Flashback (The Forlorn Focus Group…)

Day time focus group sits at table having a discussion.Picture this:  It’s 7:00pm on a Wednesday night. I am sitting in the room with 8 consumers huddled around a table. It’s the dead of winter, pitch black outside, and all of the consumers are looking at their watches. No one wants to be there and it definitely shows in their conversation. They respond with one word answers and have the same amount of energy of as a 90 year old man doing jumping jacks. After what seems to be the slowest 60 minutes imaginable, the focus group lets out. Now, it’s time for the client debrief. All of my clients scurry into the debrief room telling me to make it quick as they have to… “fill in the blank.” I rush through the day’s learnings, and then a sigh of relief fills the room as we adjourn. No deeper conversations about their business needs, no bonding over the insights process, and no client dinner. Nothing. Why? Because these groups were scheduled at night…

The Challenge of After Hours Focus Groups

The scenario described above was my life when I first began in the moderator business some 15+ years ago. However, those of you who know me know that I and Insights in Marketing constantly challenge industry norms to make things better. So, shortly after I began my career, I started my quest to answer the million dollar question: Are night time groups really better than daytime groups? Facilities insist they can’t get quality recruits at night, clients often felt most comfortable scheduling at night because it was an industry norm, but do nighttime groups really generate better recruits and insight?

Consumer Engagement Rises with The Sun

My gut was telling me that nighttime groups were not as effective as daytime groups. So even though I was at the start of my career, I did the unthinkable and switched to groups during the day. What I found was astonishing!

Daytime groups were hands down more effective, efficient, and fun! Most myths associated with why nighttime groups were better were simply not true.  In fact, I uncovered the following about why daytime groups rule and nighttime groups drool:

  • There is a Better Show Rate for Daytime Groups – It turns out during the day consumers actually show up. It’s not the 1950’s anymore and as flexible schedules are becoming the norm, it’s becoming easier and easier for consumers to get out during the day. All they have to do is plan for it, do it, and they are likely happy to be there. Think about it…consumers at night are more likely to cancel as they are tired from the day, family commitments arise, babysitters cancel, and work issues come up.
  • Consumers are More Emotive During the Day -During the day consumers are not looking at the clock during groups. They are engaged and energized! The frequency and depth of insights uncovered improve, and clients are better able to meet their research objectives and grow their businesses.
  • Clients are More Engaged & Receptive During the Day – Done are the days of debriefing at 10pm. Now IIM’s clients are ready for the debrief, are invested in the findings, and work with us to really digest and deconstruct the learnings for the day. After all, how can we serve effectively as an extension of your team if your team is not at its best?
  • Daytime Groups Offer More Flexibility – Instead of being constrained to a small period of time in the evening, IIM is now able to conduct more groups in one day. Also, there is more schedule flexibility to allow for client dinners, debrief meetings, and deeper market dives such as store audits.
  • Daytime Groups are More Fun – Most importantly, daytime groups allow us time (all of us!) to enjoy what we are doing. They give us a chance really talk about the findings from the day, grab dinner, learn each other’s brand stories and better meet each other needs.

IIM’s early intuition about daytime groups has caught on. Focus groups during the day are now much more common and easier to recruit for. IIM is excited to have played a key role in such a positive industry change! We look forward to continuing to be catalysts for more positive changes to come…