What focus groups can never tell you

The focus group hated your direct mail, right?

They always hate direct mail. Including the direct mail they specifically responded to — the reason they’re in the focus group.

Focus groups (and many other types of qualitative research) are incapable of telling the truth a bout their motives. That’s what Seth Godin has noticed and posted about at Surveys and focus groups:

Surveys that ask your customers about their preferences, their net promoter intent, their media habits — they’re essentially useless compared to watching what people actually do when they have a chance.

Focus groups can give you insights into how people talk about your cause. But they’ll lead you specifically the wrong direction if you try to find out how people will respond to your fundraising.


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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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