On AMC’s Mad Men, whenever ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce needs qualitative market research they arrange a focus group, usually a small collection of women, with the ad executives looking on via a two-way mirror.
Now, more than forty years later, many companies are still relying on similar methods: expensive in-person panels, which can be labor intensive to set-up, yield variable success and lack in cost effectiveness.
Denver-based GutCheck is trying to offer an alternative with its self-described do-it-yourself platform for qualitative market research and they’re building up a warchest to convert the unconverted. The startup, founded by CEO Matt Warta, Carl Rossow and Jen Drolet, has just raised $2 million in a Series A round led by Highway 12 Ventures. Village Ventures (where Warta was formerly a partner) and a few other individual investors also participated in this round.
This is how it works: A marketing agency, a brand manager or any other enterprise client signs up for an account on GutCheck’s website and describes the target demographic. GutCheck has roughly 4 million subjects in its pool, which are supplied by large partners who get a cut of the revenues. Once you’re signed up, you can begin to build your project, a chat guide (the objectives and questions) and set specific parameters (i.e. age, behavioral, custom questions) for the type of person you want to survey. Once you’re ready to commence your research— at a price of $40 per 30-minute interview— you prompt GutCheck to find your target demo, a qualified subject is brought to you via the web-based client, and then you can immediately start interacting and using the chat guide to push pre-scripted questions to the interviewee. (See below for their video demo.)
At $40 a pop, GutCheck provides a low-cost alternative to in-person panels, but I wonder whether this deep, one-on-one model will still be in high demand several years from now.
Companies will always want to comprehensively understand their market and potential consumers but will the vast array of social media tools, like Twitter and Facebook, (and the seemingly infinite consumer touch points on the web) provide them with enough data, to render services like GutCheck obsolete?
Understandably, Warta doesn’t believe so.
He thinks companies can get a good picture on their current consumers from the web’s social tools but that these tools lack sufficient qualitative data on potential consumers. “If you look at social media today and how it plays in market research, most marketers and researchers will give a nod to Facebook,” he says, “but if you start extrapolating [only] from that group, you’ll make some bad decisions that’s not reflective of the average consumer out there who doesn’t use your product.”
The startup is currently in the beta testing phase but should be ready to officially launch their product in the next few weeks.