Have you ever been in a focus group — as a respondent? You walk into a
ten other people and an unknown number of people behind the one-way mirror, microphones
dangling from the ceiling and, to this cozy world, reveal your innermost
Have you no shame?
While there are always a few who let it all hang out, most of us keep our
feelings to ourselves. Rather, we want to appear smart, rational and logical,
educated, cultured and absolutely true to our values. We present ourselves as we
would like to be perceived. And we're sure not going to let loose with our
innermost feelings. We'd appear as just a bundle of emotions. Ooops. Won't work for
what we have to do here. We need to understand the buyer's emotions because these
drive the purchase decision.
There is a second problem with focus groups, not due to the process but a fault
of those running them. Groups are not inexpensive and when we're going to get a
bunch of customers or potentials customers into a room we have a whole list of
questions we'd like them to answer. Unfortunately, this too often goes way beyond
the subject for the focus of the group. Do the math: you add three additional
issues to the one that drove the idea for the group in the first place:
10 people for 120 minutes for 4 subjects = 3 minutes per person per subject
Now that's focus. Tell me all that you know in three minutes. That's an
So focus groups don't work because,
- The social interaction tends to stifle the responses we're seeking.
- The ability to stay focused on the particular issue of identifying the
emotional drivers is most usually overcome by the desire to find out more.
While always interesting, they rarely get to the issue of clearly uncovering the
emotional drivers of a purchase decision.
There is a great place for focus groups — ideation sessions for new
ideas. But this is an entirely different kind of group. It's used at the very
beginning of the development process and can be very productive if used correctly.
If your interested in this, let us know.