Focus Groups vs. Phone Surveys

Focus Groups vs. Phone Surveys

Focus Groups vs. Phone Surveys

Guest Post by Josh Collins

When conducting market research, how you gain information can be just as important as the information you receive. With so many different options for gathering various forms of data, or participant’s opinions now-a-days, one must ask the question: which method is most effective for what my business is trying to accomplish? Today, we’re looking at people’s interactions and the single biggest positive and negative that comes with conducting research in-person and over the phone. Of course, two of the most common research methods associated with these interactions are focus groups and phone surveys.

Focus Groups

Biggest Advantage:

In-Depth Sampling – The feeling of control one gets from a moderator’s ability to facilitate the direction of a focus group is one of the features that has the biggest appeal. The moderator is able to dictate the flow of the meeting, which includes topics covered, ordering of the questions, and follow-up questions when necessary. The latter may be the most important as the moderator is able to use follow up questions as a way of digging deeper into answers given by participants. It’s not good enough to just find out what people think, we need to find out why they think the way they do. That is truly how problems get solved and decisions get made. Focus groups are a great way this gets accomplished.

Biggest Disadvantage:

Smaller Sample Size – Focus groups are often effective because the moderator is able to connect with the participants on somewhat of a personal level. To put it simply, this can only be achieved when the number of participants stays low. As more and more people are added to the study, it slowly shifts from a single group setting to numerous individual participants. Testing smaller numbers may not represent the majority population with much accuracy. A few in-depth answers may open your eyes to new ideas, but if you’re targeting a much larger market you may want to go with quantity over quality.

Phone Surveys

Biggest Advantage:

Anonymous Setting – Imagine you’re in school filling out a teacher evaluation sheet. The school would like you to make a few comments on what you liked and disliked about your teacher. Knowing your teacher will see the responses, think about how different your answers will be depending on whether or not your name is on the sheet. If it was anonymous you would probably be more truthful about certain things you disliked about your teacher. On the other hand, with your name tied to your responses, you might tend to be kinder. This is similar to phone surveys and their semi-anonymous structure. One might be more hesitant to reveal flaws and dislikes in a formal face-to-face setting, while an informal phone conversation provides a more comfortable environment for people to expose what’s truly on their mind.


Timing – There are two issues with timing when it comes to phone surveys: too much and too little. By ‘too much’ I’m alluding to the amount of time phone surveys take to complete within a business. This poses a problem when looking at the duration and number of calls being made, which certainly can add up. ‘Too little’ is referring to the deration of time participants are willing to spend answering questions on the phone. Timing here is limited to around 10-15 minutes before participants may begin losing their focus. The key is to find balance in both and execute effectively. If done so the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

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