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Conducting Focus Groups


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Title: Conducting Focus Groups

Conducting Focus Groups
  • Presented to the
  • Outdoor Recreation Conference
  • July 22, 2003

Why Do Focus Groups?
  • Effective can eliminate guess work regarding
    what customers and potential customers think and
  • Inexpensive
  • Open lines of communication and provide a direct
    link with current and potential patrons
  • Evaluate program offerings measure how well
    objectives are being met
  • Offer suggestions for improvement

Benefits of Focus Groups
  • Customers provide a wealth of information
  • personal experience, observation, conversations
    with other customers, and experience at other
  • Indicates degree of consumer interest/enthusiasm
    for new or existing programs
  • Can quickly identify problems, suggest solutions
    and monitor marketing efforts
  • Provides fresh approaches to problems
  • participants not biased by past organizational
  • Flexible and allow for creativity
  • Fast put together quickly and at most 1 and ½
    hours for each group (40 participants per day)

Drawbacks of Focus Groups
  • Small sample sizes
  • not projectable to population
  • Easily biased by discussion leader
  • Recommend someone outside of the program area
    moderate contact MARKETING OFFICE
  • Easily biased by very vocal participants
  • Requires experience and tight control by moderator

Focus Groups Best Used When...
  • Quick results are desired
  • A general feel for the answers to your questions
    is what you need
  • Doesnt need to be projectable to the population
  • Input is needed for a larger research project
  • Testing new program ideas
  • Creativity is required

  • Identify the Objective
  • Plan
  • Recruit Participants
  • Moderate
  • Analyze
  • Create Final Report

Identify the Objective
  • The first step is identifying what you need to
    know or know more about
  • Information about patrons characteristics and
    wants or desires
  • Perceptions of your programs offerings
  • Evaluations of service, price, locations
  • Brainstorming for new program ideas

  • Use the objective to decide the following
  • Timing (when are the results needed?)
  • Number of groups 3-4 groups for each topic
    schedule groups 2 hours apart
  • Participants (who do you need to talk to?)
  • Current users and/or potential users
  • Active Duty, Civilian, Retiree, Family Member,
    other Authorized Users
  • On post or off post residents
  • Dont mix officers and enlisted, high/low wage
    groups, etc.
  • Questions to be included in the focus group guide
  • Costs who will pay for incentives, etc.?
  • Be sure to audio tape all groups

Recruit Participants
  • Ideally, there should be 8-10 participants in
    each group, so recruit 12-14
  • Recruit as randomly as possible from each target
  • No MWR employees should participate or observe
  • Participation must be voluntary and an incentive
    should be used
  • Coupons for MWR activities
  • Participants should be told groups will last 1 to
    1 and ½ hours

Recruit Participants (continued)
  • Contact the marketing office for assistance in
    getting participants
  • Advertise in the newspaper or bulletin
  • Randomly select program users (every 5th one in
    the door) to participate
  • Have marketing put a request in their e-mail
    publication (if your installation has one)
  • Advertise on the post web site

  • Moderation is the major influence on the outcome
    of the groups. Moderators must be
  • Objective
  • Knowledgeable on subject matter
  • Informed about group dynamics/consumer behavior

Moderation Tips
  • Practice listening, not talking
  • Be flexible
  • Facilitate, dont participate
  • Practice memory techniques
  • Think globally keep the big picture in mind

Moderation Tips (continued)
  • Create a supportive environment
  • Encourage interaction
  • Keep discussion relevant
  • Dont allow straying from topic
  • Dont allow gripes to take over
  • Maintain control
  • Dont allow very verbal participants to take over
  • Note timing
  • Be sure to summarize and ask for group
    confirmation before closing

Moderation Tips (continued)
  • Make good eye contact with person speaking, but
    scan all participants for reactions, as well
  • Face the person speaking, stay relaxed, but dont
    slouch maintain open posture
  • Actively listen to participants, rather than
    planning your next question
  • Memorize discussion guide, but be flexible enough
    to follow conversation where it goes
  • No need to follow discussion guide questions in
    the specific order theyre listed

