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Market research: When to do phone interviews over focus groups

2012 February 25

Market research, such as market sizing, target marketing, market segmentation, product positioning, pricing, and client satisfaction research, requires good information for the results to be reputable. Obtaining reputable consumer or potential customer data needs excellent data collection.

As a start up or an expansion stage organization, if you’re wondering how to go about your major research and you are attempting to determine between gathering data by means of a focus group and phone interviews, the following scenarios below will aid you in deciding when telephone interviews work better than focus groups:

Phone interviews are preferable when the kind of research you’re embarking on is complicated: If you’re doing a study that requires your respondents to answer multi-step questions (e.g., employing an enterprise application), it’s easier to usher each respondent through the set of questions on the telephone. In a focus group setting, this is only going to get complicated and muddled.

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

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

Telephone interviews make it easier to connect with your target demographic: Maybe there aren’t too many of your target market 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 inadequate time and intend to get started with your research immediately: With phone interviews you can begin interviewing as soon as you get your first recruit. You won’t have the time lag that you’d otherwise have with getting a group of respondents together, deciding on a location, a moderator and planning an entire event; you can do your phone interviews by yourself.  

Better input from respondents: Since respondents can take telephone calls from anywhere, they can be more flexible, which boosts the chance of input in the study. Also, the same faces tend to show up at focus groups; phone interviews allow you to talk to new people from new markets. So, with phone interviews, not only can you get more involvement, 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 phone 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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