Speaking Engagements

Hire me to speak on Marketing and Marketing Research!
Need a speaker on marketing research? On use of focus groups in developing cool and effective creative? On online research? Mobile Research? Mistakes NOT to make? I'm your guy! Read All

Hire Martin Research

Why you should hire us
Five reasons: 1) Experience, 2) Responsiveness, 3) Outstanding Service, 4) Orientation to profitability, 5) Reports with hard recommendations Read All

Register For Updates

Sign Up For Email
We will not share your email, but will send you periodic notifications of cool trends in the research industry!

Focus Groups

I moderated my first focus group in 1982, and since that time have led over 2000 focus group discussions in the United States and Europe. If you would like a brush up on what focus groups are, the Wikipedia Page provides a good rudimentary explanation of the methodology and its limitations. I also wrote a fairly lengthy blog explanation and put it here.

Some writers (especially those promoting social media) have heralded the “Death of the Focus Group” over the past couple of years, and certainly the advent of social media and online research have made some wonder whether groups are as relevant and timely a methodology as they once were, especially since other tools are faster and cheaper. Others have eloquently defended focus groups as a viable, useful methodology that continues to provide insight when utilized the right way.

Honestly, the problem that most people have with focus groups is not a problem with the methodology; it is that the methodology is poorly executed by an inept or inexperienced moderator. And sometimes, the reason for poor focus groups starts with the client. Blaming focus groups as a methodology is a little like blaming the hammer when the nail is not straight.

Consider this for a moment: it takes more training and credentials to be a Certified Massage Therapist than it takes to be a Qualitative researcher/Moderator – in, fact, it takes NO certification process of any kind to lead focus groups – so it is truly a situation of Caveat Emptor. Or you get what you pay for. The best Moderators have done it a lot, and are doing it a lot. They see many marketing challenges and dilemmas just like or similar to yours, and can tell you what their most successful and profitable clients are doing in similar circumstances.

Let me say this emphatically. Focus Groups are NOT dead. Just try and use Twitter and Facebook or any paid search site to get the same depth of insight that you would in a two hour focus group. You will get some answers to your questions, sure, but you will get no depth and real insight. But, honestly, why must you choose? There are plenty of opportunities to use both to help focus the question even tighter.

An example: In some recent focus groups for Komen for the Cure, the goal of the groups was to understand why women do not take advantage of screening and mammogram opportunities in certain communities. I used Twitter (and my 2000+ followers) to capture some preliminary information (which is all we can get in 140 characters or less), then used the groups to develop some real insight and craft some tactics and very targeted messaging designed to motivate women to get out and be screened. And it worked! The lesson for me: Neither Social Media nor focus groups, in this application, would have done as complete a job by themselves; the end product was better when we employed both methodologies.

For some applications/questions, focus groups (in-person, so you can see the body language) will always be the preferred methodology:

  • Why do people buy my product over the competitor’s? Why do they buy the competitor’s product and not mine?
  • How is my service better than or worse than my competitors’?
  • How is one brand better for me than another?
  • To find and explore emotional benefits of one product versus another – to get beyond the obvious.

There will ALWAYS be a place in marketing research for sitting down and hearing customers and prospects advocate and/or criticize your brand and your product. Because taking the time to do this will always lead to smarter and more informed marketing decisions.

Call me to discuss this in detail, and I’ll even pay for the call. 1 (800) 386-2177

Be Sociable, Share!