If you are thinking about using focus groups as a means of exploring feedback from specific individuals but you are not familiar with the methodology, continue reading this blog post below. At Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) (315-635-9802) we conduct a number of focus groups for our clients. For some projects, we’ll manage the whole process from start to finish including design, recruitment, moderation and reporting. Other clients come to us and would just like to use our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY, for sessions. Whatever the case may be, and whoever gets involved, focus group projects have a typical point A to point B flow. For more information, click on this blog post about What is Qualitative Research?

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Market research projects and focus group projects begin with a client request for research. In many cases, this comes in the form of an Request for Proposal (RFP). The client usually prepares a formal document or just records their objectives of the market research in an email and sends that over to the RMS business development team of Sandy Baker (Director – SandyB@RMSresults.com). Some of the RFPs are very specific in that they will name specific recruitment mixes and cities where the research needs to be conducted while other clients will rely on the expertise of RMS to propose the best research design. The business development teams meets with the RMS research team to speak about project design, proposed methodology, reporting options and overall cost of the project. The business development team may choose to meet with the client prior to proposal development or sign-off to ensure all objectives are covered.

Once the client agrees to and signs-off on the proposal sent by RMS, a kickoff meeting is scheduled. The kickoff meeting is scheduled between the client team and the RMS research team to discuss the objectives of the market research and the focus groups. This discussion confirms the intended dates and times of the focus group(s), recruitment criteria to be used in the screener to recruit participants (over the age of 18, purchased product XYZ in the past month, etc.), sample specification for sample order and content and questions to be used in the moderator’s guide prepared by RMS for the session(s). From there, the RMS team looks into facility options for the client, confirms these with the client and books the facility or facilities for the focus group dates. Typically, you will need at least three weeks from the kickoff to actually holding the first focus group session. This allows ample time for both parties to design and program a screener, write a guide and participation packet and recruit the best possible participants for the focus group(s).

Once the facility is booked and the recruitment is underway in the call center, RMS works to design an in-depth moderator’s guide and participation packet for the sessions. This is passed to the client at least one week in advance so you will have time to review it with your team and make changes in the week leading up to the first session. Once participants are recruited, RMS sends rolling confirmation letters and emails to participants to confirm vital information (date and time of the focus group, a briefing on what the topic(s) will be discussed, directions to the facility and maybe even a little warm up exercise for them to bring to the focus group). In the day or two prior to the group, the RMS administrative team handles all of the print outs of materials for the focus groups including client packets given to clients upon arrival, which includes a final version of the moderator’s guide, a final version of the participation packet, a final version of the recruitment screener, example confirmation letters and data from the screener responses for all of the participants who were recruited to the sessions. Some clients like to force rank participants one through eight or 10 (depending on the number attending). In order to ensure full groups, RMS over-recruits by about two or four people depending on size. Therefore if everyone shows up, a system must be in place to sit the eight or 10 most qualified. Sometimes the client will again rely on RMS for our expertise in selecting the best group.

RMS then holds the focus group sessions. In many cases, the clients will come to watch the groups live, which allows for the moderator to pop-in and pop-out of the client viewing room to ensure the client is having all of their questions answered.  RMS also offers FocusVision capabilities, which allows for remote users around the world to view the focus groups through a secure login and connection. DVDs of each session are mailed to the client following the focus groups and audio files of the sessions are sent out by RMS to preferred vendors for transcription services.

Following the focus groups, RMS prepares a topline/highlight summary of the key takeaways from the focus groups for the client in email format so it can be quickly forwarded to the entire team. From there RMS typically requires one to two weeks to write a full PowerPoint report of the findings. This PowerPoint report includes a background and methodology page, executive summary of themes and section results with quotations taken from the transcripts. The report is very thorough and covers all findings from the focus groups. RMS has received continual positive feedback on our market research reports, and we even had a Fortune 50 client comment on our qualitative report by saying “it was one of the best qualitative reports he had ever seen.”

Following the draft report delivery to the client, RMS works with the client to answer any questions they may have in order to finalize the focus group report. Once finalized, RMS often visits with the client in-person again for either a readout of the report with the client team (a walk-through of the findings) or does a formal presentation on the findings. Once the process is completed, RMS prints out a color copy of the final report along with a client satisfaction survey to inquire about satisfaction with RMS and the focus group process.