l When companies use focus group in their researches?
As China presents a very potential market open to the whole world in many industries, an increasing number of foreign companies try to step into the Chinese market. For most of them, marketing research is considered as an absolute necessity before they launch in large their business. Among the consulting methodologies, focus group is an important tool used as a major qualitative research method to get more direct and in-depth information within a group of six to eight people. It’s often applied by companies to explore the real and deep ideas of consumers which traditional surveys(questionnaire) can hardly achieve. Generally, companies prefer focus group when their objectives are fixed in regard to product concept, product testing, product packaging testing, advertisement concept, consumers’ satisfaction and users’ purchasing actions.
l How to select and target the participants to build up focus group in China?
We determine what category of people should be the participants in focus group according to the treated subject and fixed objectives. For the most of time, focus group consists of people who share similar backgrounds and purchasing experience. In China, as people have a strong social stratum concept, it’s better not to gather people whose social ranks are so different, only when it’s a necessity. Although Chinese people are at least bi-lingual(Mandarin, Sichuanhua, Yueyu, Shanghaihua), some people have still been accustomed to speak their dialects to express to the point .in a comfortable way. So, we should make sure if the group members can communicate without problems. Since focus group in China treats more often the in-depth and more professional subjects, we should invite the professionals and key persons in a certain industry. But how can we make it because of busy agenda of those professionals. Firstly, you should find their contacts by SNS or other channels and then get in touch with them to tell about the subject. It’s an art to do with this, for some would consider the call as a trouble or joke, especially for Chinese who are rarely involved in these activities. Thus, you should prepare very well your presentation of your company , your activities, your objectives, time cost and their recompenses. In China , some people say they are professional, but in fact , they are far away from this level. In this case, we can use a simple questionnaire or some questions on phone to evaluate the pertinence of the participants. We can also make use of our personal relations to find these contacts, which will be more easier. More importantly, we should avoid that the participants know each other. Besides, if a group of 8 people is to be set up, we’d better have two or three extra people in case of emergency.
l How to handle the process of focus group in China?
As the invited should be important persons or governmental officials, it’s better to send them visit cards in honor of them who will later participate more actively in the discussion. Sometimes, people from different provinces have different expressing habitudes, so the communication requires the moderator’s good understanding and translation of Chinese. If necessary, he or she is ought to facilitate the exchanges of each other and promote a good atmosphere. Owing to Chinese restraints and shyness, the discussion may be led to a silence, so the moderator should be humorous and have skills to motivate the participants. Chinese people like to express their opinions after well thinking over the subject, so it’s better to leave some minutes for them to think and find arguments . Thus , they’ll be more confident in their statement. As the discussion of focus group in china lasts generally 1-2 hours, so a break is often made to offer them some snacks, which will warm them up to rebegin the discussion. During the break, the moderator can also establish a closer relationship with the group members so that they can be more natural in the second half. In addition, the moderator should lead all the participants to talk around the fixed subject with various questions asked in a interesting way to concentrate their attention.
l After discussion
After the discussion is over, the moderator is to draw up a report in which he or she describes and analyzes what were mentioned in the communication with the help of radio or video records. Once the consulting project is accomplished, the consulting companies should better send the analysis results to the participants who can recognize their importance and value in the project. In this case, the consulting companies come to enlarge and strengthen their social relations which they can use in future projects. At the same time, it helps the participants to know about the consulting industry’s importance in marketing, so he is probably willing to attend to it afterwards and themselves can also ask for consulting companies for similar services.