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Six Quick Reasons Why Focus Groups Matter to Market Research

First thing, what is market research? It’s how companies learn what’s really going on with their customers. Market research informs a company’s strategic alignment with customer needs using customer segmentation, customer experience, and conjoint analysis. Several tactics are available for market research, but one of the most effective is running focus groups.

What if your goal was to double or even triple your company’s sites in major cities across the U.S.? You might start by scanning, say, the fifty most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S. for key metrics like:

Market saturation
Price sensitivity
Growth potential

But you’d have to dig deeper in order to really predict success, wouldn’t you? You’d need real-time insight into your customer demographics in each location. Enter: focus groups.

 

Focus Groups Facilitate Results

 

Recently, Cicero Group supported a private nursing college in navigating exactly this aggressive expansion plan. Initially, we gathered data as a benchmark in identifying cities for expansion. Then, for each candidate city, we performed a deep-dive market entry study by recruiting and moderating focus groups with the school’s target demographic. This provided critical insight regarding audience feedback, product direction, and real-time messaging. Mystery shopping and thorough secondary research supplemented focus group findings, and we delivered actionable strategies for each candidate city.

In addition, as part of the school’s growth plan, we studied its existing struggling sites searching for specific means of revitalization. To identify chief causes of each campus’s poor performance, we moderated several focus groups and conducted in-depth interviews for “market revisit” studies. With this actionable data in hand, the school implemented key changes and achieved favorable results.

In sum, here are six quick reasons ways focus groups can to inform your company’s market research strategy:

 

Tap into Real People’s Real Focus

Businesses and marketing teams are constantly asking, “what does my audience think?” Often, teams will make a best guess based off analytic data or gut instinct, but focus groups remove that confusion and provide real answers from real people. The “real” factor often makes a key difference in determining the one insight that differentiates your business from the competition.

 

Support Market Research with Genuine Feedback

When a product development team approaches senior management with a new idea, how should they decide whether to accept or reject the proposal? Market research feedback about what a potential customer might think during the purchasing process helps alleviate the unknown and guide decision making. Before investing in a new idea, developers and leaders should gather market research focus group data to learn potential pitfalls and insights before they happen.

 

Get the Feel

Focus groups remove the guesswork regarding audience sentiment by returning targeted opinions in real-time. Feel is a critical component of market research, and focus groups hone a business’s instinct. Analytic data inherently misses the mark on sentiment; it provides an indication of how a user might consume information but doesn’t measure what that user is actually thinking. This is a big blind spot for a company that truly wants to understand its customer. Focus groups close out the blind spot with real insight.

 

Harness Strategic Group Direction

Group-think is a major component of the discovery process. How a customer reacts individually vs. collectively is an insight that is only gathered through focus groups. This distinction shows up all the time in market research: what a survey respondent indicates on a form without interference likely changes dramatically when that respondent answers in person among a group of peers. By taking advantage of group-think, companies gain a sharp advantage over competitors.

 

Focus the Message

Ad agencies utilize focus groups to define messaging about consumer products: “We make the best bread” is quite different from “Wonder Bread helps build bodies in 12 ways.” The discussion that evolves from a focus group varies based on input, and teams benefit from considering new ideas and new angles. Implementing those insights clarifies a company’s marketable difference and amplifies its niche. Without the insight from a focus group, company messaging is based on internal instinct, not on data-driven strategy.

 

Clarify Research Measurements

ROI and customer sentiment shouldn’t be mysterious. Your team is buying ads and using every available microphone to amplify your product message, so why should you guess if the message has penetrated the market? Support KPIs and get real measurements for your advertising investment by gathering a sample of your targeted audience in to a focus group and asking them. Market research firms can support and/or lead this effort for your company.

Lawrence Cowan is the COO at Cicero Group.