How To Run A Rocket-Powered, Hyper-Focused Marketing Research Interview

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is running marketing research interviews. While there’s a lot to love about having conversations with real, live people the chance to really listen, and the opportunity to engage in a two-way dialogue there’s also plenty that makes me cringe. 

As an interviewer and notetaker, I do everything I can to avoid these painful moments (which are usually caused by interviewers who don’t know what they’re doing).

But it seems like there’s always something new to learn. Lucky for you, I’ve put together all of my best tips in one location so you can deliver better interviews!

How To Do Market Research! (5 FAST & EASY Strategies)
1. Conducting hyper-focused marketing research interviews can yield valuable insights.
2. Prepare well in advance to ensure the interview is targeted and efficient.
3. Crafting open-ended questions encourages in-depth responses from participants.
4. Active listening during interviews helps capture nuanced insights.
5. Analyze interview data to extract meaningful patterns and trends.
6. Incorporate the interview findings into marketing strategies for optimal impact.
7. Regularly refine your interview approach based on feedback and results.

1. Know The Purpose Of Your Research

Asking yourself these questions is the first step to running a successful interview. If you don’t know what you’re trying to get out of the research, then how can you expect your participants to?

For example, if the goal of your research is simply “to learn about our customers,” then it doesn’t matter who you talk to or what questions they answer. 

You’ll end up with data that are meaningless and difficult to interpret because there will be no context provided by additional information or insights into their behaviors and motivations. 

On the other hand, if your goal is “to understand why our customers don’t buy more often from us than they do now.” 

Then it makes sense that only customers who aren’t buying at all should be included in your sample because they’re at least as interesting (if not more so) as those who already buy regularly and because including them will help answer that question.

When conducting marketing research, remember that stories have the power to connect and engage. Learn how to weave narratives into your research process for more impactful insights. Discover more in our guide on the power of storytelling in marketing research.

2. Know Who You Want To Interview

To create a hyper-focused research interview, you need to know the following about your target audience:

The topic. This is a given, but it’s worth repeating that you can’t interview someone on a topic without knowing what it is! If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, do some research first and then come back here when done.

The target audience. Who are these people? What do they like? What don’t they like? These questions should be answered before interviewing anyone so that there’s no confusion later on in the process (which could lead to inaccurate results).

The product or service is discussed in question one. Again, this may seem obvious but without knowing what exactly we’re talking about here (and how much knowledge our subjects have of said thing).

We could end up asking them something like “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had unlimited access to free ice cream?” instead of something more focused and relevant like “What do you think about this new ice cream brand?” This brings us neatly into…

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3. Always Get A Script From The Client

The script is your guide, your template, and your record of the interview. It’s what keeps you on track and ensures that you ask each question to the client at least once.

The script also helps ensure that you get all the important information from your interviewee. When someone is talking about something they’re passionate about, it’s easy for them to go off on tangents or repeat themselves.

If you follow a script, it forces you to stay focused on getting all of the questions answered instead of just checking off items as quickly as possible.

4. Interview People You Can Understand

  • Don’t interview people who are not good communicators.
  • Don’t interview people who are not good listeners.
  • Don’t interview people who are not good at articulating their thoughts.
  • Don’t interview people who are not good at explaining their ideas.

5. Choose Interviewers Who Can Handle Abstract Questions

You’ve carefully selected your interviewers, but you still need to make sure they’re qualified. First and foremost, they should have a knack for listening closely and communicating well. 

They should be able to ask questions that are relevant to your audience’s needs (not just their own). They should also possess the ability to explain concepts in clear terms without being condescending or alienating. 

These skills will help them navigate any abstract questions you throw at them during an interview and if they can’t do these things well enough, then it’s unlikely that person will be able to relate well with potential customers either!

Finally, it’s important not only that your interviewer asks good questions but also that he or she knows how to take notes on what was said for all of this information about prospective clients’ preferences (and dislikes).

Does not get lost along the way through some kind of miscommunication between yourself as a marketer and this other person who is supposed to represent you as such.

6. Prep, Prep, Prep!

The first step to preparing for your interview is to prepare the interviewee.

You can’t expect someone who’s never been in an interview before to know how they should feel, what they should wear, or even how many minutes it takes to get from their house to where you are. All of these things are important considerations and will affect the outcome of your research project.

Make sure that you have a plan for each of these areas so that when you sit down with someone, they’ll know what is expected of them and how best to serve your purposes as a researcher.

The second thing you need to do is prepare yourself for this momentous occasion (that’s right! You’re going into battle!).

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7. Learn To Be Comfortable With Silence

Asking questions is a necessary part of research interviews, but it’s not the only thing you need to focus on. 

Asking questions is just one small piece of a much larger process: listening and observing your interviewee’s behavior as they respond to your questions and what you learn from them. 

Your job isn’t just to ask good questions; it’s also about paying attention and taking notes while they give their answers so that you can remember those details later when it comes time for analysis back at the office or home base (or wherever else).

To help keep your mind focused on what’s happening during an interview, try mimicking these five behaviors:

8. Don’t Talk Too Much Or Too Little

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to talk too much or too little during a research interview. It’s also pretty easy to interrupt someone else who is talking, rush through questions, or be afraid to ask questions at all.

But here’s the thing: most people don’t know what they’re doing when they have a conversation even if they think they do! 

So if you’re talking more than normal, that means you’re probably being awkward (especially if you’re asking things like “what were we supposed to be talking about again?”). 

If you’re not saying anything at all, that means one of two things: either your interviewer has moved on and forgotten what she was going to ask next…

Or she thinks something about your silence is suspicious (ie: maybe no one ever asks for advice from someone who never speaks up).

