Recruiting Focus Group Respondents

Recruiting Focus Group Respondents: A Latimer Appleby Useful Guide

“How do we determine who we want, in short how do we recruit focus groups?” is something we are often asked at Latimer Appleby. The following is some of the advice we provide in response to this important question.

Respondent profile

At Latimer Appleby, after detailed discussion with our clients, we recruit to an agreed profile. This is likely to be defined by a combination of criteria such as: age; gender; or life stage. It can however also be determined by attitudes, values, or behaviour. It is possible to recruit an extremely tightly-defined group, for example ABC1 current users, aged 28, non-working mums and married with 3 children, given enough time and budget, but it would be very difficult. On the other hand, a group specification of: “female shoppers aged 18 to 44 years” is probably too wide. The 18 years olds are more likely to be living with their parents, or are possibly students, and the forty-somethings may well have children, if not grandchildren of their own. They will probably have quite different perspectives on many issues. This includes your brand or market.

Group composition

Our view of qualitative research is that we are aiming to talk to a small group who, between them, may help us to uncover those issues relevant to a particular demographic. In other words, each group”s composition should be of “like-minded” individuals to maintain relevance.

Group dynamics

Importantly, group dynamics also come into play. This means we are seeking to recruit focus groups in which differences between respondents do not prove to be an overpowering distraction, and, thereby, prevent respondents focusing on the matter in hand. Clearly different groups in a study can have quite different compositions of respondents. With some types of research, we try to avoid mixing genders. For example, combining young male pub drinkers and young female pub goers in a group could potentially be unproductive as each may be inhibited by the expressions of their differing motivations and needs.

Selection criteria

These are some of the main selection criteria to consider when you recruit focus groups:

  • Gender – The “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” sentiment is true in many markets.
  • Age/life-stage – Pre-family respondents probably don”t have any interest in nappies, and many retired people have no need for a mortgage!
  • Social class – Although this has fallen out of fashion it is still in vogue in the popular press and a number of brand owners still target using social grade or class.
  • Income – Students, unless they are independently wealthy, are probably not in the market for a Ferrari and many of the better off are not likely to be motivated by a lot of promotional offers.
  • Usage/behaviour – This is possibly the most important criterion; having a sense of: when your brand has been used; how often has it been used; why it has been used; and has it ever been used. If recruiting for “regular” users, what is your definition of “regular”? Let”s also not forget the lapsed user or the non user; if you wish to include these two, what are your criteria for “lapsed” or “non” users?
  • Values, beliefs and motivations – These are the deep-seated drivers that influence behaviour, and that help to explain the reasons behind the behaviours that take place.

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