What are expert interviews, and why do they exist?

 What are “expert interviews,” and why do they exist?

Whether you are launching your product in a new country, launching a new product, consulting with a new business partner, or making a business investment in an industry that you are unfamiliar with – make no mistake, you need market insights, and you needed them yesterday.

Now, there is value to be gained from secondary research industry reports, current events, pre-published statistics, or market analysis, but its value is limited. It’s also not unique. Secondary research can get you caught up with the knowledge that is widely available, but if it is published, you can guarantee that your competitors could access that knowledge as well.

The real value lies within primary market research – research that you conduct yourself. This is the real opportunity to gain unique market insights, learn what secondary market research won’t teach you, and find the knowledge that is unavailable by merely reading industry reports, Googling, or reviewing survey results.

The most valuable method of primary research is to conduct interviews and speak to real people. Speak to customers. Speak to potential customers. Speak to potential clients. Speak to competitors. Speak to completely un-related industries that face the exact problems or questions your industry is now dealing with.

There is plenty of advice available on how to best conduct primary market research interviews, but I will share a few key points based on my experience:

  1. Look for surprises. When listening to responses, pay attention for insights or comments you didn’t expect. Ask more about these points to find hidden gems that you didn’t see coming.
  2. Adapt your script. It is easy to ask the same boilerplate questions to each person you are interviewing, but that method doesn’t really tap into their depth of knowledge. Learn about their background and experience before the interview, and focus on the questions that fit their unique and exceptional experience.
  3. Shake things up. Ask about a topic or angle that is not directly relevant to their everyday work. This gets them thinking outside of their normal routine, and they may be able to apply their everyday knowledge to a different industry in a completely unexpected way.
  4. Beware confirmation bias. We all tend to only focus on or write down the points that confirm our previously existing expectations. Before going into the interview, ask yourself what biases may exist, and pay extra attention to the points that disagree with your world view.
  5. Take notes on the call, and compare notes between different calls. Look for common themes among different interviews, and quantify this data if possible.

By speaking with industry professionals who have years of experience in the topics you are interested in, you will be able to accelerate your learning, identify unique market insights, and gain the competitive edge by bringing unique knowledge to your next client meeting.