Different from coffee gatherings and meetings in gymnasiums, strategic focus group testing is a carefully-orchestrated method for gathering extemporaneous data that can transform the understanding of complex situations, test new concepts and refine existing ones. Developed by Madison Avenue market researchers, it is now used as a “test kitchen” to help clients demystify and understand views and develop solutions to problems.
One of the limitations of survey research is that questions are based on the information that the research sponsors want to test. As a result, surveys make assumptions about the topics of importance, so they end up being crafted in such a way that only gives respondents an opportunity to express opinions about the issues included in them. This creates an element of bias. Guided by a moderator with an agenda of broad topics, strategic focus groups allow for free flowing discussion in which respondents can talk about relevant issues and matters that are of greatest importance to them.
The focus group testing can yield some very insightful information that can be used to optimize future survey research, such as:
- Finding out how much interest there is in the topic, as well as how much and what pre-existing information exists;
- Calibrating language and vernacular, in order to ensure there is clear understanding of the concept and verbiage being used to communicate it;
- Determining pre-existing concerns, in order to identify and avoid missing or overlooking critical aspects that needs to be addressed to build a consensus or rectify misapprehensions;
- Learning reasons that, without prompting, your target audience might have objections to the concept or initiative;
- Learning unexpected reasons they favor the idea, which need to, in some way, be validated or modified in subsequent survey research;
- Gauging reactions of interest groups that might emerge as voices in the public discourse about your matter or issue;
- Testing the commercials to refine or refute messages.
You can request a one-page primer on strategic focus group testing, which includes information on pricing and deliverables, by sending an email with your name, organization and phone number to FocusGroups@FallonResearch.