5 September 2019

Why focus groups can give you more…

As the pharma space continues on its ever-increasingly competitive trajectory, sometimes understanding the ‘why’ is not enough for our clients. There is sometimes a need to go a level deeper, understanding the triggers and barriers to the ‘why’ unearthed in a setting which encourages debate and challenging of ideas and opinions. Introducing the focus group…

As with all of our qualitative market research, focus group methodology is a key instrument in our toolbox as it enables us to understand not just the ‘what’ to your research questions, but also the ‘why’. Unlike the more conventional one-on-one interview approach, however, focus group methodology provides a valuable additional layer of insight, providing the opportunity to witness the respondents not only giving their views, but also reacting to other respondents’ like-minded or contradictory viewpoints. Focus group methodology provides a ‘safe space’ which allows respondents to interact with one another, discussing the topic of interest openly within the group, illuminating areas of consensus, areas of conflict, and triggers which lead to opinion or behaviour change.

The composition of the focus group is also flexible and can be tailored to be fit for purpose. Are you trying to understand the belief landscape of a therapy area/ treatment space, where it is of interest to you to see where and why certain perceptions and beliefs about that space may differ? In this case, you may wish to conduct focus groups composed of different specialties who hold differing beliefs (which can be identified at screening) about that therapy area. Alternatively, is it more important for you to understand the beliefs held by a specific specialty type who may be a key stakeholder when it comes to prescribing your asset? In this case you may wish to conduct a focus group composed of the same specialty types. We can tailor this methodology, in terms of size and its composition, to suit the questions that need answering.

As with all methodologies, however, focus groups do not come without their pitfalls. But we at Vox.Bio are aware of these and have the tools and experience to mitigate these risks:

  1. With a greater number of respondents to manage at one time, focus groups pose the risk of being more challenging to control and the focus of the discussion more easily straying on a tangent as the discussion evolves.

      Consequently, focus groups require experienced moderators who can both lead the groups and steer the discussion whilst also being the person in the group who speaks the least (as of course it is more important to hear from the respondents, not the moderator!).

      Vox.Bio have a wealth of experience in leading focus groups with a variety of specialty types, in a variety of therapy areas to ensure that the discussion remains focused and relevant

      2. Some people are natural introverts and feel far removed from their comfort zone speaking in a group setting, especially if other members of that group are natural extroverts and speak more in group environments, and therefore may not feel confident speaking up in a focus group.

          The key to a successful focus group is to have as equal participation as possible from all members of the group, so that we hear the viewpoints of all. This is where the skills and experience of focus group management will ensure that every member of the group has their say. We ensure that every member of the group has spoken within the first 5 minutes of the discussion, so that we break the ice at the very beginning setting up a platform where all respondents feel comfortable speaking for the remainder of the interview. We achieve this with ice-breaker exercises and these can be something as simple as going around the group asking all respondents to introduce themselves, their role, their practice setting and something about their area of interest. Also, if we notice that there are certain individuals within the group who are dominating the discussion, we focus questions directly to those sitting quietly to ensure we maintain that balance within the group

          We are passionate about the work that we do with our clients and tailoring our methodologies to meet their needs and we would love to talk to your more about how focus groups can answer your next business questions.