Focus Groups: In-house or Outsource?

Focus groups are a staple research methodology - they’re a visceral qualitative technique that can reveal an abundance of deep insights that can be the foundation of marketing campaigns and customer experiences. 


The notion of a focus group is a simple surface-level proposition - get a bunch of people together and ask them questions. And it’s this belief that drives a lot of businesses to conduct groups themselves.


But here's the thing—conducting a successful focus group is no walk in the park. It requires expertise, resources, and a deep understanding of human behavior. That's where a research firm comes in. Buckle up, and let us take you on a journey through the key reasons why hiring a research firm for focus groups is a game-changer for your business.


Expertise in Research Design: Let the Pros Handle It

Asking questions is the easy part, but asking the right questions is challenging. Every question asked should have a specific purpose - and all the questions must tie into the overall objective of the focus group. It’s amazing how many “so what” questions can get asked if you don’t do your due diligence.


Getting the respondents in the right frame of mind is essential for obtaining meaningful insights, which sometimes means questions follow a specific sequence of events or creative exercises. 


But it’s not all about asking the right questions. Asking an appropriate number of people is a huge factor. One thing I hate hearing as a researcher is, “Oh, we did a focus group.” One focus group is rarely enough - and using it as your sole source of information is incredibly dangerous. If we can, we run at least four groups at Evolve.


Access to a Diverse Pool of Participants: Hear from All Perspectives

The success of a focus group hinges on the diversity of its participants. Different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives enrich the discussions and offer a well-rounded view of your target audience. Research firms have extensive participant networks, allowing them to recruit individuals from various demographics. So, whether you're targeting millennials, stay-at-home parents, or smokers of menthol cigarettes, a research firm can connect you with the right voices to gain valuable insights.


Of course, all participants need to be screened beforehand to ensure they are the target market - this is something that is often overlooked when conducting in-house research. I’ve seen many in-house groups use friends or relatives to make up focus group numbers, and the data obtained is rarely accurate or reflective of the true target audience. We use pretty intense screening criteria - both demographic and attitudinal -  to ensure participants are the target market.


Objective Analysis of Data: Uncover Hidden Gems

The data obtained from focus groups can be voluminous - especially if you are conducting four or more. It's overwhelming, to say the least. For example, a recent public health project of ours yielded over 650 pages of raw data! 


Research firms thrive on analyzing and interpreting data. They provide an objective lens through which to view the results, identifying patterns, trends, and opportunities that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. And, since we’re data nerds, we absolutely love doing this.


Time and Resource Efficiency: Save Your Sanity (and Budget)

Let's face it—time is precious, and resources are limited. Running focus groups in-house can be a drain on both. From recruiting participants to coordinating logistics and analyzing data, the process can quickly become a time-consuming and costly endeavor. By outsourcing to a research firm, you free up your team's valuable time and allocate resources where they're most needed. It's a win-win situation—you get quality results without sacrificing your sanity or budget.


Understanding Human Behavior: Tap into the Mind of Your Audience

Humans are complex creatures, and understanding their behavior is key to unlocking business success. Research firms are experts in deciphering the motivations, desires, and decision-making processes of your target audience. They dig deep, uncovering the why behind consumer actions. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your products, services, and marketing strategies to better resonate with your audience, ultimately driving growth and customer satisfaction.


Being Able to Adapt Questions on the Fly: Flexibility is Key 

One of the beautiful aspects of focus groups is their dynamic nature. Discussions evolve, new insights emerge, and questions arise that you might not have anticipated. Research firms excel in adapting and adjusting on the fly. They can pivot seamlessly during sessions, ensuring that important topics are covered and valuable insights are uncovered. With their expertise, you can be confident that your focus group discussions will flow naturally, providing a deeper understanding of your audience.


No Skin in the Game: Water off a Duck's Back

The thing about research firms like ours is that we don’t want to give you what you want to hear; we want to give you what you need to hear. Sometimes, that means uncovering uncomfortable truths about your brand, product, or service. Positive or negative experiences don’t phase us. We’ll get to the truth of the matter and use that information to make solid recommendations.


Final Thoughts: Elevate Your Market Research with a Research Firm (Evolve) 

The power of focus groups cannot be understated. They provide a direct line to your audience's thoughts, feelings, and desires. By hiring a research firm like Evolve, you tap into a wealth of expertise, access a diverse pool of participants, and gain objective analysis of your data. Save time, resources, and your sanity while understanding the complexities of human behavior. Embrace the flexibility and adaptability that research firms bring to the table. Address concerns and objections head-on and unlock the true potential of your market research efforts.


So, are you ready to take your focus groups to the next level? Say goodbye to guesswork and hello to actionable insights. Elevate your business, engage your audience, and stay one step ahead of the competition. It's time to make informed decisions that drive real growth. Partner with a research firm and let your focus groups work their dark magic. 




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Posted by EvolveKev

Kevin is all about research. Qualitative, quantitative, UX, you name it. When he's not researching, he's to be found laying down beats in his studio and hanging out with his dogs (and girlfriend). Woof.

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