We conduct our qualitative research where our clients’ customers actually live work, and play – not in focus group facilities. When we get into customers’ actual environments, the barriers that separate “researcher” from “participant” fade away.
When outside of the traditional facility, everything is more natural. Conversations take on a different timbre. Easily overlooked actions and details readily reveal themselves. Insights emerge that help companies go from good to great.
So if it means having a dinner party with your customers, we break bread. If it’s shopping with them, we go. If it means they will best communicate with us online, we’re connected and ready.
We’re not focus group facility haters. But facilities tend to produce discussions more akin to theater than reality. And they are only really convenient for the research team – not the people we are interested in understanding.
It’s time for a different approach. It’s time for candor.
All the teams involved had glowing praise for the process, your moderation, and the quality of the consumer feedback. This consumer work really marked a turning point in our project and the consumer feedback has been integral to our creative development.
I received the movie you created of the research and reviewed the topline. I love it. You guys went above and beyond; I did not expect a strung together movie with titles AND music. I am really, really happy.
Nice job on the moderation tonight – I can see that with this methodology you have to work hard and force folks to dig in deeper for answers sometimes. You had it all perfectly covered and were thinking ahead of us at every turn. Love your intuition…which I know is well earned.
Thanks for including me in the online chat group. It was my first “focus group” of any kind and I truly enjoyed it! I was amazed at how much I shared and how much others were sharing. I always pictured what you see on TV with people meeting in a conference room and sitting around a table. I think this is more comfortable for people to say what they want as well as convenient, since you can log-in from anywhere.
I’ve been in a focus group before but this was way cooler and better. While sitting down with Jonathan and having a hot dog at Costco, I felt like he really was listening to me. And I felt like what I was saying was going to make a difference.
It never occurred to me host a dinner party with my friends to discuss travel. But it was so enlightening to hear how we all think and can easily influence one another. Liz made it easy – and the food was yummy. Thanks for asking me to do this and putting it all together.
20 years ago, focus groups in traditional facilities were just about the only, and, certainly the most effective and efficient ways to talk with your customers.
That is no longer the case. With technology, we can be present at key moments of truth for your customers. Meeting customers in their natural “habitats” makes for more compelling and honest dialogue.
Here is a sampling of what we do. Use this as a starting point as we often combine methods and create new ones to answer our clients’ questions.
People have been sharing stories and experiences over food for 1000s of years. We think it remains the best and most natural method of getting to know people. Let us find six or seven of your best customers, treat them to a sumptuous meal in the comforts of home, and see how one dinner party can take the place of a series of multiple focus groups.
The conversation just flows and so do the insights.
Online Focus Groups
With many variants such as bulletin boards, real-time text chat groups, and new technologies emerging rapidly, online focus groups are an ever-changing method. However, their constant is the ability to quickly and efficiently gather people together (often who are hard to reach) from diverse geographical locations.
We love online focus groups and were some of the first moderators to embrace them in the late 1990s.
User Experience / Human Factors
If you have a product/service, be it digital or physical, you already know how necessary it is to observe people interacting with it.
Candorists know how to balance silent observation and listening with the skill of subtle probing. We focus on the human-product relationship, with the goal of creating an effective, reliable and easy to use product.
Whether it’s hearing aids, gas cans, e-commerce sites or financial apps, we understand how to conduct user research and treat it with the rigor it deserves.
Nothing beats being with customers and experiencing what they experience when they experience it. And experience has taught us the best ways to conduct such work in-home, in-office, in-store, and everywhere in between without being obtrusive.
When it makes sense, we also welcome client involvement as it can break yet another barrier between customer and company.
For times when we need a longer view of your customers, mobile diaries are incredibly valuable. Today’s app-based technology affords you an almost real-time dialogue with customers in situations never before thought possible for qualitative research.
Mobile diaries also provide a treasure trove of video clips and pictures to use for presentations that tell compelling stories.
Some projects defy classification and we have worked on quite a few including:
If we are not talking with the right people, our clients might as well not do the research. It’s why we work with top notch recruiters from around the country. Recruiting is all they do so you can bet they are good at it.
We ensure qualified people by screening them online, talking to them via phone, and then talking to them some more. We Google Earth homes to see what kinds of areas we are going to. We check out social media feeds. For B2B projects, we ask for callback numbers to ensure we are speaking with people who actually do what they say they do.
We’re not looking for average customer. We’re looking for the ones we can learn from. We’ll
stop at nothing to find them.
