What focus groups can and can’t tell you

Focus groups can be fun. They can even be useful. But you have to be careful, or they can lead you terribly astray. Check out The Assorted Pleasures of Focus Groups and M&Ms at AH&A’s Industry Voices.

The important point:

If you strictly relied on focus groups to determine your strategy, you would probably suspend all of your direct-mail efforts based on the responses you receive. Even the most generous direct-mail donors will say they hate to receive direct mail. They always will say the letters are too long, even though many actually are more likely to respond to long letters.

That’s exactly my experience with focus groups. If you take their opinions as marching orders, you’ll set yourself up for a train wreck.

The trick is to listen carefully to how they say what they say. That’s how you learn the ways non-experts think about and talk about your cause and issues.

At nearly every nonprofit focus group I’ve observed, somebody says more bang for my buck. The phrase tends to spread through the group and get repeated many times. That tells me two things:


  1. The idea of impact is very important to many donors.
  2. The phrase more bang for my buck is a very common way for them to think about impact.

Which leads to two important and useful fundraising tactics:


  1. Talk about and create offers that focus on donor impact. This is why matching grant offers are so dependably powerful.
  2. Specifically say things like, “This will give you more bang for your buck.”

That’s the kind of thing you can get from a focus group.

Read a parody of a nonprofit focus group here.


Comments

6 responses to “What focus groups can and can’t tell you”

  1. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process….

  2. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process….

  3. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process.
    Knowing how your customers make their purchasing decisions can make a difference in your marketing strategy. The first step is to learn what makes your customers think about your product and brand. Online focus group are ideal for getting consumers to think about these “trigger” factors. By asking participants to tell you how and when they first thought about your product and brand, you’ll learn their stories about what they were doing, who influenced them, and where they were when they first realized a need or want.
    Next, online focus groups allow you to probe about how consumers seek out additional information about your product and brand. Do they “carry” enough information with them to decide to buy, or do they talk to others, look at advertising, read articles, search the Internet, and/or visit the store? By knowing about their information search, you can reach your customers with the right message, in the right place and at the right time.
    Many marketers think that surveys are the way to determine what attributes consumers consider when making a purchase decision. Yet, when they design the surveys, they are not fully aware of what attributes to include. Many “copy” from other surveys or include attributes they, themselves, would consider. Online focus groups done prior to designing a survey provide invaluable input on what attributes are important to your customers. You’ll gather in-depth information about them that will help you to design an optimal survey.
    In today’s economy, many consumers never make it to the “purchasing” stage. Online focus groups can give you insight about how to help consumers make the decision to purchase now. By asking questions about consumer doubts and roadblocks, marketers can design better marketing communication and provide a smoother road for sales people to close the sale.
    Finally, every marketer needs to know how to nourish, maintain, and keep current customers. They can leverage your marketing budget and become your brand ambassadors. Online focus groups can elicit customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction so that marketers can maintain goodwill and address issues before they become problems. A “hidden gem” reward of online focus groups is their “PR” value. At the end of well-conducted focus groups, respondents report feeling satisfied and validated that the company cares for them and values their input.
    Read more about online research, online focus groups and employee surveys at:
    http://iresearch.com/blog/

  4. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process.
    Knowing how your customers make their purchasing decisions can make a difference in your marketing strategy. The first step is to learn what makes your customers think about your product and brand. Online focus group are ideal for getting consumers to think about these “trigger” factors. By asking participants to tell you how and when they first thought about your product and brand, you’ll learn their stories about what they were doing, who influenced them, and where they were when they first realized a need or want.
    Next, online focus groups allow you to probe about how consumers seek out additional information about your product and brand. Do they “carry” enough information with them to decide to buy, or do they talk to others, look at advertising, read articles, search the Internet, and/or visit the store? By knowing about their information search, you can reach your customers with the right message, in the right place and at the right time.
    Many marketers think that surveys are the way to determine what attributes consumers consider when making a purchase decision. Yet, when they design the surveys, they are not fully aware of what attributes to include. Many “copy” from other surveys or include attributes they, themselves, would consider. Online focus groups done prior to designing a survey provide invaluable input on what attributes are important to your customers. You’ll gather in-depth information about them that will help you to design an optimal survey.
    In today’s economy, many consumers never make it to the “purchasing” stage. Online focus groups can give you insight about how to help consumers make the decision to purchase now. By asking questions about consumer doubts and roadblocks, marketers can design better marketing communication and provide a smoother road for sales people to close the sale.
    Finally, every marketer needs to know how to nourish, maintain, and keep current customers. They can leverage your marketing budget and become your brand ambassadors. Online focus groups can elicit customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction so that marketers can maintain goodwill and address issues before they become problems. A “hidden gem” reward of online focus groups is their “PR” value. At the end of well-conducted focus groups, respondents report feeling satisfied and validated that the company cares for them and values their input.
    Read more about online research, online focus groups and employee surveys at:
    http://iresearch.com/blog/

