Why Are Focus Groups So Much Fun?

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

People from all walks of life love to participate in focus groups. Why? For many people, the answer is simply because they’re fun. In fact, it’s not unusual for people who have just completed a group to tell me how much they enjoyed the process and inquire about how they can do it again. So if you’re wondering why it is exactly that people find focus groups enjoyable, here are a few of the reasons:

A Place to Be Heard

Everyone has an opinion, and most of us want to share it. Whether it’s at the water cooler at the office or over coffee with a friend, folks like to talk about how they feel about stuff. They want their opinions to be heard – about everything from current affairs to how products and services could be improved, to how they would make the world a better place! Focus group participants are always saying to me how much they love the fact that Company ABC cares enough about their opinions to ask, and how much they love having a chance to share.

The Benefits of Online Qualitative Research

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

CathyMcIntyre-FiltersFace-to-face focus groups have been used for years to generate insights, inform strategy development and guide marketing decision-making. For businesses that have never tried online qualitative research, it can sometimes be challenging to help them understand the real benefits of online qualitative, and how it can yield results that are just as valuable as traditional qualitative methodologies. Here are some of the special benefits of online qualitative research:

How Marketing Research Can Help Build Brand Love

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

Building a brand is about more than just growing sales. The most successful brands develop strong, enduring relationships with their customers, generating a fierce brand loyalty sometimes described as “brand love.” I like to think that by helping clients connect with and more deeply understand their customers, marketing research can build customer engagement, contribute to customer relationship-building and help sow the seeds of brand love. Here’s how:

Using Social Media for Focus Group Recruiting

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

In today’s internet-driven world, it’s virtually impossible to open a magazine, watch television or even pass a billboard that doesn’t exclaim “visit us on Facebook”. Businesses – in both the public and private sectors – have tapped into social media as an amazing resource for getting the word out about products and services quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.

But the jury is still out on whether or not social media presents a valid vehicle for recruiting participants for marketing research studies – whether quantitative or qualitative, online or in-person. While there’s no denying the absolute numbers of people who engage and connect through social media every day, there are still lingering concerns as to whether it’s appropriate to recruit respondents online. When done cautiously, social media provides an excellent opportunity to recruit a wide variety of respondents for quantitative research and participants for qualitative studies.

How To Build Trust with Online Participants

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

Building trust and rapport with participants is an essential part of moderating a successful focus group. As most skilled moderators would agree, participants who trust both the moderator and the process are more willing to share meaningful ideas, opinions, and feelings. In online qualitative research where facial cues and body language are not visible, building trust is just as important, but even more difficult, for moderators than it is in face-to-face focus groups.

Open Up and Get Personal

In many cases moderators will find they simply need to work a little harder to build trust with online participants. One very effective way to do so is by getting personal. This could be as simple as taking the time at the beginning of the group to provide a detailed introduction of yourself (something I don’t usually do in any detail in an in-person focus group). Or it could include commenting more frequently than in a face-to-face group, to let participants know you are “listening” and that their points of view are valuable; this is the equivalent of a head nod or a smile of encouragement in face-to-face interaction. Sharing feelings and emotions – even something as simple as an emoticon – encourages others to be open as well, leading to more candid (and potentially more insightful) interactions.

How Does the Do Not Call List Affect Market Research?

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

Consumers’ visceral distaste for telemarketing practices has created very real challenges for market researchers. Professional marketing research firms have been using phone surveys for decades in order to reach respondents. For certain target audiences or specific research applications, whether measuring opinions or gathering feedback from customer groups or a broad sampling of the population, telephone surveys have long proven to be an efficient and effective data collection mechanism.

Legitimate professional market research firms are impacted, however, because annoyance over sales-driven telemarketing calls, as well as concerns over the have caused participation in phone surveys to decline. And that’s a concern because marketers count on market research to help them determine what’s important to their customers and how best to meet their needs.

Getting Participants Engaged in Online Qualitative Research

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

Online tools for conducting qualitative marketing research are still relatively new. Every year it seems like updates and improvements are being made by online qualitative software developers, most of which are focused on enhancing the online research experience for participants – making it easier, more fun, and ultimately more engaging for those who take part.

So why the push to continually improve the participant’s experience? Engaged participants provide more input, are less likely to abandon an online focus group or bulletin board mid-way through the process, and are more likely to want to take part in research studies the next time we ask them.

What Makes a Great Client?

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

My mother used to say, “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it”. This certainly holds true in market research. And as a general rule, I have found that clients who put more into their research efforts tend to get more out of them – better study designs, higher quality data, and more meaningful recommendations, among other things. The kind of investment that I’m talking about is not about dollars, though. It’s more about investing time, energy and focus in working with your research partner.

From the beginning of a project, I approach a study with a collaborative point of view. And I ask that our clients do the same. For my part, working collaboratively means a detailed briefing and project planning process to set expectations from the outset, as well as keeping clients in the loop throughout the project – regular and frequent progress reports, checking in to verify and confirm any changes or adjustments that need to be made along the way – and fully educating myself about the client’s business.

“On the Fly” – Another Benefit of Qualitative Research

Cathy Whitehead McIntyre

Researchers and clients often talk about the many differences between quantitative and qualitative research (and some have been known to turn these discussions into spirited debates about the relative merits of quant versus qual!). But one of the most important differences is often overlooked: with qualitative research, our question set can evolve over the course of a study, allowing for enhancements based on learning and, therefore, the collection of very rich data that leads to powerful insights.

Why would we change a study part-way through?

  • During concept testing, we may change or revise the concept itself based on the feedback received from participants to date. If it is clear that there are certain changes that need to be made to the concept, we can make those updates, allowing other facets of the concept to be emphasized (or an alternative concept to be substituted). We have actually designed focus group studies to allow enough time in between groups so that concepts can be refined and updated, based on what we have learned so far, before the next round of testing. Concept testing is often an iterative or evolutionary process and qualitative research is ideal for concept testing precisely because it is so adaptable.