The Assorted Pleasures of Focus Groups and M&Ms
This is why focus groups should be used as a complement to instead of a replacement for standard testing techniques. The ultimate test of a direct-marketing campaign still is the tried-and-true mail strategy, which bases its results on a donor’s true actions.
If you strictly relied on focus groups to determine your strategy, you would probably suspend all of your direct-mail efforts based on the responses you receive. Even the most generous direct-mail donors will say they hate to receive direct mail. They always will say the letters are too long, even though many actually are more likely to respond to long letters.
So how do you tell the useful tidbits from the useless ones? Success requires a trained ear. It’s often the little comments you hear most frequently that are most helpful. A number of participants might find one set of copy patronizing. Or they might get stuck on a particular phrase they don’t like. A particular teaser on the outer envelope might prove to be a turnoff. The graphics on an insert might make the copy difficult to read. One piece of copy might confuse them, while the other is clearer concerning the issue. Maybe one part of your argument is stronger than another.
Just a couple useful nuggets of information can go a long way toward creating a stronger direct-mail package and justifying the expense of a focus group.
The use of focus groups is also not right for every organization. If your organization is small, focus groups probably are not cost-effective for you. Hiring a professional to coordinate a series of focus groups is not a cheap affair.
Oh, and let me issue one last, important warning: Attending too many focus groups can have a negative effect on your waistline.
Jim Hussey is president of Adams Hussey & Associates. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.