Moderation Tips (continued)
  • Minimize interruptions and judgmental responses
  • Keep your responses short
  • You want participants to talk, not you
  • Use leads
  • Oh, so, then, and, tell me more, etc.
  • Use restatements to clarify understanding
  • Take notes on body language, overall reactions

Moderation Tips (continued)
  • Probe if you dont completely understand
  • Get more details, motivations, and feelings by
    using the following
  • What does that suggest to you?
  • Can you explain that a bit more?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Why do you say that?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • Why do you think that is?
  • In what way do you think thats true?

Moderation Tips (continued)
  • Dont ask leading questions
  • Dont you think that
  • Dont you agree that
  • I really think..dont you agree?
  • Most people say.dont you think thats true?
  • Handle dominant respondents
  • Avoid eye contact, turn body away, use hand
    gestures, address other participants by name

  • Participants should be seated around a circular
    or rectangular table that comfortably seats 12
  • If rectangular, place moderator at the head of
    the table
  • Place cards should be used with first names
  • Soft drinks/water/coffee and/or snacks should be
    made available to participants
  • All focus group discussions should be audio taped
    for purposes of reporting and direct quotation
  • Begin by asking each participant to introduce
    themselves - icebreaker

Discussion Guide
  • Use a funnel approach
  • Start with most general topics
  • Leisure time activities
  • General opinion of installation/location
  • Move to specific objectives
  • Program image
  • Usage
  • Quality of service
  • Pricing
  • Promotion
  • Hours
  • Suggested improvements

  • Transcribe tape recordings from each group word
    for word
  • Be sure to protect participants privacy
  • Include your notes taken during each session as
    well as observations about body language, etc.
  • Every session is different, each analysis will be
  • Look for similarities and reinforcements from
    group to group

Analyze (continued)
  • Identify key issues
  • Prioritize key issues
  • Select which issues to address
  • Make recommendations
  • Justified by the research

Final Report
  • Be succinct
  • Write a management summary including the research
    dates, number of groups, description of
    participants, locations, and objectives of the
  • Use actual quotations and reinforcement in the
    body of the report to support your insights
  • Scan and examine notes and quotes to identify
    patterns, irregularities, or relationships

Final Report (continued)
  • Summarize with conclusions and recommendations
    for action relating specifics to the objectives
  • Remember, results cannot be generalized to the
    entire population due to small sample sizes

Get Close to Your Customers
  • Focus on the benefits of Outdoor Recreation in
  • Having fun
  • Having access to things you cant get access to
    anywhere else
  • Saving money (by not having to buy your own
  • Socializing opportunities
  • Personal satisfaction (learning a new skill or
  • Get involved in the orientation process at your
  • Brief units, newcomers briefings, BOSS members,
    students, etc.
  • Build on customer word of mouth
  • For every user that brings a non-user in, they
    get a free hour of rental time, etc.
  • Identify potential cross marketing efforts for
    programs child/youth, trainees/student units,

Get Close to Your Customers (continued)
  • Take the facilities to the people use high
    traffic areas such as the P/X or commissary to
    conduct demonstrations, display new equipment,
    and highlight photos of recent trips/tours/events.
  • Form a customer advisory committee for idea
    generation and promotional tactics.
  • Utilize e-mail and/or Internet to publicize
    upcoming eventsconsider creating an ODR e-zine
    for customers to subscribe to.
  • Review hours or operation periodically to meet
    the needs of your customers. Consider varying
    hours to be open later one or two evenings a week
    and longer on weekends.

