As you may know, I participated in my very first focus group  last night at a company called Observation Baltimore on a home improvement panel. In chatting with the folks who were there, we had a good mix of individual backgrounds from a home ownership perspective, from a handyman-esq perspective, and from an income perspective. Clearly that was done intentionally but it was surprising that even with the diversity on those levels, we had similar experiences when it came to home improvement and the companies we would later talk about.
For our time, we were paid $100 cash for a 90 minute panel plus $10 for parking in the Marriott nearby. When you consider all the other elements involved in the process (online survey, travel), it worked out to be a reasonable rate but not something you could live on (or depend on). One of the guys there was retired so he said he did a few of these a month just for kicks, but it isn’t something he could live on.
Before we actually started the 12 person focus group, they must have asked me the same exact questions four different times. The first time was in the email survey I had to answer before I could be qualified to be on the panel. Then they called on two different occasions (this I think was a clerical mistake on their part) to confirm what I had written on the survey. Finally, I had to fill out yet another paper survey when I was waiting for the panel to start. So, at a minimum you have to have the patience to answer the same questions three times.
Being on the panel was kind of fun because it was basically twelve people sitting around a table talking to a moderator about home improvement projects, the companies we talked to, our experiences with them, and basically any and all information regarding many of the major brands in the region (Home Depot, Lowes, local companies). Eventually you could tell who the client of the research firm was because we began drilling down into that company, its reputation, and eventually the focus of the research – whether the company should invest in getting a spokesperson.
Would I Do It Again?
I had another unrelated meeting up in Baltimore almost immediately after the focus group at around 7pm so it dovetailed nicely into that. I think that if I didn’t have that meeting, I probably would’ve rather gone home after work than drive 15 minutes up to Baltimore just to participate in a focus group. Don’t get me wrong, the money was nice but my time is much nicer. The key then would be to find research groups located closer to home and thus shave that 30 minutes off the total time spent.
If you want to do this, just do a Google search for “focus group” and your city, state; I just did it with my city, state and found a company nearby without a problem. I would check out their site, research their name and reputation, the last thing you want to do is just put yourself on another junk spam mailing list.