Use Qualitative Research For The “Why”

Qualitative Research TweetWhen I first started blogging in October 2011, I had an idea of my first several weeks of postings. Since that time, I have written on things based on something I have seen, read, or experienced. This week’s post is a great example. A few days ago, I was reviewing my Twitter roll while I was out at a meeting and saw this gem from focus group moderator Shaili Bhatt. I almost hate to admit that I almost missed it. In my blog last week, I talked about how quantitative and qualitative research methods do not need to be mutually exclusive. However, the methods both have reasons for picking one over the other. Read more of this post

Setting Up A Market Research Project

Science LabworkLast week I wrote about showing value in market research by creating actionable results.  In it, I mentioned about thinking with the end in mind.

I recently compared doing a market research project with the traditional “biology research project” we all did back in high school, in other words the Scientific Method. Read more of this post

Why Your Business Needs Focus Groups

Focus Group“I really don’t think I need any focus groups done.”  This is what a business owner recently told me when I was talking to them at a recent networking function.  Now generally, I disagreed.  However, I had to inquire why this was.  The next answer was simple to him, “I just don’t see the value in them for what I do.”

Focus Groups can help any business, whether it is consumer-based or business-based, in a variety of areas.  The purpose of focus groups is to acquire direct customer based feedback regarding new products or services.  Focus groups allow companies that want to develop, package, name, or test market a new product or service before it is made available to the public.  This can provide invaluable information about the potential market acceptance of the product.

In its basic form, a focus group is an interview with a pre-selected, small group of respondents.  As with all forms of market research, there are positive and negative aspects of using focus groups over other forms of market research, like surveys.

Benefits of focus groups

  • Group discussion produces data and insights that would be difficult to achieve without group interaction.  With participants listening to others’ verbalize their thoughts, it prompts thoughts from others.
  • Provides feedback for items that are tangible in nature, in need of comparison, or difficult to explain in writing.  Examples might include
      • Advertising layout
      • Logos
      • Customer satisfaction program

Problems and criticism of focus groups

  • Focus groups and other forms of qualitative research are not statistically valid.  In other words, you cannot try to prove or make a reliability decision on results of focus groups.
  • There is the potential for group think and observer dependency (results obtained are influenced by the researcher).this rises the question of validity. 
  • Participants may either hold back on their responses and/or try to answer the moderator’s questions with answers the participants feel that the moderator wants to hear.  Another issue with the focus group setting is the lack of anonymity. With all of the other participants, there can not be any guarantee of confidentiality. 
  • Some also argue that focus groups are often useless, and frequently cause more trouble than they are intended to solve.  With focus groups often aiming to please rather than offering their own opinions or evaluations, and with data often cherry picked to support a foregone conclusion.

With all the positives and negatives, having a trained focus group moderator will help address all of these areas of concerns. 

What have you done focus groups on for you business?  If you have not done any focus groups, what areas do you think you can use some?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their customers though a variety of market research strategies.  He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes.  He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research.  He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“.  If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your customers, email him at

%d bloggers like this: