Many companies have found that their customers’ needs for their products or services are evolving over time, causing them to modify or improve their products to stay relevant in customer’s minds.  Others, such as in the healthcare industry, have found that they have new types of customers (consumers, in addition to health insurers) to satisfy.  The best way to learn about these needs, and preferences, is to talk to customers directly.  And, once these new needs and preferences are uncovered, the companies can re-design their products to address them and keep sales growing.

There are a number of market research techniques which can be used to collect this market intelligence, from quantitative techniques (such as an online research survey) with hundreds or thousands of customers, to qualitative ones with a small sample.   One market research tool stands out as an almost universally effective tool to do this – Focus Groups!

As you know, a focus group is a research technique which brings together a small sample (usually 10-12) of consumers, or business persons, in a centralized location to ask them a series of carefully designed questions.  Typically, a series of four or more focus groups are conducted to in order to survey a panel of about 50 consumers or companies.  The questions try to uncover their opinions and beliefs on the benefits (value) of a company’s products, or how they purchase them, or related topics. The main advantage of using a focus group, instead of an online or phone survey, is that the moderator can ask follow-up questions on-the-spot to understand a customer’s underlying motivations/reasons for their beliefs.  Other advantages include the ability to collect market information in a fairly short period of time and its cost-effectiveness compared to quantitative surveys.

Over the years, TMD has conducted focus groups across a wide variety of industries, from consumer products to healthcare to complex machinery.  We’ve used them to help our clients understand their customers’ changing needs, interest in new products or product features, and even investigate sales declines.  Focus groups are a very versatile research technique, which your company may want to consider to help increase sales or revenues.