  5. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process.
    Knowing how your customers make their purchasing decisions can make a difference in your marketing strategy. The first step is to learn what makes your customers think about your product and brand. Online focus group are ideal for getting consumers to think about these “trigger” factors. By asking participants to tell you how and when they first thought about your product and brand, you’ll learn their stories about what they were doing, who influenced them, and where they were when they first realized a need or want.
    Next, online focus groups allow you to probe about how consumers seek out additional information about your product and brand. Do they “carry” enough information with them to decide to buy, or do they talk to others, look at advertising, read articles, search the Internet, and/or visit the store? By knowing about their information search, you can reach your customers with the right message, in the right place and at the right time.
    Many marketers think that surveys are the way to determine what attributes consumers consider when making a purchase decision. Yet, when they design the surveys, they are not fully aware of what attributes to include. Many “copy” from other surveys or include attributes they, themselves, would consider. Online focus groups done prior to designing a survey provide invaluable input on what attributes are important to your customers. You’ll gather in-depth information about them that will help you to design an optimal survey.
    In today’s economy, many consumers never make it to the “purchasing” stage. Online focus groups can give you insight about how to help consumers make the decision to purchase now. By asking questions about consumer doubts and roadblocks, marketers can design better marketing communication and provide a smoother road for sales people to close the sale.
    Finally, every marketer needs to know how to nourish, maintain, and keep current customers. They can leverage your marketing budget and become your brand ambassadors. Online focus groups can elicit customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction so that marketers can maintain goodwill and address issues before they become problems. A “hidden gem” reward of online focus groups is their “PR” value. At the end of well-conducted focus groups, respondents report feeling satisfied and validated that the company cares for them and values their input.
    Read more about online research, online focus groups and employee surveys at:
    http://iresearch.com/blog/

  6. Online focus groups are quickly gaining in popularity due to their ability to glean customers’ thoughts quickly and inexpensively. Many marketers have not considered all of the possible uses for online focus groups. This article looks at one that applies to most marketing situations—how to determine and assess your customers’ buying decision process.
    Knowing how your customers make their purchasing decisions can make a difference in your marketing strategy. The first step is to learn what makes your customers think about your product and brand. Online focus group are ideal for getting consumers to think about these “trigger” factors. By asking participants to tell you how and when they first thought about your product and brand, you’ll learn their stories about what they were doing, who influenced them, and where they were when they first realized a need or want.
    Next, online focus groups allow you to probe about how consumers seek out additional information about your product and brand. Do they “carry” enough information with them to decide to buy, or do they talk to others, look at advertising, read articles, search the Internet, and/or visit the store? By knowing about their information search, you can reach your customers with the right message, in the right place and at the right time.
    Many marketers think that surveys are the way to determine what attributes consumers consider when making a purchase decision. Yet, when they design the surveys, they are not fully aware of what attributes to include. Many “copy” from other surveys or include attributes they, themselves, would consider. Online focus groups done prior to designing a survey provide invaluable input on what attributes are important to your customers. You’ll gather in-depth information about them that will help you to design an optimal survey.
    In today’s economy, many consumers never make it to the “purchasing” stage. Online focus groups can give you insight about how to help consumers make the decision to purchase now. By asking questions about consumer doubts and roadblocks, marketers can design better marketing communication and provide a smoother road for sales people to close the sale.
    Finally, every marketer needs to know how to nourish, maintain, and keep current customers. They can leverage your marketing budget and become your brand ambassadors. Online focus groups can elicit customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction so that marketers can maintain goodwill and address issues before they become problems. A “hidden gem” reward of online focus groups is their “PR” value. At the end of well-conducted focus groups, respondents report feeling satisfied and validated that the company cares for them and values their input.
    Read more about online research, online focus groups and employee surveys at:
    http://iresearch.com/blog/

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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