Focus groups can be a powerful marketing tool—if they are conducted by experienced marketing research consultants who understand that not every focus group is equal. For example, focus groups of retail consumers are different from those of small business owners. Effectively designing and moderating an effective focus group necessitates understanding this, as well as having a precise understanding of what it is one is trying to learn.
Doctors are frequently recruited to participate in focus groups, and for a variety of reasons, from analyzing opinions of new pharmaceuticals to assessing best practice for electronic health records implementation. Whatever the cause, it is essential to understand that the procedures employed in physician focus groups are different than those for other market segments–the quality of research results obtained is dependent on this understanding.
Here are five tips for conducting successful physician focus groups:
- Be Mindful of Group Dynamics: Doctors sometimes disagree with one another, and some can be outspoken about those disagreements. While there is nothing inherently problematical about the emergence of conflicts within focus groups, there are occasions in which one or two participants with very strong opinions will monopolize the discussion, leading to results which are not truly representative. Consider conducting one-on-one interviews or mini-focus groups to counter this.
- Doctors Are Not Used to Taking Orders: Doctors, by dint of their profession, are accustomed to being in control, to giving orders. The focus group moderator must take pains to make it clear that he or she controls the group before the proceeding gets under way. One simple tactic is to create name tags which level the playing field, featuring for example “Jim” rather than “Dr. Johnson.”
- Cell Phones Off: The dynamic of a good focus group requires an uninterrupted back and forth. If doctors exit the family Thanksgiving dinner to take a call, they will not hesitate to do the same in a focus group. The moderator should make the rules clear from the outset—no cell phones, no beepers, and no leaving the room once the focus group starts.
- Doctors’ Opinions Are Widely Divergent: whatever the issue, doctors disagree with one another, probably more than most other market segments. For this reason, it is critical to administer enough focus groups to ensure that information garnered is genuinely representative of the larger community.
- Choosing the Right Moderator Makes a Difference: not every moderator, even those experienced with other types of focus groups, is successful with physicians. As noted in number 2 above, doctors like to be in control, so you need a moderator who is not easily intimidated. In addition, doctor focus groups often entail a good deal of obscure, medical jargon which the moderator must comprehend in order to converse intelligently.
If your market research involves doctors, the best way to ensure the collection of valid, useful information is to work with experienced marketing consultants, in particular those whose experience includes conducting focus groups with doctors and nurses.
For more information about using focus groups to enhance your market research, contact us today.