Our work is not a bunch of question and answer sessions. It could mean clubbing with people. Accompanying them on a day full of errands. Checking in with them via Skype every night before they go to bed in an apartment we’ve created for them to live in for a while. Staying in touch via a constant stream of mobile videos. Even skydiving.
It’s sharing experiences so our clients don’t have to wonder but know for certain.
We go far. We stay long. We allow our clients to see deep.
The moderator is the “special sauce” that brings it all together. This cannot be learned. One is born with it.
We’re people people. We thrive on interactions. We have them at hello. We’re not afraid to give in order to get more back.
For this, you’ll just have to trust us.
And once we’re done with our fieldwork, we’re seriously business minded. We’re not just solving for research, we’re figuring out how to build businesses.
We’ve been on the client side. We know how to write reports and presentations that get read and watched.
Two things have led me to this business and made me great at it.
First, I love “stuff.” I love to shop, the thrill of the hunt and the feeling of unboxing new things. I’m the person anxiously awaiting the UPS driver. I understand consumers because I am an uber-consumer.
Second, I am fascinated by what makes people do even the littlest things. If you’re sitting next to me on an airplane, you’re not going to get the standard “Where are you going?” and “How’s the weather there?” questions. I am going to quickly dig in and find out what really makes you tick.
So how did I get here? I started the path toward qualitative research after graduating from the University of Virginia by working in the advertising industry. I saw my first focus group and thought, “I could do that. I should do that. I’d be great at that! I must figure out how to do that!”
I soon departed for business school at Emory University and then took a job with GE in its marketing and research department. I learned how to work with and select vendors and how to think like a client. From there it was a short hop to an internet consulting firm and then to starting my own firm with Liz in 2001.
I’ve conducted qualitative research all over the world – from ivory towers in Shanghai to one room apartments in St. Petersburg to slick company headquarters in Zurich. I have worked with every major consumer packaged goods company in the world on topics ranging from frozen entrees to raw dog food to air fresheners.
Over the years, I’ve evolved my methods to mirror the evolution of the modern consumer. I’ve realized the “moderator” cannot always be the typical blank slate. It makes people uncomfortable. I view people as my guides – not just research participants. I’m in it with them all the way.
I am inherently curious and I know that curious people make the best moderators. It’s rare for people to say they don’t feel like they are working when they are working, but it is the truth for me.
By truly listening and being present, your customers tell me what they really think and feel and not just what they may think I want to hear. The dialogue blooms from our first “hello.”
I started my career at Modem Media when the Internet, as we know it now, was in its infancy. I built a research group there from scratch employing such tools as online chat groups, web cam interviews, and bulletin boards. After that experience, I met Jonathan and we started our own firm in 2001.
Now, with over 20 years of experience in “the business,” I have had the good fortune of working with the leading consumer packaged goods, financial services, technology and pharmaceutical companies talking about everything from credit cards to sustainable clothing to cotton swabs and cardiac devices.
I am also a chameleon. I am just as comfortable talking with stay-at-home moms as I am with neurologists, teens, CEOs, and fashionistas.
There’s something about me that puts people at ease and makes them want to share. They know their time and their thoughts are welcome and respected.
My love of adventure, people, and cultural curiosity led me to the Peace Corps in Burundi, Africa after college. I was trained to teach Burundians how to raise Tilapia. But the Burundians taught me ten-fold in issues of agriculture, resourcefulness, community and tenacity. Working with them was a lesson in learning how to truly listen and observe.
Soon after that experience, “World Wide Web” was becoming a household name and my fascination with people further evolved into a passion for understanding how they actually interact with technology. While attending the University of Georgia for my Masters in Education in Instructional Technology, I had many an opportunity to observe the “observed” during usability testing and I realized I had found my calling.
I begin all of my work, whether it is with web sites, products, or store design with the following words: “Remember, this is not a test of you. It’s a test of how usable what I am showing you is.”
All successful usability specialists understand those words as the key to helping customers feel comfortable as they are being observed interacting with a product, service or site. As a usability and user-experience specialist, I combine the observations across many customers, determine patterns, and provide solutions that drive the design.
Although many would like to announce its demise, market research, especially qualitative research, is alive and well. It just needs a different approach.
In an age where people are almost constantly connected, asking participants to turn their phones off for two hours during a focus group is just not going to work anymore.
We need to live in their worlds. Experience their experiences. Share in their emotions.
It’s time for candor.