Psychological (qualitative) marketing research:

    customer motive analysis

Many companies have sufficient quantitative data available to them regarding customer structures. Numerous companies have also carried out requirements and satisfaction analyses within their clientele. In most cases, these surveys are based on quantitative-orientated (questionnaire) analyses. This method can ensure large analytical width; however, due to its design, it also has serious limitations: the answers are heavily restricted by the type and quantity of the questions. This applies mainly, of course, to “Yes / No” questions but also to rating and weighting constructions as well as to open answer options to particular questions. Hence, although specified criteria can be reviewed and tendencies can be derived in comparison to previous questionnaires with the same questions, the method allows only very small scope for new findings in terms of quality, as the only finding fields that “come out” are those that have been “entered” through the questions.

We therefore choose (often additionally) the qualitative approach to motive research. Here, the behaviour-controlling emotional attitudes are sought. These motives are not always directly traceable, as they are frequently covered over by seemingly rational arguments.


Quantitative methods record above all the surface of the argumentation. For example, many customers will claim that they opted for a product or a certain service due to the better “price-performance ratio”. They would also explain this with reasons on request. This argumentation structure is recorded in statistical width using quantitative methods. The key question here is: “How many people justify their decisions and behavioural tendencies with which (often specified) arguments?”

Example, first part: A system provider for software solutions had found out by means of a standard questionnaire that a large percentage of its customers mainly expected the criterion “flexibility” – specified for selection – as the most important service and product feature. Naturally, as a technically orientated company, the supplier interpreted this expectation in the direction of technically flexible solutions.


However, the qualitative method goes deeper and is based on the leading question:
“Which product/service feature appeals to which motives so effectively that it is thus subjectively worth a certain price?”


Example, second part: In the qualitative post-analysis on the result described above, it became clear that most customers require technical flexibility from all providers. However, the customers also expect the supplier to develop excellent understanding of their situation as a company, their decision-making structures and their customs. Expressed more precisely, this would perhaps be called “empathy” or “inner sympathy”. This finding was the basis for a field work training programme that goes far beyond technical flexibility.


Qualitative methods concentrate on a relatively small sample of people and are based on so-called “non-directive in-depth interview”. Here, experienced interviewers use topics as a basis; the questions expand on the answers provided by the participants.

As a result, in the content-analytical evaluation, the behavioural and assessment patterns that are behind the seemingly rational statements of the customers and are actually significant for decisions then become apparent.

The findings from the analyses can be implemented, for example, in individual components of sales strategies. This can include the type of sales approach and measures for long-term customer retention. In derivations, the use of various marketing instruments as well as training concepts for sales employees can be managed in a more targeted manner.