Thought Process Development and Focus Group Materials Planning

The best chess players think several moves in advance. The same is true when we design qualitative research! What do you really need to learn and how do you plan to use the information? What audiences do you need to hear discuss the issues? Will you have exhibits, visuals, ads, or prototypes to show… and how much lead time is require to produce those materials? Question order in the discussion guide and the amount of content to cover matter too! And when do you need the report?

So how do we balance these issues? At PAR we begin by listening! We ask our clients to poll their key stakeholders, simply asking the top 2-3 things each stakeholder really needs to learn from this research. We ask how the information will be used…is this an early task in product development – or is this a final disaster check? Will the findings be used to understand specific problems or do we want to understand habits/usage/process? What background and profiling information do we need to collect from participants? Mechanically, the process looks like this:

  • We have preliminary discussions with the client to define project parameters.
  • PAR issues a proposal describing the problem and offers recommended research method, sample composition, logistics, timing, preliminary areas of inquiry, duties of each party, pricing and other considerations to discuss before finalizing the agreement.
  • When the proposal is approved we begin materials development. We write a screener (recruiting document) and discuss list sources to facilitate recruiting. We finalize plans for recruiting and for the respondent confirmation efforts.
  • Next we develop the discussion guide draft and review that with the client. Exhibits and other in-group documents need to be developed as a part of this process.
  • At the appointed time we travel to markets and gather with client observers for a final dry run through the discussion guide, finalizing any last minute adjustments to content and confirming overall objectives just prior to the group sessions.
  • We communicate with observers at key points during the group sessions, checking to be sure all critical knowledge has been captured. 
  •  At the end of the sessions we meet for a quick debriefing, simply confirming key top of mind elements that surfaced in the sessions. We normally do this before clients leave the building the final night of the groups.
  • A topline report is typically prepared and delivered to our clients 1-2 days after the final session. Final reporting is normally available 1-2 weeks after the final group.

    In our experience, the richest, most powerful insights come when the research is given time for in-depth background study and materials planning and development. Early communication between PAR and the client is a critical factor that defines final client satisfaction with process and results.