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Market research: When to do phone interviews over focus groups

2012 May 9

Market research, like market sizing, target marketing, market segmentation, product positioning, pricing, and client satisfaction research, calls for good information for the results to be credible. Obtaining reputable buyer or potential client information requires good data compilation.

As a start up or an expansion stage company, if you’re speculating how to do your major research and you are making an effort to decide between gathering information through a focus group and phone interviews, these situations will help you determine when telephone interviews are preferable over focus groups:

Phone interviews are preferable when the kind of research you’re carrying out is complicated: If you’re carrying out a study that needs your respondents to reply to multi-step questions (e.g., applying a business application), it’s more straightforward to usher every respondent through the set of questions on the telephone. In a focus group setting, this is only going to get complicated and muddled.

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

Phone interviews are more “anonymous” and are more superior gathering classified and in-depth information : With a telephone interview, you can keep the respondents’ answers private. Respondents needn’t have to reply to questions in front of a group of strangers, which might keep them from being open. The one-to-one relationship with the interviewer on the telephone can aid in remedying this.

Telephone interviews make it less difficult to get through to your target audience: Perhaps there aren’t too many of your target buyers in the location/region where you’re running your focus group. Telephone interviews permit 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 begin interviewing as soon as you have 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 telephone interviews by yourself.  

Better involvement from respondents: Since respondents can take phone calls from anywhere, they can be more flexible, which improves the chance of contribution in the study. Also, the same faces tend to show up at focus groups; telephone interviews enable you to talk to new people from new markets. So, with telephone interviews, not only can you get more involvement, but you can also get better quality involvement 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 add in the cost of your travel, lodging and other expenses, along with the financial incentives needed to pay respondents for their involvement. 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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