Bringing consumer needs home to senior stakeholders

As decision windows get smaller and pressure is on research to be more and more agile, it’s increasingly important to bring research outcomes to life, making them compelling and making them as easy as possible to act on quickly. We have broad and deep experience in working with Main Board or equivalent level in Corporations and NGOs to make sure this can happen.

In some cases qualitative sessions have been designed and run specifically to stimulate Board Discussions, in some we have co-moderated alongside Chief Executives. In others we’ve run parceled qualitative outputs to stimulate Idea Generating at Board Awaydays. But the most fruitful are generally where we’ve designed and run sessions in which Board Members and customers work together. Below are some of the principles we find useful for making this work. In all cases, the maxim is: as little as possible should be left to chance – the more we plan the better the outcomes..

Prepare your respondents

Respondents who have already participated in one round of research will always be better at the encounter sessions, especially if these are run face-to-face. Not just because they will be familiar with the qualitative contract but because we can hand-pick them to represent views we know to be important, and to be socially confident.

Vested Interest

As far as possible, the subject matter should be an area where the Board has a lot at stake. They should be at least shown and at best asked to contribute to the design of the sample and to the materials being used in the sessions. If possible their own expectations should be collected in terms of what they anticipate their customers feeling. All of this will lift their interest levels during the sessions themselves.

Real World Objectives

Issues that respondents are discussing and ideas they’re reacting to should be ‘live’ and should represent real-world questions the client organisation needs to answer. These issues will produce much fresher, sharper and more real content than any ‘general’ agenda that we might ask respondents to address. For this reason, a real project – with real objectives and real outcomes required should be used as the focus of the activity. Of course, this also has the advantage of delivering research value as well as involvement.

Careful use of Contrast and Conflict

Sessions are more exciting and interesting where more than one position is represented by the respondents and where this is known to the client team. Where client and respondent teams work together, we often use four or more respondent ‘stations’, each with different positions represented. In more conventional viewed focus group settings we often divide the room between different or opposing positions, the most extreme recent example being Leave and Remain voters. The result is a confrontational (but managed!) debate which is intrinsically easy to follow.


Focus Groups can be difficult to view but respondents are easier to ‘read’ when they are presenting their own ideas or suggestions. KSBR Constructor Groups (used for proposition development) involve equipping them with materials to build their own ‘ideal’ versions of new ideas and they then ‘sell’ these back to the group, making for more vivid viewing.

Face to face is best

Wherever possible we recommend getting senior stakeholders in the room with respondents working together. The results are far more memorable and the impact is far greater.


Finally, a little training is always a good idea and often the most senior people get the most from it. Non-directive interviewing techniques – at the basic level – are not hard to teach and even 30 minutes warm-up before respondents arrive is always a good way to start any interactive session.

When it’s done right, senior stakeholders get huge value from working face to face with consumers. It drives home realities about markets and equips them with an understanding they can apply to lots of decisions for a long time to come. It takes a little time and a little commitment but it leaves a mark that’s far deeper and more useful than just attending another meeting.

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