Using in-depth interviews for richer business insights

May 23, 2023

Do you ever feel like you’re just not getting to the heart of what your clients want from your product or service? You’ve developed detailed B2B research personas and have analyzed a range of hard quantitative data – but there’s still something missing. 

Reliable figures that can be tracked over time build a great deal of confidence in your company’s decision making. You can draw a straight line between numbers and clear actionable insights that are easy to explain to the executive team.

But as a research leader, you need to unfold the motivations of the people behind the figures. Nothing beats an actual conversation with another human to discover their thoughts, feelings and reasonings. In-depth interviews with decision makers helps you refine your marketing strategy with a rich layer of understanding that boosts your competitive edge.



What are in-depth interviews?


In-depth interviews are a qualitative research method that involves conducting detailed and comprehensive one-on-one conversations with participants. Unlike structured surveys or questionnaires, in-depth interviews allow researchers to delve deeply into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the interviewees. These interviews are typically open-ended, allowing participants to express themselves freely without being constrained by predetermined response options.

The primary goal of in-depth interviews is to gain a rich and nuanced understanding of the participant’s perspectives, motivations, and beliefs. Researchers can explore complex topics and probe deeper into the reasons behind certain attitudes or behaviors. In-depth interviews are particularly valuable when studying sensitive or personal topics where participants may be hesitant to share openly in a group setting.

The process of conducting in-depth interviews requires skilled interviewers who can build rapport with participants, actively listen, and ask follow-up questions to elicit deeper insights. These interviews can take place in person, over the phone, or via video conferencing, depending on the preferences and availability of the participants.

In-depth interviews are widely used in various fields, including market research, psychology, sociology, and healthcare. They provide valuable qualitative data that complements quantitative research methods, allowing researchers to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject under study.



The benefits of in-depth interviews


In-depth interviews offer several valuable benefits for researchers and businesses seeking deeper insights into their target audiences or study subjects. These benefits include:

  1. Rich and Detailed Data: In-depth interviews allow researchers to collect rich and detailed data by exploring participants’ perspectives, experiences, and emotions in depth. The open-ended nature of these interviews enables participants to express themselves freely, providing researchers with a comprehensive understanding of their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Flexibility and Adaptability: Unlike structured surveys, in-depth interviews are flexible and adaptable. Interviewers can tailor their questions and follow-up probes based on the participants’ responses, allowing for a more personalized and nuanced exploration of the topic.
  3. In-Depth Understanding: In-depth interviews help researchers gain a deeper understanding of complex or sensitive topics. They provide insights into the underlying reasons behind behaviors, attitudes, and opinions, which may not be readily apparent in quantitative data.
  4. Participant Engagement: In-depth interviews foster participant engagement and collaboration. Participants feel heard and valued as they actively contribute to the research process, leading to more meaningful and authentic responses.
  5. Uncovering Unexplored Areas: These interviews can uncover unexplored areas or perspectives that were not considered in the initial research design. This can lead to new insights and avenues for further exploration.
  6. Confidentiality and Anonymity: In-depth interviews offer a safe and confidential environment for participants to share their thoughts and experiences. Anonymity can be assured, encouraging participants to disclose sensitive information without fear of judgment.
  7. Supplementary to Quantitative Data: In-depth interviews complement quantitative data by providing a deeper context and explanation for the patterns and trends observed in the quantitative data.
  8. Decision-Making Support: The rich insights from in-depth interviews can inform better decision-making within organizations, as they gain a comprehensive understanding of their customers, employees, or stakeholders.
  9. Iterative Learning: In-depth interviews enable iterative learning, as researchers can refine their questions and research approach based on early findings, leading to more focused and insightful subsequent interviews.



Attributes of in-depth interviews


In-depth interviews are characterized by their qualitative nature and comprehensive exploration of a particular topic. Unlike structured surveys, in-depth interviews involve open-ended questions, enabling respondents to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in greater detail. These interviews are typically conducted one-on-one, allowing for focused attention and personalized interactions with participants.

Flexibility is a key characteristic of in-depth interviews. Interviewers can adapt their questioning and follow-up probes based on participants’ responses, enabling a deeper exploration of specific aspects. This adaptability allows researchers to uncover unexpected insights and gain a comprehensive understanding of the participants’ perspectives.

Another important characteristic of in-depth interviews is the opportunity for confidentiality and privacy. Participants feel more comfortable discussing sensitive or personal topics knowing that their responses will remain confidential. This creates a safe space for participants to share their honest thoughts without fear of judgment or repercussions.

