Market Research And Focus Groups
Market research plays two roles in the communication processes of any business system. First, it is part of the marketing intelligence feedback process. It provides decision makers with data on the effectiveness of the current employed techniques and provides insights for necessary changes. Second, market research is the primary tool for exploring new opportunities in the media marketplace. Segmenting, questioning and evaluating the targeted markets are the steps to acquire the necessary knowledge regarding the publics' preferences, tendencies and interests in relation, for example, to contemporary political news. According to scholars, research can be viewed as playing three functional roles; descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive.
Its descriptive function includes gathering and presenting statements of fact. The diagnostic function serves as the explanatory step in the process. Finally, the predictive function uses the researcher's descriptive and diagnostic research outcomes to predict the results of the proposed strategy under study. As an applied research tool, the focus group research technique has to test a hypothesis on high-involvement decision making, or public information processing, understand the tendencies of the public and of course evaluate the tested hypothesis. Thus, before organizing and conducting a focus group, the first step for the moderator is to define the subject of research, formulate an understandable hypothesis, prepare the setting, and recruit the focus group participants.
After these steps are completed, the moderator is ready to lead an in-depth discussion on the particular topic or concept. The goal of the focus group is to understand what people have to say and why. The emphasis is on getting participants talking at length and in detail about the subject at hand. Unfortunately, some of the very strengths of such a focus group can also become disadvantages. For example, the immediacy and apparent understandability of focus group findings can mislead instead of inform. The small size of the participating group can also be misleading and not represent adequately the real public opinion on the issue, directing the moderator to accept simple findings as overall truths. As the focus group research is data-driven, with findings and conclusions being drawn directly from the information provided, the whole method can be characterized as inductive in its approach, minimizing the originality of the findings to a mere description of the public opinion based on the available facts. Finally, the premises where the focus group is conducted, the demographics of the participants, the moderator's thinking on the issue, the lack of adequate facts, or the behavior of some of the participants in the group discussion, can cause the focus group research results to be false and the whole process to be time consuming and cost-ineffective. Concluding, a focus group by definition is an informal research procedure that develops qualitative information instead of hard data. More specifically, it can identify the range of attitudes/opinions of its participants.
Such an insight can help the moderator formulate hypotheses and questions for a later quantitative survey.
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