Did you know? The top use for social media in marketing is brand building, per a BtoB Magazine 2011 survey.
A common question raised by B2B marketers about in-depth individual interview research is its validity. At its root, validity is about correctness; correctness in the interpretation of truth, derived from well-defined objectives with a justifiable presentation of the data. Validity has emerged as one of the three components of the holy trinity of understanding truth by the social sciences. The other two components: reliability (consistency in findings) and generalizability* (results being generalizable).
Although the primary focus of this entry is validity, here are some brief thoughts on reliability and generalizability: (Perhaps topics for another entry?)
Dr. Steinar Kvale, a giant in the field of qualitative research, has greatly influenced my thinking and approach to individual in-depth interviewing. Kvale introduced two concepts about validity in his influential text, InterViews (1994) that I’ve found to be both true and extremely helpful.
Validity is something that the interviewer needs to be concerned about in every phase of a research project. A slightly modified version of Validation at Seven Stages offers a good how-to overview.
Validity is not only a matter of research methods; but also needs to include “the person of the researcher,” including his or her moral integrity (Smith 1990) for a critical evaluation of the quality of knowledge produced. In other words, the outcome of an interview depends on knowledge sensitivity, empathy and integrity of the interviewer.
The bottom line is: with a solid methodology and in the hands of a skilled researcher, B2B marketers should have confidence in the in-depth interviewing method. For many situations it is a superior alternative to other qualitative methods, like traditional focus groups.
Here are a few bonus validation axioms you might find helpful:
*Note: contextualization is now often an added dimension of generalizability in understanding interview research.
**Note: summary findings suggested sample sizes of 20–30 for collecting 95 percent of data (in this case, customer needs). This study also pointed out the strength of individual interviews versus focus groups.