In-depth interviews are also known for their richness and depth of data. The detailed responses obtained during these interviews provide valuable context and nuanced information that cannot be easily captured through other research methods. This depth of data allows researchers to gain a holistic view of the subject under investigation.

Conducting in-depth interviews requires skilled interviewers who possess strong listening, probing, and rapport-building abilities. Interviewers must establish a comfortable and trusting environment to encourage participants to share their experiences openly.



What in-depth interviews bring to the table?


In-depth interviews in qualitative research are always a one-on-one conversation. They can be conducted by phone, on screen, or in person and are usually between 30 and 60 minutes long. It’s a brilliant opportunity to dig into what would be the ‘please explain below’ answers of a written response survey. 

Open-ended questions are crucial to allow interviewees to express their thoughts in their own way. But there must be some structure to the conversation. Often preparation for in-depth interviews will include a discussion guide that outlines main talking points, with follow-up questions. The intention is not to work through them in the style of a closed interview, but to have them ready as prompts to dig deeper during the conversation.

This one-on-one time with decision makers is an absolutely invaluable way to achieve a deeper understanding of your clients’ decision making processes. The results can uncover unexpected new perspectives that challenge your previously held assumptions. At other times, it boosts your decision making confidence by affirming your existing beliefs with high quality evidence. Either way, you can use this powerful information to refine your marketing strategy and strengthen your impact. 



Importance of the in-depth interviewer role


A good interviewer is the key to maximizing the quality of the insights from your in-depth interviews. Whether they’re part of your in-house research team or an outsourced research partner, anyone conducting an in-depth interview needs current knowledge about your business. They need to converse with your expert interviewees at their level. 

An in-depth interviewer also needs to hold on to the reasons for the interview – what you want to know – and ask questions until any ambiguities around this core purpose are resolved. This means they need to understand your product or service in detail. 

Here’s a great example of how well this can work in a strategic partnership between Microsoft and NewtonX. 

[Webinar Recap] Building Strategic Research Partnerships: How Microsoft and NewtonX Source Critical Business Insights


“While research firms bring expertise in market feasibilities, clients bring product expertise. Merging this specialized knowledge fuels research success.

“For Microsoft, the NewtonX team ramped up on the product through technical trainings. Our project team learned the ins and outs of Azure products and how to identify red flags for users that might overrepresent their expertise. The training ensured we were sourcing the right people who could speak technically and imaginatively on the future of cloud software.”


In-depth interviewer skills

A good in-depth interviewer also needs several finely tuned skills, including:



Interviewees need time to think and articulate exactly what they mean. In-depth interviewers must show real patience with this. Nothing makes hard-to-reach thoughts disappear more quickly than feeling like you’re being hurried along by a tapping foot or a clicking pen. 


Observational skills

It’s important for in-depth interviewers to collect all the information available, not just what is said. So much is communicated by a slight change in tone, the folding of arms or the arch of an eyebrow. A good in-depth interviewer observes all these subtle cues that define the energy in the room and notes their significance. 


Active listening

This is definitely not as easy as it sounds and requires total concentration. It means that you’re processing all the information given to you by the interviewee immediately and responding with questions that probe even deeper. Paraphrasing the core message back to your interviewee is a great way to demonstrate that you’re listening, and to check your understanding. Another useful technique is mirroring back any emotions that the participant has expressed or that you’ve picked up on. Using an open phrase like ‘It seems like you feel … about this’ allows the interviewee to agree or clarify. It’s less confronting than direct questions like ‘Why does that make you feel frustrated?’ or ‘Are you angry about that?’ 



An in-depth interviewer must be hyper-aware of their own communication, as feeling judged has a censorious impact on any communication. It’s important to use encouraging vocal cues, open body language and maintain soft, neutral facial expressions.


Creating the right atmosphere 

An interviewer must quickly establish the interview as a safe space where honesty can be shared without judgment. Again, this is trickier than it sounds. You need to project a consistent balance of being interested, from a place of calmness. Then respondents feel that they are divulging their truth to someone that values their sincerity and understands the importance of professional discretion.



B2B In-depth interviews: 4 cons and 5 pros to consider


Everyone in business wants to know what their clients and prospects really think about their products or services. In-depth interviews generate this level of business critical data by focusing time, energy and budget on getting inside the heads of leading decision makers. There are 9 points to consider before you commit. 


