August 23, 2018

What’s Better than a Focus Group?

Spoiler: Focus groups are not still a thing. 
Thinking about a focus group before you market your new product? If the customer for your hot new product is a group, we say go for it. You will learn how a group views your product. You might be privy to some debates about purchase and some strategies for consensus-building.
But the truth is, customers rarely encounter new products as a group. In fact, most people increasingly discover new products for the first time online, all by themselves, which is why we recommend testing online—in an authentic way—instead of in a focus group.
Surveys and focus groups were super useful in a world where the only way to get data was to a) ask people about stuff or b) launch your product and see what happens. 
There are 4 reasons why focus groups are out of favor. 

Heavy Meta

Focus groups and surveys ask people about tastes and behaviors in a way that is conditional. “If you encountered this product…” and “What did you think about when…” and “10 for Agree Strongly.” Participants are asked about their own views and behavior in a way that makes them self-observers rather than actors. This encourages participants to deliver what they perceive to be the “right” answer rather than the “real” answer. 
It used to be hard to see customer behavior without actually stalking someone, so focus groups and surveys made sense.  Now, however, an immense proportion of purchase-related behavior takes place online. It’s a giant gift from the internet. Consider engaging potential customers in a way that allows you to measure actual behavior by presenting your new product to them online in several different ways and comparing the results. Clicks, unlike people, never lie. 

To Scale

It's not that you can't learn something from a handful of people, but why limit yourself when there are millions of people available online? Testing variations of your product in ads across statistically valid samples online will generate results you can trust, and can yield insights into which product attributes to emphasize in your marketing—or even in your product build. Bonus: you will have proven ads ready to scale when you launch. 


It's the thing you always hear about focus groups, right? One loudmouth drowns out everyone else. But if you are running three different ad campaigns for your new product, there’s no noise, just data about which approach works best.


Technology makes it possible to capture qualitative data quantitatively. Let's say you're trying to test whether customers prefer humor or warmth in the context of a major purchase. 
You could:
A. ask them about their emotions in a focus group.
B. survey lots of people and ask them how they feel about different ad campaigns.
C. test two very different approaches to creative for your new product launch marketing—a funny campaign vs one filled with images of family and connection—and see which generates more measurable interest.
We think you C where we’re going with this…

Last Word

We’ll miss focus groups. Surveys even more. But we are moving to a data-driven world where you can make better, more informed decisions by testing.

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