Conducting Informative Focus Groups: Focus groups allow marketers to hone in on issues not easily addressed by surveys.
The key to using then successfully is to thoughtfully listen and carefully observe, leaving assumption and biases behind.
Although useful insights can emerge, question also arise about focus groups’ validity. Some researches believe consumers are so boarded with ads, they consciously (or perhaps cynically) parrot back what they really think.
it’s always possible participants are trying to maintain their self-image and public persona, engage in ”unthinking”, or satisfy a need to identify with other members they may be unwilling to acknowledge-or even recognize-their behavior patterns and motivations, and one highly opinionated person can drown out the rest of the group.
Getting the right participants in crucial, but group can be expensive too ( $3000 to $5000 per group) it can be difficult to generalize the results, even from multiple focus groups.
For example, within the United States, finding often vary from region to region. One firm specializing in the focus group research claimed Minneapolis was the best city to get a sample of fairly well-educated people there tend to be highly critical and generally don’t report that they like much.
Participants must feel relaxed and be strongly motivated to be truthful. Physical surrounding can be crucial. At one agency an executive noted, ”We wondered why people always seemed grumpy and negative-people were resistant to any idea we showed them.
” Finally in one session a fight broke out between participants. The problem was the room it self: cramped, stiffing, forbidding.
” it was a cross between a hospital room and a police interrogation room. ” To fix the problem, the agency gave the room a makeover.
Other firms adapt the room to fit the topic-such as designed it to look like a playroom when speaking to children. To increase interactivity among focus group members, some researchers assign per-session homework such as diaries, photography, and videoghrapy.
online focus groups may cost less than a quarter of an in-person focus group. They are also less intrusive, allow geography diverse subjects to participate, and yield fast results. Proponents of traditional groups maintain that in-person sessions immerse marketers in the research process, offer a close-up look at people’s emotional and physical reaction, and ensure that sensitive materials are not leaked.
In-person, marketers can also adjust the flow of discussion and delve into more complex topics.
Regardless of the form it takes, the focus group is still, as one marketing executive noted, ”the most cost-effective, quickest, dirtiest way to get information in rapid time on an idea. ”Wharton’s Americas Reed might have said to best” A focus group is like a chain saw. if you know what you’re doing, it’s very useful and effective. if you don’t you could lose a limb.”
However they conduct their surveys-online, by phone, or in person-companies must feel the information they’re getting from the mounds of data makes it all worthwhile.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo bank collects more than 50,000 customers surveys each month through its bank branches. It has used customers’ comments to begin more stringent new wait-time standards designed to improve customer satisfaction.
Of course, companies may risk creating ”survey burnout ” and seeing response rate plummet. Keeping a survey short and simple is one key to drawing participants.
Offering incentives is another. Walmart, Rite Aid, Petco, and Staples include an invitation to fill out survey on the cash register receipt with a chance to win a prize.
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