4 cons to in-depth interviewing

  1. The success of all in-depth interviews hinges on the quality of the interviewer. As you’ve already read, this requires a unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience.
  2. When you add together all the stages of the in-depth interview process, it’s more time consuming than other market research methods. It’s not just the interview itself, which usually lasts an hour. You also need time for preparation, transcription, and analysis of your findings.
  3. In-depth interviewing can also be more expensive than other research methods. One way to minimize costs is to do the interview by phone, rather than face to face. This eliminates the travel time. 
  4. It’s absolutely crucial to choose the correct participants for your in-depth interviews. They’ve got to hold the right expertise and position for you to get truly actionable insights. Therefore the screening process for in-depth interviewees is usually longer.


5 pros of in-depth interviews

  1. No distractions or peer pressure that can influence the outcome of focus group market research.
  2. A private conversation with one other person enables participants to share their opinions more candidly. 
  3. The in-depth interview structure means that the conversation can travel off down tangents, ideas can be scrutinized with follow-up questions, and topics can be returned to as new information is divulged. 
  4. Unlike other market research methods, in-depth interviews need fewer respondents. The focus is on the quality of the participants, not the quantity. 
  5. As fewer participants are needed, despite the time-consuming nature of the whole in-depth interview process, this is the shortest route to the most valuable insights.



How to conduct an in-depth interview?


Conducting successful in-depth interviews involves careful planning, effective communication, and strong interviewing skills. Start by defining the research objective and preparing open-ended questions to explore the topic thoroughly. Recruit suitable participants who align with your research goals, and schedule the interviews while assuring confidentiality and obtaining informed consent. Create a comfortable and private space for the interview to encourage participants to share their thoughts freely.

During the interview, build rapport with the participants, actively listen to their responses, and use probing questions to delve deeper into their answers. Stay neutral and non-judgmental to avoid influencing their responses. You can record the interview with permission or take detailed notes for accurate documentation. After the interviews, transcribe or organize the data and analyze it to identify common themes and patterns.

It’s crucial to ensure confidentiality and anonymize participant responses for privacy. Reflect on the insights gained from the first interview and adjust your approach for subsequent ones, allowing for iterative learning and refining your questions.



Streamlining the in-depth interview process with a research partner 


Outsourcing in-depth interviews is often the best way for companies to streamline their process. Working with a research partner takes the whole job off your hands. There is often an additional layer of comfort for your participants when they’re talking to a third party, especially if anonymity is agreed. 

With NewtonX as your research partner, you get a complete end-to-end service that combines the right research methodologies to answer your questions. The NewtonX Graph searches 1.1 billion verified, professional brains across the world to find the exact expertise you need. All the planning, interviewing and analyzing of your 1:1 consultations is done for you. This AI powered custom recruiting gives you the custom findings you need to make business critical decisions. 


How your business benefits from our expertise and experience 

  • NewtonX conducted 10 in-depth interviews to help. a top gaming company retain and recruit the best tech talent. “Overall fantastic project. The interviewees were even better than we imagined in the quality and relevance of the people interviewed, both in qual and quant. The insights generated from the research were so clear, our roadmap and action plan wrote itself.”
  • NewtonX recruited 25 highly specialized metaverse influencers in 12 days for a media and internet innovator. “NewtonX gave us unprecedented access to hard-to-find influencers who truly understand the latent potential of the metaverse. Our ability to engage these metaverse influencers in-depth and on an ongoing basis gave us insights we couldn’t get any other way.”
  • A top 5 global payment processing company needed to analyze a possible area of expansion. NewtonX conducted and analyzed 15 in-depth interviews with Fortune 1000 CFOs in under 2 weeks. “We’re incredibly impressed with NewtonX and their ability to access C-Suite executives. They delivered us 100% verified expert insights.”


Got your next question in mind? Get started with NewtonX

Sign up for our newsletter, NewtonX Insights:

Your playbook to making confident business decisions enabled by B2B research. Expect market research trends, tools, and case studies with leading enterprises, delivered monthly.

Related Content

6 tips to help make your next market research program a success

Nearly all market research projects follow a certain set of steps, from understanding the client’s business challenge, to developing the recruiting strategy and research methodology, to fielding and delivery, then analyzing the results, and finally

read more

B2B Market Research Methods for Better Decision Making

The best B2B market research methods depend on the business problem you are trying to solve. These four types of market research each deliver specific benefits, and each has drawbacks. Understanding these will help you

read more

10 tips for improving how to measure advertising effectiveness

Do you know how to measure advertising effectiveness using decision quality data? Find out why it’s a game-changer.

read more