FAQ's About Focus Groups

Focus groups are powerful marketing tools that help small businesses chart their direction for a well honed strategic marketing plan. Please review these frequently asked questions and answers about focus groups with our compliments.

What are focus groups and why are they used?
Focus groups are a dynamic research process and can be a powerful marketing tool. Generally, 6 to 10 people are brought together with a facilitator to discuss predetermined questions or topics about a product, service, belief, idea, prospective policy or such. These groups can be held in person, online or by teleconferencing.
 
How many focus groups need to be conducted to get good results?
The answer to this question depends on several factors such as the budget available, the data required and the depth of information required (for instance, if you want various age groups by gender and/or in different geographical areas it would be many groups; but if you want to know how well a product is branded in one geographical area, one group may suffice).

What is the best way to find focus group participants?
The answer to this question is dependent on a number of variables also. If you want to learn more about how you or one of your products (or family of products) or service is perceived by your clients or customers, then the participants would be drawn from your client/customer base. If you want to learn more generic information from a wide group of consumers (various ages, gender, occupations, education levels, etc.) then you can use people from a pool of folks that have pre-agreed to be focus group participants. You can also recruit focus group attendees from a mall or campus (with permission) or you can advertise in the newspaper or on radio for participants.

Are focus group participants paid or unpaid?
Both. Some people enjoy the process and like to give their opinions and ideas and do so without need for pay; others do focus groups as a means to earn a few extra dollars, and still others attend mainly to learn about focus group research methods. Focus groups are also a way to keep up with new products or methods in a professional field and that can draw out certain groups of people.

How much are focus group participants paid?
They might earn nothing or maybe just a discount coupon or a voucher for free fast food meal. Some marketing research companies and universities keep a pool of potential participants on hand and pay them $10 to $150 for a one or two hours group session. Professional participants generally decline to participate unless the reward for doing so is worth considerably more than their hourly fees.

Who is a qualified focus group facilitator?
There is no official standard or accreditation in the focus group industry. Anyone can proclaim they are a focus group facilitator or moderator. The best way to find a good one is look at the persons training, education and experience; also, ask others who they used and if they would hire them again.

Where should a focus group be held?
Some marketing companies have special facilities and equipment (one way mirrors; video camera at different angles; audio, etc.). Often they will rent the facility to qualified facilitators/moderators. Sometimes the groups are held in a hotel or library or community conference rooms.

How reliable are the focus group findings?
Focus groups yield qualitative data or results. This means the findings will reflect the experiences, interpretations, impressions, and motivations related to beliefs and attitudes people think are behind their behavior. Focus group findings are not quantitative data that can be scientifically validated or replicated. Focus groups are an excellent way to learn behavioral or thought "indicators" that may or may not call for qualitative research to lock down the certainty of the findings.
The advantage to focus groups is they provide quick insight into feeling, beliefs and experiences that can indicate how people might react to your product or service.
The disadvantage to focus groups is they don't provide definitive answers that can be extrapolated to the total population.

What marketing situation would call for a focus group?
If we started a list to answer this question it would go on and on and on! There are many ways and here are a few:
• To identify trends in buying patterns
• To get reactions to new products movies, books, fashions, political speeches, laws or policies
• To identify a needed product or service
• To see a customer reaction to a product or service
• To test a marketing strategy (direction for an ad campaign, etc.)

What is the general process of focus groups?
The first step is for the facilitator and and client to meet and discuss what it is they want to find out, define the process, set time lines, agree on costs and logistics, and agree on what specifically the group will be asked to answer. The second step is that the facilitator drafts a discussion guide. Third, the focus group participants are recruited, logistics implemented and the group(s) conducted. The last step is to prepare a report that includes a summary of the key findings, a conclusion, and recommendations for action. Generally, it takes three to four weeks for the entire process.

What does it cost to have Precision Intermedia conduct a focus group?
The price can vary with the purpose of the focus group. For instance, a simple focus group comprised of everyday consumers (such as you would find in a mall) designed around five or six discussion points would cost about $3000 per group. However, if the group needs to be a specific age, gender, socio-economic, occupational slice of the population if would cost more.

What are the qualifications of Precision Intermedia's focus group facilitators?
Our facilitators hold a minimum of a Master's Degree in Psychology and have years of experience as a group facilitators. They specialize in group dynamics and know how to contain the group dominators and motivate the shy participants; our facilitators are experts in the techniques required to extract the maximum of relevant information from a group.