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How Do You Know When You Are Wasting Your Time With A Focus Group

Updated on February 6, 2013

I recall growing up and answering phone calls wanting me to answer questions about certain products. There are companies that collect data and opinions. It is especially frequent around election time when polling companies want to know people's views on issues and candidates. Everyone has heard about the Nielson television polls or JD Powers. In the last 12 years, I have discovered that you can be paid for your opinions. The companies that are known to compensate you for your opinion generally hold focus groups, and thus they have been referred as such. A number of focus group companies will solicit through Through trial and error, I have sorted the best ones and written an article about it. I have also recently experienced a bad focus group called Gravity Tank and want to share my experience about it.

Signs of a Good Focus Group

1. Clear Compensation Structure

The first sign of a good focus group is to notify the participant of the compensation structure. In the case of Gravity Tank, it also advertised on, but after it collected its participants, it pulled the advertisement. When I received an informal email message, I was told only that I was "formally invited." I should have sensed that something was wrong. Typically, when someone is selected to participate, the company will email you the terms of compensation. Here, Gravity Tank did not do this. When I asked about the compensation structure, I received an email message from an individual stating that because I did not participate, I was not going to be compensated. It should have been a sign that something was fishy. It should not be this hard to obtain some basic information, and focus groups should dispense this sort of information readily. A focus group makes money from corporations that need opinions. Obviously a company has already hired the focus group and ironed out the terms for the opinions. In this world, nobody works for free, especially when one knows that focus groups are paid a lot for gathering opinions.

2. Clear Task

The company should email you about your task clearly. When Gravity Tank merely emailed me that some person name Miguel was going to email me at his leisure a link to a research software, this did not seem right. Yes, there was plenty of information in the email message, but it did not lay out the essential information: (1) length of study (2) deadline of tasks (3) detail of tasks. All of this information should come in an organized fact page and typically it should come all together. I could start to sense that something was wrong when Gravity Tank had a few people emailing me. I was getting confused when it was so unorganized.

3. Clear Contact Information

Nowadays, one could be part of a focus group even if the parent company is not in the same city or town as you are. It is much easier to tell when a company is in your city because some of the tasks include visiting the location. However, even if a person gives you the contact information, it should be for both the individual and the company. In the case of Gravity Tank, I was told to call Miguel for software issue. However, I called and left a message. He never called me back. What was troubling was the email message saying that he too was doing this task leisurely. The light bulb should have gone off that there was something wrong.

4. Amount of Information Gathered From You

There is reasonable amount of time that a surveyor needs to determine whether you are a good candidate. However, a hour of my time is unreasonable. Gravity Tank could not stop asking questions. I felt violated with each successive question that I answered. I should have sensed when the caller stated that it was a "boutique" firm that this should have been a sign that it was not an established company. Further, I didn't know about the company until it called so that I could have done a little bit of research about it. When I did afterward, I really could not find much except that it is new.

This experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and I felt that I had to share it with others so that they do not waste their time. I also asked to withdraw my name from Gravity Tank's database. Who knows whether this group will just sell my information. Only time will tell.

Have You Participated in A Focus Group?

Have You Participated in A Focus Group?

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    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Alocsin, thanks for your comment. Because everyone hopes to do focus groups, you also do not want to fall victim to those who either are unprofessional or have no intention to pay for your opinion.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I love to do focus groups and can verify that your advice is sound. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks, Teaches12345, for sharing your feedback based on your personal experience of this industry.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks, Millionaire Tips, for your comment. I now find these political call coming to my cell phone and that means unnecessary usage of my minutes. Unless I know who is calling, I don't pick up. However, I also cannot activate the do not call part of the pre-recorded messages. Oh well!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Boy, this brings back my marketing days when we would hold focus groups to gather data on products. You are right, look for legitimate marketing groups that are professional and have well organized program. Good job on writing this topic.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      I regularly receive calls asking for my opinion about topics, especially politics. It is very irritating. Once you answer one company, your name and number gets sold to so many more.