For business-to-business marketers traditional focus groups have always been expensive, (incentives in the $100 - $250 per person, per session range) and a sampling and logistical problem (getting 8-10 participants in the same place at the same time). Now there's an alternative.
The Benefits of Telephone Focus Groups:
Participants can be more carefully selected, therefore, more representative of the target audience as a whole. They have a higher "show" rate
With more representative participants and greater geographic coverage, fewer focus group sessions are required
Telephone focus groups keep participants focused on the issues by avoiding in-person, sidebar conversations
The potential of discussion domination by a single participant is greatly lessened by eliminating the visual-intimidation factor
Observers listen more carefully to participant responses when not visiting with one another in an observation room
Telephone focus groups eliminate the travel costs and days lost for observers and the moderator
Telephone focus groups eliminate the facility and food costs of traditional focus groups
Telephone focus groups eliminate the video equipment and recording costs of traditional focus groups.
A Telephone Focus Group Study Includes:
Eight to ten participants are recruited for each session
While participants are paid an incentive for their participation, the benefit in being able to talk in "real time" with others makes it worth the cost
Focus group sessions are usually held in the evening allowing participants to be relaxed and uninterrupted at home. Each session lasts approximately one hour and thirty minutes
The moderator utilizes technology that presents the names of participants on a computer monitor and highlights individuals as they speak, thereby assuming that all participants become involved in the discussion
Participants are able to listen and talk with one another, react to questions and comments, while being led by a professional moderator through a strategically developed discussion guide
Observers are able to "listen in" on muted telephone lines from their homes, offices, or while on the road
Observers are able to jointly debrief with the moderator and other observers after each session
The sessions are recorded to assist in the report-writing process.
In debriefing, I find that observers have heard and retained much more information than from in-person groups, perhaps because they pay more attention and don't "party" with other observers. I also find that participants, perhaps because they feel more anonymous, they are more open and less intimidated.
When visuals are required, I send them ahead and find this works just as well as sitting in the room together.
Now, let's get focused.