The Best Focus Group Isn’t a Focus Group At All

For years focus groups have been a stable of marketing research. There’s nothing like sitting behind one way glass, munching on M&Ms (there is an active conspiracy against healthy eating – every focus group facility has M&Ms you simply can’t resist), watching prospective buyers interact with your products. Combined with survey research, in-depth interviews and usability testing, focus groups have been a tried and true tool.  And while they still have a role to play, the notion of a focus group has expanded considerably.

Doritos test product

Real-time research methodologies have evolved product testing  to new heights. Consider Doritos recent test products. This is brilliant marketing. Doritos has labeled a handful of mystery flavors and put them on store shelves. Consumers are buying the mystery bags and voting on-line to provide feedback. This is real market feedback, real fast. And the best part, the testers are tweeting, posting and sharing with their friends. This tasty treat was handed around the office yesterday for several of us to try. For 15 glorious moments Doritos had our rapt attention.

But if you’re thinking this type of approach can only work for consumer driven products, think again. We can’t all be Doritos – but we can all be more willing to test in real-time. For technology driven solutions we can track what people click on, how they navigate through our products and where they abandon us. Even for “off-line” offerings we can survey clients to collect feedback and track social conversations about our offerings. The one and done focus group experience is gone forever.

Our clients are our focus groups. It’s up to us to make the most of it. And with this opportunity comes a responsibility to respond to what we learn with better, more user friendly solutions.