Exploring the value of attitudinal research

July 25, 2023

Your market research provides massive amounts of data about what your clients and prospects do. You can extrapolate excellent insights from these metrics – where your clients are, which product or service is most popular, the most common pathway to purchase. 

But attitudinal research uncovers why they exhibit the behaviors you’ve already measured. 

These multiple ‘stories of why’ get you inside the heads of each individual member of your buying teams. Finding out what makes them tick means you’ll have a greater influence on their buying decisions. Who doesn’t want that?


What is attitudinal research—and what hidden client attitudes will it reveal?


Attitudinal research helps you make better business decisions across the board, because you understand your clients’ opinions, feelings, attitudes and thoughts more clearly. You can get specific about their opinions on your brand, services, products and features. 

These insights help you meet your clients’ needs more successfully in a myriad of ways, like:

  • Accentuating positive perceptions about your brand
  • Choosing to develop a product feature that’s eliminating a real pain point your clients have expressed
  • Creating more emotionally resonant messaging 

You might even generate such good customer experiences that their genuine advocacy develops momentum of its own. 

Investing in consistent attitudinal data doesn’t just result in delighted customers – it can’t help but invigorate your bottom line.


Types of attitudinal research (in an attitudinal study)


There are 3 elements within attitudinal surveys to consider when you’re first deciding what type of attitudinal research to use. 



Attitudinal questions can be asked in a variety of different contexts:



Attitudinal questions can take 2 formats:

  • Quantitative: these are closed questions designed to find out how often people hold particular attitudes
  • Qualitative: these open ended questions delve into the underlying reasons why respondents developed their attitudes 


Working with a research partner that applies mixed methods research to the same data set means that you capitalize on insights from both methodologies. A combination approach gives both breadth and depth to your attitudinal survey. 



Your respondents’ internal experiences will shape their answers to your attitudinal questions. These psychological elements are powerful engines of motivation, attitudes, perception and beliefs. 

Within the construction of  your attitudinal survey, it’s important to bear in mind that not all attitudes are fully known by your respondents. There are explicit attitudes that people are fully conscious they hold. So questionnaires and interview questions are a space to scaffold their explanations. 

But there are also implicit attitudes that respondents themselves are unaware of. They are held unconsciously, which requires carefully crafted tests to bring them to the surface. 

To get actionable insights from an attitudinal study, you need custom data that’s specifically tailored to your business needs. You need to ask the right people the right questions in the right way. 


Attitudinal research vs behavioral (research)

The main difference between attitudinal and behavioral research is straightforward. Behavioral research uses hard statistics to measure what your clients and prospects do. Things like; how many people upgraded their service package to include the new features, email open rates, and click through rates from social media ads. All your behavioral research metrics paint a useful picture of your clients actions.

Attitudinal research tells you the story of why they make the decisions that determine their behavior. So, when behavior changes, you can work out why. 

The relationship between the what and the why isn’t always as straightforward as you’d expect. And these 2 types of research aren’t in conflict with each other. To get business critical insights you need a complete research strategy that capitalizes on the benefits of both.


Benefits of attitudinal research


Fine tune towards the settled, informed opinions

Attitudes are notoriously difficult to change. So the insights you get from attitudinal research is likely to be useful over a long period of time. Clients’ and prospects’ attitudes stay the same, buyer behavior stays the same, so your strategies can retain focus. 


There’s wiggle room! 

Attitudes might be difficult to change – but not impossible. Attitudinal research helps you pinpoint where you should focus your energy to change attitudes in your favor. Particularly around brand perception and awareness, where you have a strong influence over how people see your company.  


Be the puppet master

You get the lowdown on the decision-making rationale for each member of your buying teams. From this, you can calculate and navigate their complex group dynamic. This is incredibly powerful information to use in your marketing strategy. 


Well focused investment

With your in-depth knowledge of your clients needs, pain points and aspirations, you can make sure you’re investing in products, services and features that they want to pay for. The flip side of this is equally pleasing – you avoid wasting resources on ideas that buyers simply aren’t interested in. 


Test the waters

You can use attitudinal research to go beyond opinions of your brand, products and services. It can also help you work out if your clients and prospects have an affinity with the issues that are embedded in your brand values. Bonding over shared values outside of business helps to strengthen authentic connections. 


Strike gold!

You don’t know when your research questions might trigger the revelation of a new idea for a product, feature or service. These moments are all the more satisfying if you know that none of your competitors have got there already.  


Things to watch out for with attitudinal research


As with all market research, some caution should be applied when collecting and analyzing attitudinal data. Asking the right people is the only way to get useful data and, due to its nature,  the respondent selection process is longer for attitudinal research surveys. 

Focus groups are an efficient way to get multiple opinions in the same timeframe. But you need to account for the effect of peer pressure in this type of survey. Human nature makes us tend towards agreeing with the majority. 

How often do we really express absolute honesty? What prevents total truth telling? We’re not in the realms of deliberate falsehoods or deception. But perhaps respondents are unaware of their implicit feelings about a particular thing. If it’s not conscious, how can it be expressed? 

There are also multiple sets of ‘norms’ that apply to every social situation. Whether we want to accept it or not, we’re all judged by these standards – both by ourselves and others.  How much might this hamper your respondents’ ability to reveal their true feelings? 

It’s clear that these aren’t the straightforward insights you get from other market research. You’ll need to plan time to think carefully about your analysis and what they can – and can’t – tell you. 


How you can use attitudinal research insights


You can use attitudinal research insights to inform most areas of your business. You can make communication and messaging much more nuanced and targeted. You can ensure that your prospects’ preferred type of content is in the right places. 

Attitudinal study data gives you evidence to direct your investment in product, service and feature development. If you pursue things that you already know clients consider important, product-market fit – and sales – almost take care of themselves. 

This type of research can be incredibly useful with other company stakeholders and employees. You don’t need to restrict its usage purely to customers. Getting into the mindset of your employees gives you information about how to attract and keep your top talent. 

You can also use your attitudinal research insights to cement your organization’s position as an industry leader. As marketing executive Susan Baier concludes for Forbes: “Custom attitudinal segmentation research is uniquely capable of providing an attention-getting, credibility-enhancing platform for your thought leadership—and revealing you as someone that genuinely cares and invests in understanding your ideal clients.”


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