Consumers are People, Not Lab Rats

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups |




If I could do market research about jetpacks, people would beg to be in my focus groups.  Alas, many research topics are rarely that sexy so we must entice participants instead with pay.  But even money only buys people’s time, and what market research focus groups really need–deep introspection, stimulating conversation, and fresh insight–takes more than money.  It takes relationship.

As you know, every transaction is really about relationship: creating a connection of trust between suppliers and customers.  But when you’re talking about a new product or something ordinary and commonplace, consumers either don’t have that relationship or don’t even know they have one in the first place.  They need a compelling reason to consider one. That’s where I come in.

I start building connections with participants before they even walk in the door, using email, phone calls or blogs.  When they arrive, I’m the one person they know and it helps them feel comfortable right away.  Immediately, I engage them, feed them, and respond to signals they’re putting out.  It’s my job, but it’s also something I love to do.

In some cases I’ll tell them from the start what my client is trying to decide, making them stakeholders in the project itself.  Other times, I just admit:  “I know these might be boring, repetitive questions but your answers will really help my client make an important decision.”

I’ve had participants, near strangers say:  “You made this really fun!”

In those crucial early minutes, I let them know I see them as smart people whose judgment I trust and whose help I need.  That builds a bridge they’re willing to cross.  They no longer feel like lab rats.  They feel like a steering committee.

Imagine what I could do with jetpacks!

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