When you hear market research, one of the methodologies that immediately jumps to mind is likely focus groups. Perhaps it's because of all of the attention on television or because they are always integrated into market research courses in college.
The "coolness" factor of focus groups have always been evident. They seem more hip than a short questionnaire and garner a lot of awareness at companies. Maybe it's the one-way mirror or the fact that you get to watch participants talk about your product or service without them seeing you. Either way, focus groups and market research have gone hand-in-hand for years.
In all seriousness, focus groups can still provide a lot of value to a company or organization looking to get candid in-person feedback from an audience.
Focus groups work very well for concept testing or exploratory market research. They are an excellent starting point particularly if you have not done any prior market research on the product or service as of yet. Focus groups are often a Step 1 before a more in-depth quantitative Step 2.
This has been challenged of late though because of the budget savings and speed of online recruiting. If you are going to reach out online, why not ask participants to partake in follow-up market research which in many cases is more in-depth phone calls or focus groups.
However, using qualitative market research before quantitative follows the golden rule in the industry. Qualitative before Quantitative as the authorities would say. Most would argue it is always important to conduct exploratory market research before jumping directly to measurement. Confused? This is explained more in-depth here.
Here is the criteria that goes into a focus group project in market research.
Define Your Objectives
All good market research projects start with primary and secondary objectives in mind. Focus groups are no different. A well laid-out plan up-front will ensure a more streamlined process and relevant findings on the back-end. Garbage in, garbage out.
Before you begin your focus groups you'll want to determine the following.
- What do you want to learn from the focus groups?
- What answers do you need to help drive decision-making?
- What do you want the final report to communicate to management?
- What feedback can we acquire that will create actionable change?
These are all examples of objectives a client may have before the focus group project begins. These objectives will guide all steps in the market research from recruitment to moderator's guide design to reporting.
Take this crucial first step before doing anything else.
Choose Your Timeline
For this, you'll want to work your way backwards. Think about what you plan on doing with the focus group results. Once you have the end date in mind, you can work your way backwards.
Let's say your team needs to launch new product packaging in 9 months. You know you'll need at least 3 full months to prep, manufacture, and prepare products. This puts you 6 months out.
Then you need another 3 months to finalize messaging, gain approval, and send to the creative team to draft packaging options. This puts you 3 months out.
You also know you'll need a month to internalize the feedback and take action from the focus group results. You want to choose a focus group firm and consultant who can translate some insights and recommendations to assist with this but this means the focus group report would need to be delivered 2 months out.
Therefore based on this timeline you have about 8 weeks (2 months) from today to get started and finish your focus group research. Outside of budget, no other variable will dictate the structure of your focus groups more than timeline.
Would you like to hold 8 groups across the country? Yes, but you know this will extend you far beyond the intended timeline.
A quick note here, as a minimum you'll need at least 4 to 5 weeks to complete a focus group project. 1 week for the kickoff and road mapping, 2 weeks for recruitment, 1 week to hold the focus groups, and 1 week for reporting and analysis.
This is pushing the limits of the timeline for a focus group but it can be done.
When determining timing of focus groups and schedules, start with an end date in mind and work your way back with the market research firm.
Choose Your Target Demographics
Here you need to define your targeted criteria.
- Will your focus group be made up of customers or non-customers?
- Do you want to recruit specific ages?
- Do you want to recruit based on certain purchasing habits or behaviors?
These are just a few examples of the targeted criteria you'll want to analyze as part of your focus group design. This targeted criteria will help you with the recruitment for your focus groups.
For instance, if you are looking to recruit those over the ages of 65, is social media the right channel? If you are looking to recruit those under the age of 25 is landline phone the right channel? No to both.
The more specific you get with your targeted recruit, the higher the cost per recruit. If you want to conduct a focus group with brown-haired males, who have a mustache, and only wear yellow, it will take significant time for the market research firm to find those individuals. This translates to higher costs.
Choose the Number of Groups
The number of focus groups you want to conduct will have a significant impact on budget. 4 groups is more expensive than 2. 8 groups is more expensive than 4. No matter what, always conduct at least 2 focus groups. Even 2 is not enough sometimes especially if you have multiple target demographics you'd like to cross-analyze.
Choose Your Location(s)
This can be easy or difficult. If your product or service you want to test is broad enough (e.g.., shoes or paper towels), any city would likely have access to the demographic population you need.
But if it's specific like a service that caters to million dollar or billion dollar companies or high-tech firms you may need to travel to the cities that have strong populations of those participants (e.g., Fortune 500 managers, tech-based start-ups, etc.)
You'll want to pick a city that resembles the demographic make-up of your customers or intended customers so the focus group participants is a microcosm of the entire population you want to serve.
Need more information? Here is your ultimate guide to test markets.
Choose Your Focus Group Consultant
I put this as the last point, but this could easily be the first. Working with a market research consultant will help you define objectives, develop a timeline, choose your demographics, help you with the appropriate number of groups, and pick your locations.
Although it is possible to conduct focus groups in-house, it is not recommended. The recruit alone is a bear which requires several reach-outs, confirmation calls, confirmation letters, emails, reminder calls, and reminder text messages.
It is critical to keep in constant contact with recruited attendees to ensure a high attendance rate. Failing at any one of the these steps will likely results in a lot of no-shows throwing all of your hard work to the wayside.
Focus group consultants offer several benefits beyond simply recruiting. They are experienced in focus group set up, they will likely be able to offer focus group moderators, and they can manage analysis and reporting for your company. This third-party perspective adds real value to the insights and recommendations.
Need some help deciding on a local focus group firm? Watch the short video below.
Contact Our Focus Group Firm
Drive Research is a focus group firm in Syracuse, NY. Our focus group services extend across Upstate New York and the country. Our focus group services can assist you with recruitment, moderating, and reporting.
We work with clients in many geographies across the nation. Contact us with questions.
Our team can be reached at 315-303-2040 or by visiting our contact us page and filling out the information request form.