Friday, September 26, 2008

What to expect as a focus group participant?

So, you have been asked to participate in a "focus group". What now?

In our post What is a focus group? you can learn more about the purpose of a focus group.

Why have you been invited?
You are invited based on certain characteristics of yourself, your family, your business, etc. These often include age, gender, kids/no kids, lifestyle, type and size of business, or your function within a business.
Our recruiters often "think" you may qualify. They ask additional questions to be certain that you do. If you do, they will give you the date, time and location for your session. Often you cannot choose a different date because the characteristics of the participants vary according to the session.

What should you expect?

  1. A pleasant exchange of ideas guided by a moderator. Many participants find the groups very informative because you can learn about other solutions to the challenges you face.
  2. Five to eight other panelists, a moderator and often an assistant moderator will be present.
  3. Alist of topics that must be covered, but other than that it is an unstructured discussion.
  4. A moderator who is prepared to lead the discussion, but who is not an expert on the topic. Even if she is, she will not show it. She is there to learn from you!
  5. Your views to be listened to and valued. There are no right or wrong answers. This is not a test. Sometimes the group is asked to solve a problem. In those cases it is not the solution that is important, but the issues that participants raise in getting to the solution.
  6. Expect the question "why". "Why do you do that?" "Why do you think that?"
  7. Depending on the topic, the session may also be audio- or video recorded to assist in the analysis and report writing. The recordings will not be shared with the client or anyone else. Recordings are destroyed after the report is written.
  8. You will not be contacted by anyone based on your participation or what you said. This is not a session to generate sales leads.
  9. A reward in cash or kind for your input.

What do we expect from you?

  1. to arrive on time and stay the whole session
  2. if you must cancel, to do so in advance through your recruiter
  3. to come prepared to share your experience, ideas and reasons for those ideas
  4. to speak up, whether you agree with the popular view or not
  5. to give everybody a chance to speak and treat each other with respect
  6. to have fun
  7. if you have suggestions after the session, to please let us know through

As a Certified Moderator, the real reward is to see the exchange, how people learn from each other and the fun they have. I always appreciate your presence and your input. I hope you decide to participate.

What is a focus group?

This article is posted especially for the benefit of those we ask to participate in our focus groups. It is an excerpt from the quintessential marketing research text book, “Marketing Research", by David Aaker. V. Kumar and George Day. Please also see our post "What to expect as a focus group participant".

Focus group studies are a qualitative research method.

"Qualitative research is done to obtain a basic feel for the problem before proceeding to the more analytical portion of the study.

[...] to find out what is in the consumer's mind
[...] to get a rough idea about the person's perspective
[...] to become oriented to the range an complexity of consumer activity and concerns."

"A focus group discussion is the process of obtaining possible ideas or solutions to a marketing problem from a group of respondents by discussing it. The emphasis in this method is on the results of group interaction when focused on a series of topics a discussion leader introduces. Each participant in a group of five to nine persons is encouraged to express views in each topic and to elaborate on or react to the views of the other participants."

"The focus group discussion offers participants more stimulation than an interview; presumably this makes new ideas and meaningful comments more likely. Among other advantages, it is claimed that discussions often prove more spontaneity and candor than can be expected in an interview. "

In the end one knows the range of consumer expectations and motivating factors, and thus which products or services to offer or how to improve existing ones.