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.



‘Please explain below’: 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.



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.”


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