So how do we avoid these pitfalls? Well…it depends on whether or not we want people thinking of us as awkward weirdos! 

If our goal here is simply “get people talking so I can learn stuff” then there’s no harm in letting them take center stage while occasionally interjecting with clarifying questions like “and then what happened?” 

But if our goal is also to “make them feel comfortable around me so they’ll want me around more often,” then honestly …there are better ways than just letting someone ramble on endlessly without giving them any sense of feedback or respect for their ideas.

9. Don’t Lead With The Answer You Want To Get

Asking questions you already know the answer to is a great way to start gathering information. You can ask questions like “Are you happy with the current state of our product?” or “How often do you use our product?”

If you don’t know what their answers might be, however, asking open-ended questions will help you understand where your customers are coming from and why they feel the way they do. Asking these types of questions may lead to new insights that allow you to make better decisions in the future:

  • What key challenges do they face?
  • How would they describe their ideal product experience?
  • What excites them about working at Company X (or being a customer)?

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10. Do Not Deviate From Your Script Without Permission

As we’ve discussed, you need to stick to the script. This means no deviation unless it’s asked for. You can’t just go off on tangents or get distracted by something in the background (yes, this has happened). 

If you need to change something about your interviewee’s response, ask them if it’s okay. For example:

“Okay, so what I’m hearing from you is that there are moments when _______ happens? Is that correct?”

“I’m going to make a note here that you don’t always feel comfortable during these interactions.”

You might also want to include some questions which let your interviewee know they can deviate from what they said previously and say something else instead, like “Is there anything else about X situation that comes up for you?” 

This way they’ll feel more comfortable asking for clarification or correction without any awkwardness on their part or yours!

11. Record What They Say Verbatim

The final step in the process is to record what they say verbatim. Every word, inflection, and nonverbal response you can record is an important piece of information that will help you build a complete picture of how people experience your brand.

You should also make sure to record all nonverbal responses as well as verbal ones. What does this mean? 

For example, if someone says “yes” but their body language doesn’t match up with that affirmation, then there’s probably something else going on in their head that’ll be useful for understanding how they feel about your product or service.

Yes: “I love it!” – Yes: “I love it!” – No (when asked for more details): “I’m no expert on this stuff…”

12. Record All Nonverbal Responses As Well As Verbal Ones

Nonverbal responses are often more important than the words they say. Nonverbal cues can tell you how a person feels, what their cultural background is, and even what they think of you. 

If someone moves away from the desk when you sit down, that’s an indicator that something is wrong. Maybe he doesn’t like you? Maybe she thinks your breath smells like garlic? Maybe she just isn’t comfortable with strangers? 

Regardless of the reason why it’s worth paying attention to nonverbal behavior during an interview for clues about what people think about one another or about what’s going on in general.

13. Listen To The Words They Use And Write Them Down, Just As They Said Them

Listen to the words they use and write them down, just as they said them. This will help you avoid any confusion about what the person is referring to or finding important. 

Don’t get so caught up in your thoughts or assumptions that you miss a key detail the interviewee has shared with you.

14. Be Present And Apply Your Full Attention To Each Participant As You’re Interviewing Them 

This might sound obvious but in practice, the ability to focus on just one person (and what they have to say) is incredibly difficult. Especially if you’re talking to participants remotely (via video call or phone), it’s easy for your mind to wander as they talk about their experiences. 

How do I get this person back on track? Why can’t I just find out what they think? What are they going through right now? And so on…

The only way around this challenge is with willpower: You have to set aside these thoughts and focus solely on what the participant is saying at any given moment. 

The more present you are in terms of paying attention and applying your full attention, the better chance you have of getting accurate data from each interviewee which will make all those hours spent preparing for interviews worth it!

Building a successful marketing research panel requires finding the right participants. Learn the art of identifying the ideal candidates with our guide on how to identify the right person for your research panel. Maximize the effectiveness of your panel with strategic selection.

15. Thank Them For Their Time And Input When The Interview Is Over 

After the interview is over, thank them for their time and input. They may be working on other projects and won’t have time to help you again, so it’s important to keep things positive. If you treat them like a person, it’s more likely they’ll help you again later on if needed!

16. Keep up that healthy work-life balance after the interview is done! The work will still be there tomorrow, so don’t feel compelled to do anything else today!

Finally, this is a good time to keep your work-life balance healthy. If you’re working more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, it’s probably time to take a break! You should also make sure that you don’t work more than 4 days in a row or 5 days in a row for any reason (like holidays).


In conclusion, conducting a great interview is all about being prepared and knowing what to expect. If you follow these steps you’ll be able to get the most out of each interview so that you can do great work for your clients!

Further Reading

Explore more resources to enhance your understanding of effective market research:

How to Do Market Research for a Startup Learn essential market research strategies tailored for startups, helping you gather insights to make informed business decisions.

How to Do Market Research Discover actionable steps and tips to conduct comprehensive market research that drives your business growth.

Creating an Effective Buyer Persona Dive into the process of creating detailed buyer personas that enhance your marketing strategies and customer targeting.


How can market research benefit my startup?

Market research provides crucial insights into your target audience’s preferences, helping you tailor your products or services to their needs.

What are some common methods for conducting market research?

Common methods include surveys, interviews, competitor analysis, and analyzing industry reports.

How can I ensure my market research is accurate and reliable?

To ensure accuracy, ensure your sample size is representative, use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, and validate your findings through multiple sources.

How does creating buyer personas contribute to effective marketing?

Buyer personas provide a clear understanding of your customers, allowing you to craft personalized marketing messages and strategies that resonate.

How often should I conduct market research to stay updated?

Regularly conduct market research, especially during significant industry shifts or when introducing new products, to stay relevant and informed.