The "Nuts & Bolts"
Focus Groups Require Planning and Organization
Setting up focus group sessions requires discipline in
assuring all elements are ready to go before recruiting
respondents to a focus group facility on a certain date.
There is a sizable financial responsibility in terms of
reserving space ($500 to $700 per group), cost of recruiting
($100 to $150 per respondent), honorarium paid to each
respondent ($100 to $150 per respondent), plus other
incidental expenses. At a minimum, the cost
per group is about $3500 for facility-related
expenses, not including the moderator, analyses,
transcriptions, and other expenses.
Before recruiting can begin, the following must be set in place—
- A Screening Questionnaire
used by the recruiting facility that assures respondents meet
the requirements for each group (each group may have different
requirements in terms of Gender, Age, Product Awareness, Levels
of Consumption, and the like).
- Stimulus Materials needed
for each group (lists of slogans and benefit statements, collateral
materials, print ads, TV ads, radio ads, web materials, and
- Moderator Outline should
also be in place (overlooked topics can have an effect on the
- Assure availability of client observers.
- A Professional Moderator needs to be in place as soon as the
planning begins. At Roberts Research, Dave Roberts is involved
from the very beginning. Moderating a Focus Group requires set of
skills that are a combination of art and science in order to
engage the group members while controlling "opinion leaders" ,
assuring that we are hearing genuine perceptions that are not
influenced by "group think".
We typically recruit 14 respondents for 8-10 to show for
each group. "Show rate" can be influenced by any number of
conditions, including weather, competing events, time of
day, and personal reasons.
- Generally we conduct 2-6 groups per project.
- Groups are recruited by a focus group facility, which also
provides the one-way mirrored conference room for client
- Groups last 2 hours and respondents receive an honorarium
of $100 to $150.
- Groups are moderated by Dave Roberts.
- Groups are audio and videotaped.
- Deliverables include a Screener, Moderator Guide, and an
In-Session Questionnaire (ISQ) along with a Final Report
supported by Verbatim responses and analysis of In-Session
Questionnaire data (e.g., rating a TV commercial on 1-5
While the above outlines a typical Focus Group, there are
variations that also serve special needs—
- Mini Groups (Approximately 6 respondents).
For some topics (e.g., medical), we may want to observe
interactions among respondents but have more time to probe
issues of agreement and disagreement.
- One-on-Ones. Also called "depth interviews",
these can be done in a focus group facility to allow for
observation and recording or in a less formal environment. The
advantage of these personal interviews is that we can probe more
deeply into topics and usually do so in much less time since
we're not dealing with several other respondents at the same
time. The downside is that these are labor intensive and it
takes longer to complete a sizeable number of interviews.
- Hybrid Usability. Usability studies are key
to a continuous improvement program for computer, web design,
and other human interfaces. The hybrid approach can take the
form of One-On-Ones or 2-3 respondents at a time being observed
as they complete a number tasks, particularly with a computer.
We generally record their facial expressions and verbalizations
simultaneously with a constant screen capture. These can be
compiled across several respondents and played back for the