qualitative research methods has become increasingly relevant. Each approach offers unique insights into customer behaviour, values, preferences, and needs. In this blog, we explore the differences between quantitative and qualitative research and look at how to choose the right approach for B2B marketing success.

Quantitative research: Unveiling insights from numbers

Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data. This approach focuses on gathering data from a large sample size, meaning you can identify any outstanding trends or patterns. Surveys, social media monitoring, and data analytics are the most common methods used in quantitative research.

Advantages of quantitative research

  • Scalability: With the ability to reach a large number of people, quantitative research provides valuable insights that can be generalised across the entire B2B market
  • Data-driven decision making: The statistical nature of quantitative research allows marketers to make data-driven decisions, minimising biases
  • Quick and efficient: Online surveys and data analysis tools make quantitative research faster and more efficient, allowing you to see results in a shorter time frame

Qualitative research: Uncovering deep customer insights

Qualitative research delves into the motivations, beliefs, and attitudes of B2B customers. This method emphasises open-ended questions, focus groups, and observations to gain a deeper understanding of customer experiences.

Advantages of qualitative research:

  • In-depth understanding: Qualitative research allows you to explore complex issues and gain deeper insights into the emotions, perceptions, and preferences of B2B customers
  • Flexibility: This approach allows for adaptability during the research process, letting researchers explore unexpected themes that may emerge
  • Rich context: Qualitative research provides information that cannot be captured through quantitative data alone, offering a more comprehensive understanding of customer behaviour
  • Improved customer relationships: Engaging directly with customers through research demonstrates a commitment to understanding their needs, which can foster stronger relationships

Choosing the right approach

The decision to use quantitative or qualitative research depends on your goals for your B2B marketing campaign. Here are some key considerations to help guide you:

  • Research objective: Clarify the objective and the information you want to gather. If you need to identify patterns, quantitative research is appropriate. For exploring reasons behind customer behaviour or testing new ideas, qualitative research is more suitable
  • Sample size: Consider the size of your target audience and the resources available. If you have a large audience and need broad insights, quantitative research will bring statistically significant results. For smaller markets, qualitative research may be more practical
  • Time: Determine the time frame for your research project. Quantitative research is generally faster to conduct and analyse, while qualitative research requires more time for in-depth analysis and interpretation
  • Budget: Assess your budget and the costs associated with each research method. Quantitative research may require more substantial financial resources due to the need for large sample sizes and advanced analytics tools
  • Complementary approach: In some cases, a combination of both methods can provide a comprehensive understanding of your B2B audience. Quantitative data can identify trends, while qualitative insights can explain the “why” behind the numbers.

Understanding the customer: Roland

Every year, we conduct a customer survey on behalf of our client, Roland. The survey targets customers, prospects and potential leads. It provides valuable insights into market dynamics, reactions to market conditions, competitor intelligence and brand perception.. Having this data enables them to make more informed decisions based on fact – thus creating high confidence in decision making.

We also use quantitative research for creative testing. By putting out a short survey with creative concepts to our target audience, we can prioritise a creative approach and ensure the success of a campaign. This also helps prevent subjectivity in choosing a creative route based on personal preference of someone that is not the target audience. Even worse, choosing a creative concept based on the collective opinion of marketers – an office strawpoll! A data-driven approach provides more certainty and understanding of whether the campaign meets the audience’s needs and connects with them.

For a deeper understanding of a new customer group, and to get better understanding across different geographies, we did some in-depth interviews with a target persona. We worked with a research house to conduct the interviews in multiple languages and ensure our research adhered to the MRS Code of Conduct. The insights gathered helped to ratify findings from the quantitative research and explore responses in more detail. The insights have led to more detailed personas and helped to reshape the businesses thinking around their indirect sales model and their brand perception. 

For Roland, it wasn’t about quantitative versus qualitative research, but using both to create a better, deeper picture of the audience. The data points from the quantitative research has been invaluable for shaping strategic direction and enabling board-level decisions, and the qualitative research has helped develop a better narrative around specific audiences.

Generating insight for thought leadership: Square

Commissioning fresh quantitative research can also elevate a report or whitepaper from bland and generic to fresh and insightful. Our recent ‘Raising the Bar’ campaign with our client, Square, was a case in point. At a time when the cost of living crisis was beginning to bite, we commissioned Censuswide to ask 300 restaurant and bar managers how they were adapting to make their businesses more streamlined and efficient. The data fuelled a research report and an expert panel will soon be discussing it in a webinar. The research paints a picture of how an industry is adapting and crucially, opens up a forum for debate and learning from others facing the same challenges.

In the world of B2B marketing, both quantitative and qualitative research play pivotal roles in shaping successful marketing strategies. Choosing the right approach involves aligning your research goals with the unique strengths of each method. Quantitative research provides statistical insights on a large scale, while qualitative research offers in-depth understanding and context.

By making informed decisions based on the best-fit research approach, B2B marketers can create targeted campaigns and foster stronger customer relationships.  It’s not as simple as quantitative versus qualitative research, both are highly valuable as part of your strategy.

Ready to elevate your B2B marketing strategy?
Contact us today to discuss how we can tailor our research methods to your unique B2B marketing goals.

Further reading

The Modern curve of return: develop your demand strategy

The Digital: keep ahead of the B2B digital marketing trends

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology