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Market research: When to do phone interviews over focus groups

2012 April 11

Market research, such as market sizing, target marketing, market segmentation, product positioning, pricing, and consumer satisfaction research, demands excellent information for the outcomes to be credible. Acquiring trustworthy consumer or prospect data requires very good data compilation.

As a start up or an expansion stage organization, if you’re pondering how to undertake your most important research and you are attempting to come to a decision between compiling information via a focus group and phone interviews, these situations will assist you in determining when phone interviews work better than focus groups:

Phone interviews are preferable when the type of research you’re undertaking is complicated: If you’re carrying out a study that needs your respondents to answer multi-step questions (e.g., employing an enterprise application), it’s less trouble-free to walk each respondent through the set of questions on the phone. In a focus group atmosphere, this will get complicated and disordered.

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

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

Telephone interviews make it less complicated to connect with your target market: Perhaps there aren’t too many of your target market in the location/region you’re running your focus group. Telephone interviews let 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 telephone interviews you can begin interviewing as soon as you get 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 phone interviews by yourself.  

Better involvement from respondents: Since respondents can take phone 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 participation, but you can also get better quality participation too.

Phone interviews are much cheaper:  In-depth focus groups can get very expensive. Not only do you have to shell out money for the moderator to lead the session, you also have to pay him/her for summarizing the data and presenting it to you. In the case that you want to attend the focus group yourself, you have to factor in the cost of your travel, lodging and other expenses, along with the financial incentives required to pay respondents for their involvement. Conversely, if your phone interviews are short enough, often times you can get by without paying anything.

Faria Rahman assists our portfolio with research initiatives.

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