How Market Research Works

How to Ask

Now that you have a list of questions, your job is to figure out the best way to ask them. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • You can call people on the phone
  • You can stop them on the street or at the mall.
  • You can send out a questionnaire (by mail or e-mail)
  • You can post a questionnaire on the Internet
  • You can assemble a group of people for a focus group

Of all of these techniques, the most familiar is probably the focus group. It happens to be the most expensive technique as well. Firms may pay participants up to $100 for participating in a focus group. The company sponsoring the group also has to pay for the space, the facilitator, refreshments, etc. The advantage of a focus group, however, is that it tends to generate lots of new ideas. It also lets people actually see and/or try out the product, and then interact with one another as they discuss their likes and dislikes.

A typical focus group will bring 10 to 15 people together in a room with a facilitator. The facilitator works with the group to answer the pertinent questions and stay on track. In many cases, the interactions between different people in the group bring out new ideas or discover concerns that might have been previously hidden.

Focus groups work, but they can be so expensive that they tend to be used more by large companies and in the latter stages of product refinement. If it costs $20,000 to get the opinions of 100 people, the price can be prohibitive. Both small companies and large companies often use less expensive techniques.