Of all marketing jobs, the market research function is likely the most significant. Developing the right product or service from inception is far more important than all the promotional activities that come into play later on. A market researcher is a mathematically inclined individual with a talent for statistics, data analysis, creating forecasts, and charting trends.
Any number of methods may be used to determine demand, gather and analyze data, and study the demographics of the consumer, the competition, and the industry. The first step is to target the information that will be useful in refining your company's product or service, and to design surveys, opinion polls, and questionnaires to capture that information.
One primary tool of market research involves focus groups. Focus groups are similar to group surveys, and in their own way, these groups are more valuable than an individual survey because participants can hear the opinions of others and choose to agree or disagree. Another benefit of focus groups is that you can collect multiple responses in one sitting, a more efficient use of the market researcher's time and effort.
A focus group can be comprised of students, employees or managers, or recruited from newspaper or other advertising. Some people consider their time to be too valuable to be wasted on a lengthy session and that they should be compensated in some way. Others love to be asked their opinion and enjoy voicing it.
Experts believe the ideal focus group size is six to 12 people-limited results might be produced from smaller-sized groups, and voices tend to get lost in larger-sized groups. A session should run between one and two hours and should cover a range of four to seven questions or topics.
Establish expectations with the focus group when you introduce yourself and your purpose, clearly explaining how long this will take and what you hope to achieve. Your questions should be open-ended, inviting discussion. For example, open-ended questions might include, "What do you like or not like about the competitor's product or service? If you were developing this product yourself from the ground up, what would you do differently?"
While the focus group session is still fresh in your mind, jot down as many notes as you can or write a report to share with your team. You might even consider having a transcript prepared. Getting this job done well at the front end of a product or service launch lays a solid groundwork for all the marketing jobs that will follow.
Last Updated: 05/21/2014