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Beyond Focus Groups: Qualitative Techniques You Might be Overlooking

I say qualitative, you say focus group.

It happens all the time. Marketers’ knee-jerk response to qualitative research is to run focus groups.

Sometimes focus groups are the default qualitative methodology because marketers want “more” from the research by way of number of participants. However, in qualitative research, we get “more” with quality. In qualitative research (and marketing research generally), quality is delivered when you have the right respondents, evaluating something in the right context or moment, with the right questions. Qualitative research must be designed to extract the best information for the precise moment we are trying to influence or for which we are building solutions.

While the focus group is one very handy and valid approach, qualitative research has a wide variety of creative and valuable techniques that might better meet your needs:


One of the great benefits of all of these techniques, as with focus groups, is the ability to video the research process, and then to use video to illustrate the research findings. A well-edited video can quickly summarize and reinforce the results of the qualitative project.

While these techniques are valuable for many research questions, they do have some additional challenges for the researcher. In addition to the usual concerns about high-quality recruiting, personal security, and professional respondents, researchers should have experienced in handling test products to ensure safety and quality. After all, if you are shipping test products to respondents, you want to be careful in the precautions you take to preserve product quality and confidentiality. The logistics of these qualitative techniques may be more complicated than those of a focus group.

Additionally, not all researchers are trained and experienced in conducting interviews and tests with individuals or small groups of consumers. Just because a moderator is outstanding at conducting focus groups doesn’t automatically mean they are qualified for or experienced with other types of qualitative approaches. Each methodology requires a unique set of skills and experiences.

The most critical requirement for successfully using these qualitative research techniques is to find research partners who have the expertise, training, and experience to conduct them appropriately. Not all qualitative researchers are the same, so be sure that you have a team that is well-versed in the specific technique you are using.

Research America has a team of well-trained qualitative researchers with broad expertise and experience across a wide variety of industries. Whether you need focus groups or another qualitative technique, we can help you choose the optimal approach for your marketing research project.

Contact us today to discuss your qualitative research needs.

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