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Market research: When to do phone interviews over focus groups

2012 February 18

Market research, such as market sizing, target marketing, market segmentation, product positioning, pricing, and customer satisfaction research, demands very good data for the final results to be reputable. Acquiring reliable client or potential customer data requires great data collection.

As a start up or an expansion stage company, if you’re pondering how to undertake your primary research and you are making an effort to determine between compiling information by means of a focus group and telephone interviews, the following situations will assist you in determining when phone interviews work better than focus groups:

Telephone interviews are better when the kind of research you’re undertaking is complicated: If you’re carrying out a study that needs your respondents to reply to multi-step questions (e.g., putting into action a business application), it’s more effortless to guide every respondent through the set of questions on the phone. In a focus group scenario, this will get confusing and disordered.

Telephone interviews provide you with a “cleaner read”: In a focus group, respondents’ thought processes could be very easily motivated by other group members. Since phone interviews are one-on-one, respondents’ answers are less subjective and more their own.

Phone interviews are more “anonymous” and are preferable to gathering sensitive and exhaustive data : With a telephone interview, you can keep the respondents’ answers confidential. Respondents don’t have to answer questions in front of a group of strangers, which may prevent them from being candid. The one-to-one relationship with the interviewer on the phone can aid in remedying this.

Phone interviews make it less difficult to connect with your target market: Maybe there aren’t too many of your target customers in the location/region where you’re running your focus group. Telephone interviews allow you to “cherry pick” prospects from across the country, and even the world.

You have limited time and intend to get started with your research right away: With phone interviews you can start interviewing as soon as you have your first recruit. You won’t suffer the time lag that you’d otherwise have with getting a group of respondents together, finding a location, a moderator and planning an entire event; you can do your telephone interviews by yourself.  

Better contribution from respondents: Since respondents can take telephone calls from anywhere, they can be more flexible, which increases the chance of participation in the study. Also, the same faces tend to show up at focus groups; phone interviews permit you to talk to new people from new markets. So, with telephone interviews, not only can you get more participation, but you can also get better quality input too.

Phone interviews are much cheaper:  In-depth focus groups can get very expensive. Not only do you have to pay for the moderator to lead the session, you also have to pay him/her for summarizing the information and presenting it to you. In the case that you want to attend the focus group yourself, you have to add in the cost of your travel, lodging and other expenses, as well as the financial incentives required to pay respondents for their participation. Conversely, if your telephone interviews are short enough, a lot of times you can get by without paying anything.

Faria Rahman assists our portfolio with research initiatives.

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