Research Basics - Working With Focus Groups
by FocusVision Worldwide
Here's a short list of tips and reminders for your research project - the basics of setting up your focus group room, how to organize your research after the session, and technology tips and ideas.
We all know that research doesn’t end at the close of the focus group. Instead, it extends through review and analysis…getting the “best of” several days of group work and hours of discussions. To best prepare for the intensity known as focus groups, we know that a lot of work needs to go into a successful qualitative research project.
We also know that it is the details that count – the nitty gritty – the 3 minutes of commentary that you are looking for to make your ultimate marketing decision. In support of all of you who are conducting research we decided to compile a short list of tips and reminders that some of our top clients use in the field. With these tips, you will be better prepared to get the results you are looking for.
Tips for Before the Project
Request your room set up prior to your arrival to the facility — you don’t want to waste time the day of trying to clean up or rearrange a room.
If your research is being transmitted via live video feed (more on this later) to other remote viewers, be sure any relevant charts, easels, video monitors are positioned so the camera can capture all the stimulus that are being shared with the respondents.
Discuss your AV needs — For instance will you be streaming the live focus group? Will you simply get tapes for back-up? There are limitations of tapes only which we will discuss a little bit later. Additionally, some video transmission providers offer a moving camera option where the camera operator can zoom in on respondents to capture facial expressions and reactions. They can also zoom in on the stimulus that is being shared with the respondents. Because special equipment is required, as well as having an onsite operator, this service must usually be requested in advance of the research day.
Whatever your specific requirements are, be sure to request them ahead of time to be sure your facility has what you need and there is plenty of time to test the equipment. Nothing would ruin a session more than faulty equipment.
Have all collateral ready ahead of time — Be sure that all your viewers, whether located in the backroom or watching remotely via video feed, have access to the same documentation. Some video streaming providers offer document sharing and storage capabilities so all the viewers have easy access to your relevant documents and stimuli.
Carefully construct the questionnaire — Since the questionnaire must provide respondents with the means of communicating and must persuade them to not only reply but to reply correctly or accurately. Constructing a good questionnaire is a skill that gets better over time. And like any successful partnership, a successful research project is also based on communication. How well did you describe the project, did the respondents understand the line of questioning and were you able to clearly define the results you are looking for.
Know how you will analyze and present the information before you even start — Whether oral or written, the presentation must convince the audience that the material is worthy of attention and suitable for action. By knowing ahead of time how you will present the data, you will be better prepared to “spot” the key findings you are looking for. With that in mind, you may also want to have a list of keywords/phrases prepared ahead of time; ideas you are looking for so you can actively “Mark” your sessions. Know which reactions and objectives, perceptions or opinions you are looking for.
It is also important to know if you are transmitting via a live video stream. If you do transmit, do you plan on including video clips of key respondent comments in your final presentation? And who is going to be watching live versus who may be watching later from your recorded focus group sessions… This may impact how you plan on taking notes for quick review at a later time after your live groups are completed. Some video streaming providers provide tools for “marking” or time-stamping the video with brief notes for easy access and reporting.
Tips For After the Project
Organize your materials — a debriefing and report is ideally done immediately after the session. If all representatives are not available this will have to wait. This delay can be harmful as you want to capitalize on the note’s that are fresh in everyone’s mind.
If you watched the groups from the backroom, but used a video streaming provider to capture the audio and video to be viewed again later, you may be able to download an audio podcast to you iPod or MP3 player to listen to your groups while on the airplane traveling between venues or back to your office. This can be extremely helpful.
You may also want to consider having verbatim transcripts written for specific groups. Some video streaming providers offer this service option. Be sure to ask if you need to have the entire day transcribed or whether it is possible to order transcripts for specific groups. This can save a lot of money if your transcriber charges by the hour rather than by the day.
Review the original proposal — to ensure the presentation addresses the problem.
Discuss the research in the language of the audience — One challenge researchers have with research that is translated by an interpreter is being able to follow every word and every point in the research project. It may be beneficial to record the translator’s voice so you can go back and review the research to see if you missed any important points.
Anticipate possible objections — prepare back-up or “evidence” to support your conclusions. Even in this high tech world, nothing replaces direct face to face interaction when evaluating people’s expressions and impressions. Having that reference point as “proof” of your analysis, will go a long way when presenting your findings to management or the decision team.
