Red pencil and questionnaire

What We Learned: Understanding Audiences, Market Research, Demystified, Part II

NOTE: This post is a follow-up to our previous post, “What We Learned: Understanding Audiences, Market Research, Demystified, Part I

As we covered in our previous post, our September 12 workshop explored the fundamentals of Market Research, and gave attendees a lot to consider. After defining key research terms and examples, and leading us in a few interactive exercises to explore the dynamics of qualitative research, our guest thought leader,  Kimberly Daniels August, Founder of KDA Research,  fielded a number of great questions from the audience. Below, a few highlights:


What size should a typical focus group be? 

Kimberly explained that she prefers smaller focus groups (typically around 6 people), as focus groups should generate meaningful dialogue, and a more intimate group size allows for more time to delve into the topic and explore each participant’s reaction to the topic. Kimberly noted that some of the most meaningful insights can come from questions that weren’t even on the discussion guide, but from taking the time to probe on a comment or statement made.  There is not as much time for this kind of in-depth follow up with larger group sizes.  Smaller focus  discussions can also be held with two (“dyads”) and three (“triads”) people to allow for even more time to dig deeper and to hear personal perspectives.  Additionally, if the topic is sensitive in nature, smaller groups are often preferred as some may feel more comfortable discussing somewhat sensitive topics in smaller settings.


Is it ever a good idea to limit your market research to just one focus group?

Limiting your market research to just one focus group, we discussed, is not ideal. While it can provide you with valuable insights that you may not have otherwise considered, doing so only makes sense if those sponsoring the group are aware that they will be talking to a small number of people and that the information should be considered anecdotal. Also, attendees should be carefully screened to ensure that the insights you gather are credible enough to inform any next steps in your marketing exploration (not just friends!).  August also cautioned us not to rely solely on the findings of your focus groups; reviewing website analytics, for example, or supplementing with a quantitative study, can help paint a broader picture of your key audience needs.


I would like to create a survey, but don’t know where to begin. Any pointers? 


We discussed several tips here for getting started with online surveys:

  • 1. Always determine your goal for each question prior to composing the survey. Why are you asking this question? Is there an outcome that you want from it? What will you do with the answers? Having a specific goal in mind for each question will help guide the success of the survey and increase its overall value to you as a market researcher.

  • 2. Consider how you can pose the question to get the most valuable information from your respondents. Many surveys have too many “close-ended” questions (yes/no) which don’t end up providing much context. With smaller respondent bases, which are typical with small business surveys, more open-ended questions will give you context. For example, instead of asking, “Do you like XYZ?” you might ask, “What about XYZ  do you like?” This will encourage the survey participant to think deeper, , and also help you identify topics, themes, and trends to further explore in future qualitative research.

  • 3. Remember that “less-is-more”; keep your survey, and your questions, as short as possible. Questions that are too long might confuse survey participants, and lead to dropoffs. And, put sensitive or more difficult questions near the end of the survey; placing a hard question at the beginning or a survey might defer participants.


There are many free and low-cost survey tools available online which have pre-set surveys and templates created by market research professionals. Mashable has a helpful starter guide,  “5 Tips for Creating an Online Survey”, as does Inc. Magazine in and these roundups from IncTech,  Techsoup, and Socialbrite are a good place to start.


Special thanks to Kimberly for joining us for this session! We hope to see many of you at our upcoming sessions, “Why Words Matter: Making Your Website Content Count” on October 18 from 5:30-7 and “Get Socially Savvy: Social Media Essentials for Growing Businesses” on November 3 from 11:30-1! Until then…happy researching!








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