The Information you wanted about Focus Group Research

Why conduct Focus Group Research rather than other types of research?

The proponents of Focus Group Research believe it to be an excellent way to discover the attitudes of customers, prospects, consumers and other target groups relative to a wide variety of different topics.

A primary benefit of the Focus Group Research process is that it can directly involve the clients; they can observe the proceedings from behind a one-way mirror. As a result, the findings from the research will have more credibility with the client.

Focus Groups enable a trained moderator to utilize the dynamics of the group to discuss topics in depth;  the views of all the participants can be considered. The interaction among the people in the group is one of the most important parts of the process.

During the Focus Groups, a moderator may show stimuli to the participants, such as new products, advertising ideas, promotional concepts or new packaging.  This yields first-hand, spontaneous reactions about the participants' attitudes toward the topic.

Focus Groups are a dynamic research process in that the areas and nature of the questioning can change to reflect the knowledge acquired from group to group. This enables the moderator to maximize the learning possible from the research process.

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How much does Focus Group Research cost?

The cost of Focus Group Research depends largely upon the types of people who would be recruited for the sessions; some are much more expensive to find and require a greater incentive for their participation than others. Also, the cost per group depends on the number of sessions that are conducted in the study; there are essentially the same fixed costs associated with conducting two groups as with ten.

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How many Focus Groups should I do?

There is no single correct answer to this question. The average Focus Group project consists of 4 to 6 groups, with some smaller projects holding only 2 or 3 groups and larger projects having as many as 10 to 15. The decision is generally based on one or more of the following criteria:

  1. The budget available for conducting the research.
  2. The number of different constituency groups that need to be included in the research.
  3. The number of geographic areas that need to be covered.

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How does the process work?  How would I get started?

The process is described in detail - from beginning to end along with a chronology - on a page of its own, here on this site.

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Where are Focus Groups held?

In most situations, Focus Groups are conducted in special facilities that contain a one way mirror; the moderator and the participants in one room and the client watching the session from the other. Almost every city in the U.S. and many around the world have Focus Group facilities. Occasionally, groups are held in hotel or conference suites, however this requires special provisions for observers to be able to watch the sessions.

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How many people are in each Focus Group?

There is no right answer for this, however, many moderators hold a very strong point of view that 8 to10 people is the ideal number. It is felt that if a group is larger than 10 there are too many people to control and it is difficult to get meaningful interaction among the participants. If the group is smaller than 8, the opportunity for varied inputs is reduced.

Some people prefer to conduct mini-groups with 3 to 6 people as they believe the smaller number of participants will provide for greater in depth discussion. On this issue, opinions among moderators vary.

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How do you find the people who participate in the Focus Groups?

There are three principal ways we locate the people who participate in Focus Groups. One is to use lists of contacts that clients provide us with. Normally this approach is used when the participants are very difficult to find due to unique specifications and the client organization wishes to use their own customer or prospect lists as a source for recruiting.

The second way to recruit is to use a database that local recruitment facilities have developed over time. These are people who have agreed in advance to participate in focus groups if they qualify, based on the specifications. The recruitment organizations maintain these lists in their computers and call on them when needed for participants in studies.

The third, and least desirable way, is to advertise for participants in local newspapers, on the radio or at high traffic shopping locations. This is generally used only when the other two methods are unable to locate sufficient numbers of qualified participants.

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Why do people participate in Focus Groups?

Many people feel that since they themselves would not go to a Focus Group that others like them would not attend these sessions either. There are three main reasons why people come to Focus Groups.

One reason is to earn extra money; participants are paid. The amount they are paid depends on the type of group they are in and the difficulty associated with recruiting them.

Another reason to attend Focus Groups is because people like to give their opinions about various topics; they find it interesting meeting and chatting with their peers about subjects of interest. For many it also is a break in their routine and a fun way to spend an evening.

A third reason people attend focus groups is to learn about the research technique or the topic being discussed. Often focus groups can be very helpful to people who are seeking additional information about a subject. They can talk with others about various aspects of the subject, gathering much useful information. Many business and medical professionals attend focus groups to help them keep up with new developments in their field; often the groups will address topics that represent new products or services which will be introduced in the future.

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Can Focus Group results be considered representative?

The objective of Focus Group research is to generate qualitative and not quantitative data. Therefore, while we try and obtain the best and most representative sample possible, it is not absolutely necessary in order to gather useful information. Focus Groups tend to concentrate on macro rather than micro issues, and one does not need statistical accuracy to gather extremely useful information in this context.

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How long does the Focus Group process take?

The answer to this question differs dramatically based on the type of project, the number of sessions that are conducted and the specific moderator retained. As a general rule, a project involving 4 to 6 Focus Groups should be able to be completely executed within a 3 to 4 week period, from the time of approval to the receipt of the final report.

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Who writes the Focus Group Report and how long does it take to get it?

This is a very sensitive topic in the industry. Some moderators feel it is essential that they write the entire report themselves and others will pass the tapes on to someone else who will write a report.  This report will ultimately be edited by the moderator. At Groups Plus, all reports are written by the professional moderators who conduct the groups.

The time it takes to get a report after the groups are held will vary by moderator. At Groups Plus, we have a policy that the report must be completed and in the client's hands no more than five working days after the last group. Other organizations take 2 to 4 weeks to provide clients with the report.

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How do I select a good moderator?

This can be a very difficult task since there is no accreditation in the focus group industry. As a result, anyone could become a moderator just by declaring themselves to be one. Therefore, the selection process to find the right moderator should include a review of the candidate's qualifications, experience in conducting focus group research and a look at their client list. In addition, it is desirable to obtain references from other organizations who have used the moderator.

While it can be beneficial to see a moderator work before hiring that individual, this is generally very difficult to accomplish due to the high level of confidentiality associated with this industry. A professional moderator will not provide old tapes, reports or videos, as the confidentiality agreements relative to that work should be in effect in perpetuity.

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