  • Do you receive Tidbits?
  • A monthly e-mail publication that includes
    research on families, child and youth food,
    beverage and entertainment leisure, hobbies and
    skill development internet/computers sports and
    fitness and travel/tourism
  • If you dont receive it directly and would like
    to, give me your business card today or e-mail me

Examples of Outdoor Recreation Tidbits
  • Most popular leisure activities ( of American
    adults participating) exercise walking59,
    gardening45, swimming35, bicycling25,
    fishing23, camping21, hiking/backpacking14
    and power boating- 9. Scarborough Research,
    2001/American Demographics, April 2002
  • Some 69 million Americans go boating at least
    once a year and at any moment there are 17
    million privately owned boats afloat in marinas
    and dockominiums, stowed in garages or out on a
    voyage. Share of boats sold retail in 2002
    kayaks40 outboard boats25 canoes12
    personal watercraft9 sterndrive boats8
    sailboats3 inboard ski/wakeboard boats1
    inboard cruisers1 and jet boats1. According
    to research by Impulse, water rats are happier
    and more likely to say they are satisfied with
    their relationships and accomplishments than
    those who dont own watercraft. More of them
    rate the quality of their lives as excellent or
    good and two-thirds attribute their well-being to
    owning a boat. American Demographics, May 2003

Examples of Outdoor Recreation Tidbits(continued)
  • Favorite activities of recreational vehicle
    owners camping-80, attending craft and harvest
    festivals-47, fishing-46, viewing foliage-45,
    hiking-44, biking-36, and outlet mall
    shopping-30. Todays typical RV owner is white,
    50 years old and married, according to MRI, with
    a mean household income of 71,900 they spend
    approximately 19 days a year in their rolling
    homes. Theyre more likely than average to
    listen to country music and talk radio, as well.
    Recreational Vehicle Industry Association/America
    n Demographics, June 2003
  • With 4.1 million participants, fresh-water
    fishing is the fourth most popular sport among
    12-17 year-olds, after basketball (7.8 million),
    bicycle riding (6.4 million) and inline skating
    (5.1 million). National Sporting Goods
    Association/Research Alert, July 19, 2002

Leisure Needs Survey (LNS)
  • 2003 LNS
  • Focuses on leisure activity participation and
    perceived quality of MWR programs and facilities,
    and program and facility user profiles.
  • Feeds into 5-year program planning process and
    Installation Status Report (ISR) 3.

LNS (continued)
  • Currently postponed, pending removal of the Army
    Research Institutes moratorium on all Army-wide
  • Once moratorium is lifted, 6-8 months for survey
    process, analysis and report production
  • Survey will be offered in hard copy and via the
  • Final draft is available here today, if youd
    like to see it

MWR Branding Initiative
  • In 2001, the Chief of Staff of the Army directed
    CFSC to undertake proactive efforts to
    communicate the value of MWR to all Army
    components and the American public.
  • Advertising campaign featured three distinctly
    different MWR programs per advertisement,
    illustrating a new slogan, MWR is for all of
    your life and was disseminated through selected
    installation newspapers, Army Times, the
    Pentagram, Government Executive Magazine (print
    and online), TROA, and Stars and Stripes
    (European and Far East).

MWR Branding Initiative (continued)
MWR Branding Initiative (continued)
  • The Hill and Knowlton Communications Agency was
    contracted to develop a cohesive, unified brand
    identity for Army MWR to enhance awareness,
    increase MWR program and service usage, and drive
    strong support for MWR as a key benefit of Army
  • A pilot program and draft strategic
    communications plan was developed to test
    messages, communications channels and tools in
    the field. The pilot program kicked off in
    October 2002 at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey
    Fort Drum, New York and Fort Leonard Wood,
    Missouri with pre- and post- focus groups,
    marketing and program manager training, and
    Garrison Commander and Director of Community
    Activities briefings.

MWR Branding Initiative (continued)
  • Pilot results were incorporated into the
    Strategic Communications Plan which is now being
    coordinated through CFSC. Once our Commanding
    General approves, the document will be presented
    at the Working Group in August and the Executive
    Committee Meeting in September. Following that,
    it will move to implementation at the Region and
    installation levels.
  • Implementation will include new visual standards
    for the logo along with engagement tactics for
    all levels of MWR associates customers,
    providers, hosts and patrons.

  • Amy Hipschen
  • U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center
  • Senior Marketing Consultant