We at Market Connections encourage our clients to attend their own focus groups so they can witness participants’ reactions first-hand behind the two-way mirror. Some may want the moderator to spontaneously introduce a new question or discussion point based on what they’re hearing right then and there. Additionally, many clients like to contemplate or even take action on some of the feedback rather than waiting on us to deliver the full research report a few weeks later. In fact, we have clients who utilize just about every tidbit of feedback they hear in the back room for opportunities to improve products, training, communications, and more.
But, often those behind that two-way mirror have been directly involved in creating what the focus group is evaluating,? perhaps a new web site, ad campaign, product, or service. So, if the participants’ feedback is critical rather than glowing, someone from the client’s office or agency may get a bit defensive or, even worse, downright offended. We’ve even had clients leave the back room because the focus group participants reacted so negatively to the concept being shown.
Of course, researchers know to expect some amount of sensitivity from those on the client and agency sides. After all, criticism can be difficult to hear. But, it’s important that the research firm prepare clients in advance for any potential negative feedback.
The whole point of conducting the focus group is to get honest reactions from the market before the new product or campaign is completely finished so that, if necessary, improvements can be made before the launch. If the client isn’t willing to consider feedback with an open mind and, if necessary, make tweaks or even major changes to what is being tested, then the value of the focus groups is severely diminished.
Though criticism may be tough to take, it’s certainly easier to hear it from focus group participants before the new product or campaign is launched than from the boss after it has failed in the market.