Are focus groups worth it?

by WarriorForum.com Administrator
10 replies
A new article on HubSpot reports on focus groups, and examines their uses for marketing research.



A focus group is made up of selected individuals, selected by their marketing demographic, who participate in a guided or open discussion. These groups offer companies an effective method of qualitative marketing research that allows them to gather opinions and feelings towards a new product - ensuring it appeals to the target market. The discussion is typically headed by a company representative, has a duration of 30-60 minutes, and usually contains 3-15 members. Focus groups have some pros and cons:

Focus Group Pros
  • Detailed data:

    Because focus groups involve a small number of people, researchers can gather detailed data from participants by asking specific questions and getting in-depth responses. Researchers can also study facial expressions and tone of voice, to gauge emotional responses about a product from the target demographic. In general, focus groups can provide in-depth qualitative data that cannot be extracted using other research methods such as surveys.

  • Require less time than interviews:

    Compared to an interview, which is conducted one person at a time, focus groups usually contain up to 15 participants and run for the same duration, meaning they are far more efficient. If a company conducts a 15-member focus group, it will obtain 15 times more information than during an interview - leading to more qualitative data feedback in regards to time spent.

Cons of Focus Groups
  • Lower sample size:

    While it's true that focus groups provide a company with valuable qualitative data, a major disadvantage is the small sample size when compared to other methods like surveys, which can reach thousands of people in one swoop, providing companies with more data. There's far less detail but way more data to crunch when it comes to surveys.
#focus #groups #worth
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  • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
    Been involved in focus groups for decades now. The other CON is, people will often say what they think the presenter wants to hear, they are compliant, and the questions are often weighted or biased.

    Best focus groups I've seen or been in are ones with MONEY ON THE TABLE. The chance for them to vote with their pay. So, say, you bring together a focus group and pay them each 100 bux. You then present 3 to 6 products or variations and offer them a huge discount, if they buy right then (from their pay, no out of pocket money). These type of focus groups have proven themselves much more effective. However, there is a lot of corporate shenanigans involved too.

    Those who believe and set up the focus group, are biased, and maybe even unknowingly skew the data, to get the results which make them shine in corporate eyes.

    GordonJ


    Originally Posted by WarriorForum.com View Post

    A new article on HubSpot reports on focus groups, and examines their uses for marketing research.



    A focus group is made up of selected individuals, selected by their marketing demographic, who participate in a guided or open discussion. These groups offer companies an effective method of qualitative marketing research that allows them to gather opinions and feelings towards a new product - ensuring it appeals to the target market. The discussion is typically headed by a company representative, has a duration of 30-60 minutes, and usually contains 3-15 members. Focus groups have some pros and cons:

    Focus Group Pros
    • Detailed data:

      Because focus groups involve a small number of people, researchers can gather detailed data from participants by asking specific questions and getting in-depth responses. Researchers can also study facial expressions and tone of voice, to gauge emotional responses about a product from the target demographic. In general, focus groups can provide in-depth qualitative data that cannot be extracted using other research methods such as surveys.

    • Require less time than interviews:

      Compared to an interview, which is conducted one person at a time, focus groups usually contain up to 15 participants and run for the same duration, meaning they are far more efficient. If a company conducts a 15-member focus group, it will obtain 15 times more information than during an interview - leading to more qualitative data feedback in regards to time spent.

    Cons of Focus Groups
    • Lower sample size:

      While it's true that focus groups provide a company with valuable qualitative data, a major disadvantage is the small sample size when compared to other methods like surveys, which can reach thousands of people in one swoop, providing companies with more data. There's far less detail but way more data to crunch when it comes to surveys.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

      Been involved in focus groups for decades now. The other CON is, people will often say what they think the presenter wants to hear, they are compliant, and the questions are often weighted or biased.

      Best focus groups I've seen or been in are ones with MONEY ON THE TABLE. The chance for them to vote with their pay. So, say, you bring together a focus group and pay them each 100 bux. You then present 3 to 6 products or variations and offer them a huge discount, if they buy right then (from their pay, no out of pocket money). These type of focus groups have proven themselves much more effective. However, there is a lot of corporate shenanigans involved too.

