A Complementary Side to Online Research

Nov 06, 2014

We have written about the importance of data analytics in the past. Using those analytics to conduct research is a basic requirement of any marketing strategy. Research allows a company to understand its market, its customer, and its perceived value. A lot of this research can come from electronic sources and metrics such as social media engagement analytics, web traffic analytics, internal sales metrics, and the list goes on.

But in a world where virtualization has become the norm, we can easily forget that a very important source of research is human contact. Many have come to rely on faceless surveys, polls, online analytics, and every other mean to gather information without taking the time to discuss the research with whom you’re gathering it from.

Sometimes the answers to research questions do not fully explain what is going on in a customer’s mind. In a recent American Marketing Association Marketing Insights article, authors Marc-Andre Leduc and Barbara Gassaway discussed a unique discipline of psychology called synergology.

This discipline, called synergology, teaches us to listen beyond verbal cues and read body language and micro-movements to recognize what is not being said and what may be contrary to words shared.

In-person research, such as focus groups, is a largely beneficial way of learning the psychology of the “why” behind answers. Why did a person answer this specific question in this specific manner? Was there something more to the answer? With personal contact, you can learn more about the answers and the whys than you can with an impersonal survey.

While a broad-spectrum survey can deliver the most results, it will only give you answers to the questions specifically asked. Whereas with a focus group, one question asked can have many answers that lead the surveyor down another line of questioning, that could ultimately become more effective for the research.

Thoughts can ladder, and participants can hitchhike on ideas and will use one another to springboard a concept or challenge their own views based on another’s comments. Opportunities exist to dig into discoveries until exhausted.

The question now becomes, how many people should be asked to attend a focus group? While the number of invitations and requests sent out will vary based on your target demographic and anticipated response rate, you should try to have approximately 8 to 12 people. This number allows for a personal setting in which participants can feel comfortable expressing their views. If there are too many people participating in the focus group there won’t be enough time to get everyone engaged. Too-few participants will result in data that will not accurately translate to the entire population.

It should be noted that it is important the people in your focus group represent an accurate cross-section of your current customer base, or specifically represent your target study. For example if you’re conducting a study about the latest video game and its merits, you wouldn’t want a group full of people who have never played a video game before.

Ultimately, D2 Media has always expressed that no online strategy works without an effective offline strategy. To that end, conducting surveys and analyzing online data can be supplemented with focus groups to create a holistic data-gathering experience. This can further enhance and complement your research in ways both expected and unexpected. At the end of the day, research should be conducted to learn as much as possible to know how to market your product, service, or idea as effectively as possible.

Read the full AMA Marketing Insights article here.