In preparation for your focus group you had everything well organized, tested and planned. The sessions went flawlessly (this time). So now what?
Getting all your notes organized and effectively communicating the information to your team is not always an easy task. And as we know, the success of market research project is significantly influenced by results. The style and quality of the report that is given will influence how the research is perceived, accepted and acted upon.
The Case for Technology
Unfortunately many executives have a low opinion of the communication from research professionals. They may criticize report length, oral presentation styles and quality, and even impractical recommendations. They may just even have a bias to the answer they were looking for. But as we have tried to outline, a successful presentation is the outcome of careful planning. That is where technology can be your best friend.
There are a number of products out there that can assist in your research efforts and even help make your decision faster and smarter. Video streaming (as we have mentioned earlier in this paper) is one of those products. So what exactly is video streaming and how will it help make your smarter?
Video streaming is the technology used to conveniently and securely transmit both live and recorded audio and video over a standard Internet connection. With a video streaming provider, you can transmit live video and audio of your focus groups that are taking place all over the world thus eliminating the need to travel. In addition, some vendors offer the ability to record and archive these same focus groups. This provides immediate access to the same data the day after the research, a week after the research, even up to a year or more.
I recently heard a prime example for why such a service is so valuable. Consider a leading brand conducting research to determine whether or not they should market product X. This particular company conducts several days of research across a variety of respondents in different locations across the US. The research team presented their findings to the CEO of Company “A” only to face opposition – the decision maker was already leaning toward the development of Product X. What he didn’t know was that all the research said they shouldn’t. Thankfully, the researchers were streaming this focus group and had a copy of all the sessions in archive. After review of the archive they were able to capture several minutes of clips to present in one take to the CEO. After reviewing the video clip, the CEO changed his mind – possibly saving the company million of dollars.
This is the perfect example of how preparation and technology go hand in had creating the perfect research environment. The research team had a well designed map for the focus groups and the technology they used made finding the specific results they desired extremely easy. With the input of a few key words, the researchers were able to easily access the data they needed to make their informed decision.
Now that you see the benefit of using technology along with your research, let’s take a quick look at some of the concerns that technology might also represent – security, reliability and cost.
Any time we talk about the Internet we need to think about security and how to protect our businesses, our customers, and in this case our research and certainly Personally Identifiable Information of any of our participants. How would you like to do a Google search and find your confidential focus group available for public consumption? How about having your confidential, online new product survey getting hacked and having your concept names trademarked by nefarious individuals the next business day? These are just two examples that you need to consider.
In the day of breaches and identity theft and hackers’ making a profession out of Internet accessibility you need to be sure that anything you use is secure, that your vendors have security safety measures and procedures in place. A few of the questions you should be asking your vendors are:
- Do you have written security policy and procedures?
- Where so you servers reside?
- How is my research data protected?
- What are your certifications?
With the correct answers, you and your team should feel confident that your data, your research and the people involved are protected.
With any technology solution you face the issue of reliability or system “up time”. Most vendors will guarantee the highest availability and you should settle for nothing less than 99%. A simple way to find out about project success rate is to ask your vendor for some references. A solid and reputable vendor will have the proper system infrastructure in place to guarantee your project runs smoothly. While the Internet is never 100% guaranteed, you can get the best possible solution by going with a vendor who has redundant servers, and sufficient back-up and disaster recovery methods in place. And to make you feel even more comfortable ask about technical help. You want a vendor that provides 24x7 assistance and can help in all aspects of the project from testing and trouble shooting to realtime project support and archival. Having one vendor that can help you get a better research experience is possible.
Naturally, with all that technology you are probably wondering, so how much is that going to cost me? Sure, having a service like video streaming is an extra cost to the focus group session itself but it is easily outweighed by the savings you will realize on sending all your company representatives to the facility. With video streaming, there is no cost of travel! Add in the extras you get with the ability to mark the video and extract clips and reels for your research and you have already realized the value.
Over the past few years video streaming technology has improved – increasing the quality and appearance of the stream; security has improved, costs have come down and researchers are asking for more.
So now that you have this list, you should be equipped to make any project a success and be on your way to making Faster, Smarter Decisions
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