One of the real strengths of focus groups – in person or online – is the opportunity for a bunch of people to see a live discussion, and even ask a few additional questions. (Yes, Dimensional Research always leaves a few minutes at the end of a focus group session for the observers to ask a follow-on question or three.)
It can be extremely powerful to expose people who work in corporate roles and don’t get out into the field – marcom managers, R&D, developers, etc. – to direct customer and prospect feedback. Often operational people (finance, legal) pick up something important by watching their target market discuss their jobs.
Dimensional Research always encourages as many people as possible to listen into focus groups, or to watch the videos that we record when they’re done.
However, sometimes “listening in” is a bad idea. It basically boils down to this: If you only see part of a project, don’t assume that’s all there is. There is a reason why you conduct 8 focus groups, not just one. Or why you conduct 25 interviews, not just 3 or 4.
Don’t let these scenarios happen to you:
- Attend two focus groups in New York and project that experience onto Chicago, Paris, Singapore, and Tokyo.
- Listen in on only one call of a 20-call interview project.
If you decide to listen in on market research, I strongly recommend the following:
- Do read the final report and attend the presentation of the report. You might as well enhance your limited experience with the full power of the overall project.
- Don’t attend just one focus group or listen in on just one call!
Real life example
We recently conducted a series of 15 customer interviews about a client’s new initiative. It has been progressing for about a year and they wanted to know what messages their customers had absorbed. We spoke to 15 of their very best customers – the kind who spend lots of money every quarter, attend the user groups, and give references. It was a good study, and very helpful in finding out what parts of the new initiative were gaining traction and what parts needed even more evangelism.
There was one of the 15 interviews where the participant absolutely “got” it. He could have given the company’s pitch, including now and vision, with no problem at all. It was delightful. However, he was the ONLY one of the 15 participants who did that. The rest of the participants clearly struggled with some of the visionary aspects of the messaging. As luck would have it, that was the only interview that one of the project stakeholders listened in on. Unfortunately, during the report presentation he kept interrupting to talk about how the market “really got it.” We had to very strongly emphasize that the whole project needed to be considered – not just this one guy. The company had plenty of work to do to reach their entire customer base. They were not done.