When clients contact us to manage recruiting for their market research study, we can be tasked with recruiting for focus groups, in-depth interviews, surveys, or longitudinal studies. Since each market study is unique, the researcher may decide on a singular qualitative methodology, or a combination. By and far, the most popular qualitative format remains the focus group.
Focus groups are effective at capturing the participants’ emotions, opinions, experiences, expressions, views, beliefs, motivations and responses, which is why they are an invaluable tool for market research. Focus groups can be used at various stages of a product or service idea. They are as effective in the earliest stages of development as they are in the final stages. Start-up companies looking for product-market fit will learn a lot by testing their ideas/concepts/or early-stage products with a group of potential customers in a focus group than they would by bypassing this stage altogether. Even legacy companies with reputations of cranking out well-received products have likely first tested their ideas/concepts in focus groups to make sure they’re on the right track.
There are lots of qualitative methodologies, but focus groups remain popular choices among researchers because they promote spontaneous interaction among participants. The depth and range of data generated through the social interactions of focus groups are deeper than what can be discovered through in-depth interviews alone. Focus groups aren’t just about putting a group of people together though! A lot of consideration must be given to who should be invited to participate and how to assemble each group so they are balanced.
Any researcher who has assembled focus groups, or any moderator who has led focus groups will tell you that screening for the right participants is crucial for successful outcomes! The optimal size of a focus group is between 6-10 participants. Focus groups aren’t necessarily a representative sample, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t sorting along demographic and psychographic lines. Most researchers will include multiple focus groups within a study. A singular focus group won’t provide enough information to draw meaningful conclusions. To get the most out of focus groups, you’ll want to structure your groups similarly so you can compare data across groups. For instance, you may want two sessions with females only, two sessions with males only, and two mixed sessions. The budget will determine how many focus groups you can afford, and the mix of the group will be even more important if fewer focus groups are to be conducted.
When screening potential participants, the recruiter is looking for candidates who communicate clearly, are knowledgeable or familiar with the topic of the study, and are available. Screening guides are great tools for helping weed out qualified and unqualified candidates.
Focus groups are popular, but like all qualitative methodologies, they have their limitations. The possibility of bias, domineering participants, and “group think” can easily invalidate focus group data. The other pitfall is when researchers try to extrapolate data from focus groups to the population at large. Experienced market research firms know how to design studies to maximize the benefits of qualitative and quantitative research. It may cost more to hire a market research agency, but you’ll often end up with more reliable results.
Whether you’re conducting research “in house” or outsourcing to a firm, we’re here to help with all aspects of recruiting.