Focus Groups and Qualitative Research
Businesses and organizations use focus groups as a qualitative marketing
research methodology to understand how people make decisions about - and
what factors influence - their use of products or services. Focus groups
are an ideal marketing research methodology to employ for:
Any research method that produces information that can be usefully analyzed
numerically, typically by obtaining data from a scientific sample of the population. Depending on how they are designed,
examples can include telephone surveys, web-based email surveys, or mail
surveys. U.S. Census, labor and health statistics and sales or income
trends are also examples of quantitative information.
Any research method that produces information based upon description
and interpretation rather than numeric analysis. Examples include
focus groups, in-depth interviews, and one-on-one interviews.
Besides focus groups, other forms of qualitative marketing research
Market Street Research conducts on a regular basis include one-on-one
interviews, in-depth interviews
with industry experts or other relevant sources, and collection
and analysis of available secondary
data such as articles in newspapers, web sites, government documents,
trade journals, U.S. Census statistics, health data, and economic indicators,
to name a few examples.
- Exploring new product or service ideas
- Understanding an organization's brand image
- Testing effectiveness of advertising and marketing concepts and materials
- Differentiating competitors' perceived strengths and weaknesses
- Gaining insights into purchasing decisions
- Conducting product testing
What are Focus Groups?
Focus groups are a form of qualitative research that brings
together small numbers of people to discuss a topic (such as reactions
to a new product or service, or opinions about a client or a client's
competitors). The typical focus group consists of seven to ten
people who share common characteristics and experiences in relation to
a topic. The group discusses the topic for about 1 ½ hours under the direction
of a skilled moderator. Focus groups involve:
Market Street Research handles all aspects
of conducting qualitative research including focus group recruitment,
logistical coordination, development of moderator's guides and moderating,
and analysis of results. We work closely with clients to identify critical
information needs and design focus groups that will best inform business
or organizational decisions.
- Identifying the research objectives
- Developing a moderator's guide
- Recruiting participants and arranging for an appropriate facility
in which to hold the discussions
- Holding the focus group meetings
- Analyzing and presenting the results
Moderator's Guides: Market Street Research brings decades of expertise
to bear on the preparation of the highest quality research instruments.
Our moderator's guides for focus groups ensure that all relevant topics
are covered and that the time scheduled is maintained. Our clients give
final approval on materials, and Market Street Research always develops
moderator's guides on a custom basis for each project.
Logistics: Market Street Research maintains relationships with
a national network of focus group facilities and we have a pool of trained,
experienced, highly skilled focus group moderators. Market Street Research
follows focus group sessions with a thorough analysis and presentation
of the results. Our reports include quotations from focus groups to illustrate
key findings, and we use video footage from the focus group discussions
in our presentations of the findings. In many cases our clients use our
focus group results to inform and fine-tune follow-up quantitative research,
such as telephone surveys.
Who Should Conduct Focus Groups?
Some marketing research companies specialize in a particular methodology,
such as focus groups, and they tend to recommend that method for most situations.
Market Street Research recommends marketing research methods depending
on the information needed by our clients or the decisions our clients are
making. Focus groups are an ideal methodology for businesses and organizations
Focus groups and qualitative research are not
appropriate methods for answering quantitative questions, such as:
- How people make decisions
- Whether there are needs within a market that are unmet by existing
products or services (yours or those of competitors)
- What possible barriers exist to use of products or services, and reactions
to your ideas about product design or service implementation
proportion of my competitors' customers is interested in my product or
- How large are different market segments within a geographic
- What is the demographic profile of my customers vs. those of
- If customers buy my new product, what share of the market am I likely
Telephone surveys, mail
surveys and email surveys
are the best method for answering
these kinds of quantitative questions, because surveys are designed to
represent the opinions, needs, and behaviors of whole populations.
On the other hand, focus groups are often conducted as a precursor
to quantitative research (such as telephone surveys, mail surveys
and email surveys), unless you are confident your business or organization
already knows what factors influence people's purchasing habits. Also,
focus groups are often used after quantitative research to test the efficacy
of advertising or marketing concepts and materials developed in accordance
with the results of the quantitative phase of research.
Markets are constantly changing, and even
if you know how customers are likely to react to your ideas vis-à-vis
competitors, focus groups and other qualitative research methodologies
can be helpful in identifying new opportunities as well as potential problems
that might not be apparent from your perspective as a business or organizational
Market Street Research has conducted focus groups and other qualitative
research methodologies for 25 years in such diverse industries as:
Market Street Research has considerable experience and expertise in utilizing
the focus group methodology in the research we conduct for clients in many
industries, including for organizations in the healthcare field. In fact,
conducting healthcare marketing research is one of Market Street Research's
greatest strengths. Since 1980, MSR has designed and conducted many hundreds
of healthcare marketing research studies for healthcare providers
ranging from internationally respected academic medical centers such
as Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins, health
systems such as Partners Healthcare and Memorial Hermann, as well as for
many regional and community-based hospitals, specialized clinics, and physicians'
practices serving urban, suburban and rural markets across the United States.
Learn more about our expertise in the field of healthcare
We understand the fundamental issues that concern clients in a range
of arenas, the types of decisions they typically have to make, and the
factors that influence those decisions. We move quickly to understanding
the specific decisions you have to make and the type of information you
need to make those decisions. In all cases we bring the proper methodology
to bear on your data needs.
Please contact us to discuss how Market
Street Research can help you achieve your goals.
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See MSR's Client list.