Ever since I published In-Depth Interviews vs. Focus Groups, almost two years ago, it has been our most visited blog post. Not only is it the most visited post of all time, it has also been the most visited article on this blog every month since it was published.
It seems to be pretty obvious that people are confused about the difference between the two most basic methodologies for conducting qualitative market research. As researchers, we continuously execute both types of research approaches and instinctively understand which will be best to meet the goals of a particular project. But we need to be very clear with clients who are not research savvy.
I frequently find myself having these types of conversations with clients. I often get requests asking for a quote for a certain number of focus groups, but when we review the goals of the project, it may turn out there is an opportunity for much better results given the same budget if we were to do interviews instead – especially with competitive research or message validation.
I’ve learned a couple of things:
1. Don’t be afraid to suggest an alternative to a client if it’s right for the project.
Your job is to be an expert and provide the right research solution, not just deliver against the tactics of a client’s request.
2. Be clear and use simple terms when explaining research methodologies.
It’s easy to lapse into “researcher lingo,” but clients will resist alternates if they don’t understand them.
3. Use your best researcher listening skills to figure out why the client is asking for a specific approach.
Clients frequently don’t know alternatives exist. They may have observed a focus group once and saw good results and are asking for that because they don’t realize there are other approaches. It’s also typical that there is an unstated goal to expose a particularly difficult stakeholder to direct market feedback, in which case a focus group may be the right choice, even though other indicators would suggest in-depth interviews.