      Those who believe and set up the focus group, are biased, and maybe even unknowingly skew the data, to get the results which make them shine in corporate eyes.

      GordonJ
      Outstanding information.

      Yup. What people say they would do, and what they will spend money on, are often completely different animals.


      I like the idea of money on the table.

      The people who like focus groups...aren't playing with their own money. I'd never use one.
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    And there are professional focus group participants - those who make a nice side income by volunteering to be "focused". It's an artificial environment, even with money on the table, and no real indication of how an actual market will respond.

    Amazing how much money is wasted in the process of trying to justify marketing budgets.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
    I've worked for a few companies that relied heavily on focus groups ... and would concur with your skepticism (in my experience, at "bigco" corporations, focus groups and surveys essentially serve to validate a pre-existing position/decision held by the ultimate decision maker ... rather than truly help them *form* that position).

    Observing these groups also brought to light how 1 or 2 particularly loud and/or persuasive individuals can really alter the mood, and opinions, of the entire room - further skewing "real" opinions/intentions. A skilled moderator can mitigate this to some extent, but it's certainly an additional complicating factor.
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    • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
      that said - also like the "skin in the game/money on the table" idea to make things more real. I've also seen this concept applied to traditional surveys ('you said you'd be interested in xyz - click here to commit to paying for it now and receive an zyx early bird discount')
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by Matthew Stanley View Post


      Observing these groups also brought to light how 1 or 2 particularly loud and/or persuasive individuals can really alter the mood, and opinions, of the entire room - further skewing "real" opinions/intentions. A skilled moderator can mitigate this to some extent, but it's certainly an additional complicating factor.
      I've often wondered about that....if, like on juries, a strong or persuasive member can sway the responses of everyone else there.

      I've been in hundreds of group sales calls and noticed that the "leader' is identified, and then the rest seem to fall in line with whatever they like or dislike. Not always, but usually. And if it's a company, the leader is already established, of course.

      One use of a focus group is to see how easy it is to remember a brand name, be able to pronounce it, or know what it means. I would think that it would be far more accurate if the participants didn't see the other people answer first.


      I can see comparing products...if nobody on the panel know who made what product. And after all the features were shown, the participants would be asked for their opinion separated from the rest.
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      • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
        Yeah, I agree - a more tactical/narrowly focused use case (using the methods savidge4 mentions below, perhaps) can indeed be productive. Less so for the elongated, larger group ones featuring lots of group communication.

        Interesting point on juries as well .... I wonder whether lawyers selecting them take careful note of when someone mentions they have 20 years experience as a successful sales exec ....
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  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    I used this method extensively prior to current conditions. Started with going to coffee shops etc where we could target a specific demographic. This included going out of state to get a very specific demographic when needed. We later got into "buying" time at the end of church groups and other social meetings to get in front of specifically the right type of people for the information needed.

    Very rarely did we do a sit down and group kind of thing. We focus more on a short ( 3 to 5 minutes or less ) presentation do you like this or this? kinda like a visit to the eye doctor, which is better 1 or 2? kind of thing.

    We have found it to be very effective in taking our or our clients personal subjectivity out of the equation and moved more towards Objective data sets.

    Did it always give us positive results at the end of the day? The answer is no... BUT more often than not it would present options we may have not identified within our closed circle. For this and this only, I feel the exercise was invaluable.
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  • Profile picture of the author quadagon
    There is a big disconnect between what people say and what they do. The Pepsi challenge is a great example of this.

    In blind taste tests people prefer the taste of Pepsi but buy Coca Cola - even when they know they prefer the taste of Pepsi.

    A lot of our triggers and drivers aren't what we are conscious of. The fact that product x reminds you of the smell of grandma's house is a tangible that doesn't normally manifest in these groups.

    One thing that is sometimes worth doing is to think the group are focusing on one product and then sneak in a discussion of the one you want to get real opinions of.
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  • Profile picture of the author Radcliff
    Focus groups have fewer members and thus have a low sample size but the quality of that size taken from a couple of people will have a better accuracy rate than randomly done surveys. Don't you think?
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