Focus groups are not dead. They are not dying. And as far as I’m concerned, they aren’t even sick. The old school traditional focus group is alive and kicking. Yes, there are new innovative technology driven tools and techniques to uncover consumer perceptions and insights. Yes, you can do focus groups online. And yes, it can still be difficult to find and recruit the ideal respondent to participate in your in-person focus group. And yes, they can be and often are expensive. However, the focus group still rocks! Want to know what your customer thinks of your new commercial – Just watch and listen! Want to know how they perceive your packaging? Just listen!
It’s simple – the highly skilled moderator, after painstaking preparation, walks your respondents through a detailed discussion to help you learn about your market, competitors market, products, services, favorite color, or really whatever. All you need to do is listen and then debrief after the focus groups to make sure that you and the team all heard the same thing in the same way. Your moderator can guide this process. Ok, there’s actually a little more that you need to do but your researcher/moderator will drive you through the process. All the basics that you’d do with any other project – lock down the scope and primary objectives, understand the process, timing, locations, and expected deliverables. And of course, as part of the moderator’s prep work, brief them on everything relevant to this study – past research, current challenges, internal politics, whatever is keeping you up at night about this topic I want to know about. The more I, or your moderator knows, the better job we can do for you in the room with the respondents.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of new technology and innovation. Change is not good, change can be great. I have done dozens of online focus groups and 1:1 interviews – they are great and allow the client and me (moderator hat on) to talk to a very geographically diverse or functionally specific audience with ease. But there is something that you give up – actually seeing and “feeling” the respondents talk, engage with each other, and deepen their thoughts as the groups flow. All of these other tools and techniques that have cropped up over the past several years in research are amazing and wonderful and do fascinating things that can and should be explored. However, none of them fully or completely replace the focus group. They may complement or enhance the insights and findings, but they just don’t replace.
Big Data, yeah, way too “big” of a topic for this post, but without a doubt it doesn’t replace the focus group. It’s simple, big data is analytics, not research. Should your company be digging through their “big data” and have an analytical team there to run all sort of complex analysis, models, and regressions on it – absolutely! And you should be using this data, as any other input of data, to help you make decisions relevant to your business. Kinda like focus groups, it provides information for you to use to make a decision.
As always, want to talk this through or tell me I have no clue (happens sometimes), just reach out, anytime..
See you in groups!