Businesses and organizations use focus groups as a qualitative research methodology to understand how people make decisions about – and what factors influence – their use of products or services. Focus groups are an ideal marketing research methodology to employ for:
- Exploring new product or service ideas
- Understanding an organization’s brand image
- Testing effectiveness of advertising and marketing concepts and materials
- Differentiating competitors’ perceived strengths and weaknesses
- Gaining insights into purchasing decisions
- Conducting product testing
Besides focus groups, other forms of qualitative marketing research Market Street Research conducts on a regular basis include in-depth interviews with industry experts or other relevant sources, and collection and analysis of available secondary data such as articles in newspapers, web sites, government documents, trade journals, U.S. Census statistics, health data, and economic indicators, to name a few examples.
What are Focus Groups?
Focus groups are a form of qualitative research that brings together small numbers of people to discuss a topic (such as reactions to a new product or service, or opinions about a client or a client’s competitors). The typical focus group consists of seven to ten people who share common characteristics and experiences in relation to a topic. The group discusses the topic for about 1 ½ hours under the direction of a skilled moderator. Focus groups involve:
- Identifying the research objectives
- Developing a moderator’s guide
- Recruiting participants and arranging for an appropriate facility in which to hold the discussions
- Holding the focus group meetings
- Analyzing and presenting the results
Market Street handles all aspects of conducting qualitative research including focus group recruitment, logistical coordination, development of moderator’s guides and moderating, and analysis of results. We work closely with clients to identify critical information needs and design focus groups that will best inform business or organizational decisions.
Moderator’s Guides: Market Street brings decades of expertise to bear on the preparation of the highest quality market research instruments. Our moderator’s guides for focus groups ensure that all relevant topics are covered and that the time scheduled is maintained. Our clients give final approval on materials, and Market Street always develops moderator’s guides on a custom basis for each project.
Logistics: Market Street maintains relationships with a national network of focus group facilities and we have a pool of trained, experienced, highly skilled focus group moderators. Market Street follows focus group sessions with a thorough analysis and presentation of the results. Our reports include quotations from focus groups to illustrate key findings, and we use video footage from the focus group discussions in our presentations of the findings. In many cases our clients use our focus group results to inform and fine-tune follow-up quantitative research, such as telephone surveys.
Who Should Conduct Focus Groups?
Some marketing research companies specialize in a particular methodology, such as focus groups, and they tend to recommend that method for most situations. Market Street recommends marketing research methods depending on the information needed by our clients or the decisions our clients are making. Focus groups are an ideal methodology for businesses and organizations to identify:
- How people make decisions
- Whether there are needs within a market that are unmet by existing products or services (yours or those of competitors)
- What possible barriers exist to use of products or services, and reactions to your ideas about product design or service implementation
Focus groups and qualitative research are not appropriate methods for answering quantitative questions, such as:
- What proportion of my competitors’ customers is interested in my product or service?
- How large are different market segments within a geographic region?
- What is the demographic profile of my customers vs. those of competitors?
- If customers buy my new product, what share of the market am I likely to capture?
Telephone surveys, mail surveys and online surveys are the best method for answering these kinds of quantitative questions, because surveys are designed to represent the opinions, needs, and behaviors of whole populations.
On the other hand, focus groups are often conducted as a precursor to quantitative research (such as telephone surveys, mail surveys and online surveys), unless you are confident your business or organization already knows what factors influence people’s purchasing habits. Also, focus groups are often used after quantitative research to test the efficacy of advertising or marketing concepts and materials developed in accordance with the results of the quantitative phase of market research.
Markets are constantly changing, and even if you know how customers are likely to react to your ideas vis-à-vis competitors, focus groups and other qualitative research methodologies can be helpful in identifying new opportunities as well as potential problems that might not be apparent from your perspective as a business or organizational leader.
Market Street Research has conducted focus groups and other qualitative research methodologies for 35 years in such diverse industries as:
Market Street has considerable experience and expertise in utilizing the focus group methodology in the research we conduct for clients in many industries, including for organizations in the healthcare field. Conducting healthcare marketing research in a range of methodologies is one of Market Street Research’s greatest strengths. Since 1978, Market Street has designed and conducted many hundreds of healthcare marketing research studies for healthcare providers ranging from internationally respected academic medical centers such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins, health systems such as Partners Healthcare and Memorial Hermann, as well as for many regional and community-based hospitals, specialized clinics, and physicians’ practices serving urban, suburban and rural markets across the United States. Learn more about our expertise in the field of healthcare marketing research.
We understand the fundamental issues that concern clients in a range of arenas, the types of decisions they typically have to make, and the factors that influence those decisions. We move quickly to understanding the specific decisions you have to make and the type of information you need to make those decisions. In all cases we bring the proper methodology to bear on your data needs.
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