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Focus Groups, Schmocus Groups?

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With the advent of the Internet, do we need traditional "in-person" research studies?

A Look at Qualitative Market Research

1) WHAT IS A FOCUS GROUP?

Formally defined, a focus group is a small (usually 6 to 10 people) in-person group session designed to elicit opinions about a particular research topic, often managed by an independent moderator. A focus group is a form of qualitative research, which elicits attitudes and opinions, as opposed to quantitative research, which is about measuring hard facts like data about the population being studied. Focus groups are gathered for research on everything from cars to restaurant service to Websites.

If you were a marketer before the days of Internet startups, you may have done some formal focus group testing. For those of you who haven't, let me summarize what it entailed, the best part being the M&M's (keep reading). Let's say there was an idea for a new widget for which initial market research showed great demand. Once primary and secondary market research was completed, overall budget approved, and a team appointed, the product manager and engineering team geared up a prototype. This prototype was either almost completely functional, or not functional at all (e.g. a block of wood) with an intro like, "Imagine, if you will...".


Then came the focus group. Often a formal survey company ran the group, and would apply a typical customer's profile that the product manager provided (age, income, geographic location, annual income, hobbies, job title and so on). The organizer performed research and made many telephone calls to secure multiple groups of about 10 people. They had to be willing to come to a conference room for less than a couple hours for about a hundred bucks and spill their guts as to why they'd buy it, and more importantly, why not.


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Teri Dahlbeck is the cofounder of GotMarketing.com

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