Focus Groups Marketing I - Mr. Yates
What are Focus Groups? • Focus groups are a form of qualitative research; a loosely structured means of obtaining opinions related to a specific topic. • Groups usually consist of people recruited and brought together based on pre-specified qualifications. • Usually they are found in a mall or via a brief phone survey to see if they fit the target market.
What’s it like? • Focus groups are typically conducted in-person at a research facility, but more recently telefocus groups (via telephone conferencing) and Internet focus groups have become more popular. • Generally two or more focus groups are conducted as part of a given study in order to provide comparisons between groups for greater detail in the research analysis.
Traditional Focus Groups • They are screened to ensure that they are part of the relevant target market and that the group is a representative subgroup of this market segment. • There are usually 6 to 10 members in the group, and the session usually lasts for 1 to 2 hours. • A moderator guides the group through a discussion that probes attitudes about a client's proposed products or services.
The Discussion • The discussion is loosely structured, and the moderator encourages the free flow of ideas. • The moderator is typically given a list of objectives or an anticipated outline. • He/she will generally have only a few specific questions prepared prior to the focus group. • These questions will serve to initiate open-ended discussions.
The Mirror… • Client representatives observe the discussion from behind a one-way mirror. • Participants cannot see out, but the researchers and their clients can see in. • Usually, a video camera records the meeting so that it can be seen by others who were not able to travel to the site. • Transcripts can be created from the video tape. • If the participants speak a different language than the clients, a simultaneous interpreter may be used.
What else their looking at… • Researchers examine more than the spoken words. • They also try to interpret facial expressions, body language, and group dynamics. • Moderators may use straight questioning or various projective techniques, including fixed or free association, story-telling and role-playing. • Focus groups are often used to garner reaction to specific stimuli such as concepts, prototypes and advertising.
Types of Focus Groups • Two-way focus group - one focus group watches another focus group and discusses the observed interactions and conclusions • Dual moderator focus group - one moderator ensures the session progresses smoothly, while another ensures that all the topics are covered • Dueling moderator focus group - two moderators deliberately take opposite sides on the issue under discussion • Respondent moderator focus group - one or more of the respondents are asked to act as the moderator temporarily • Client participant focus groups - one or more client representatives participate in the discussion, either covertly or overtly • Mini focus groups - groups are comprised of 4 or 5 members rather than 8 to 12 • Teleconference focus groups - telephone network is used • Online focus groups - computers and internet network is used
When do you use them? • Testing advertising copy or marketing promotions • Positioning products or services • Testing new concepts • Testing usability of a product
When do you use them? • Focus groups also can be used to generate ideas in a group brainstorming session. • They are frequently utilized in developing questionnaires. • By getting feedback in advance from people representative of those you hope to target with a survey, you can better word your questions and design clearer explanations of your concepts.
When do you not use them? • Results of focus groups are not statistically valid • Focus groups should be used more as a thermometer to test the temperature of the market rather than as a ruler to provide precise measurements.
So don’t use them when… • When you need a numerical response to questions like “what percentage…?” or “how many…?” Focus groups do not provide quantitative results. • When you need to explore issues that are very personal or sensitive in nature. People are not really comfortable discussing personal topics in a group situation. • When you want to set prices for your products or your services.Again, these results are not quantitative in nature hence it is not advisable to make final pricing decisions based on small group responses. • When you cannot afford a survey.Focus groups are not a replacement for a survey. If what you really need are statistically valid results, consider a shorter survey or slightly reduced sample size, but do not rely on qualitative to give you the detail you require.
Use a moderator! • The moderator's job is directing the conversation and ensuring that all respondents voice their opinion. • Experienced moderators spent years honing their skills – a charming conversationalist is no substitute for a professional. • Using an outside vendor will provide the necessary element of objectivity into your study. Certainly, your views will be addressed in the groups, but the moderator is not as emotionally attached to your advertisements, products, etc., as someone internally is likely to be!
Avoiding group bias • A criticism is that focus groups tend to become influenced by one or two dominant people in the session, thus making the output very biased. • This definitely is a major potential limitation of the focus group technique if the session is led by an inexperienced and/or poorly trained moderator. • However, a good moderator has been trained to know how to handle different types of personalities so they do not have the opportunity to influence the rest of the participants.
Avoiding Your Bias! • Furthermore, consider the bias involved with moderating your own focus groups. • How will you react in a focus group situation if the participants don’t like the concepts? • Will you probe for more details on their concerns or will you either • (a) try to sell them on the concepts, • (b) defend the concepts or • (c) quickly try to steer them on to the next topic?
Some downsides • It is often suggested that respondents feel group pressure to conform and this can contaminate the results. • Others hold that by using trained and experienced moderators who appropriately manage the discussion, this potential problem can be mitigated. • Further, despite the potential for groupthink, marketers and sociologists find that group dynamics are useful in developing new streams of thought and covering an issue thoroughly.
Time Tested! • There is a reason why the traditional focus group has continued to be the “gold standard” against which all other qualitative methodologies are measured. • It represents a proven and tested technique, which when implemented by a trained and experienced moderator, has extremely broad application across a wide range of research issues. • It has stood the test of time because it works, and it makes both economic and business sense