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The Opinion and Marketing Research Industry makes a fundamental and profound difference in the lives and well being of people throughout the world. Consumers, business owners/managers, and professionals benefit by having their interests, views and preferences voiced to businesses and organizations that develop new products and services or improve existing ones.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a research method similar to an interactive and lively round-table discussion. They are usually conducted with a small number of people who have similar interests. A leader directs the discussion to explore a variety of issues related to the topic being researched. Focus groups are usually held at special facilities located across the country that are designed to accommodate the unique requirements of marketing research.

How/where do I sign up for Focus Groups?

Companies that specialize in focus group research maintain databases of people in their community who are interested in participating in focus groups or other marketing research studies. Once a person becomes a database member, he/she is contacted periodically and interviewed to determine whether or not he/she meets the criteria required for a particular study.

If you are interested in participating in research studies, you can contact opinion and marketing research firms that have focus group facilities to inquire how to become a member of their database. Go to www.bluebook.org/focus.cfm to find a company in your area.

Not all companies accept unsolicited call-ins from people who want to join the database. Companies that accept unsolicited call-ins may gather some personal information about you and your household.

At this time, there is no "master database" to join to participate in focus groups.

How do I know if a focus group company is legitimate?

Problems rarely occur when dealing with an established marketing research company as these companies rely on the goodwill of their community to attract people like you to participate in their studies. Check the MRA member listing, or with your local better business bureau or chamber of commerce. Established marketing research companies also have a web site that describes their company, how many years in business, etc.

Beware of any company that asks for money. This not a legitimate practice in the marketing research industry. Legitimate marketing research companies conducting Focus Groups pay you! Unscrupulous companies often charge a fee to provide you with an out-of-date list of companies -- and many do not even conduct focus group research!

How much will I be paid for participating in focus groups?

Focus group companies routinely pay people for participating in focus groups and sharing their opinions. The amount varies depending on the market, study topic and length of the session.

Always answer questions truthfully. To ensure that participants meet the study criteria, focus group companies routinely ask to see identification and verify the information given during the initial screening interview. If a person does not qualify to participate the study, the focus group company and/or research sponsor are NOT obliged to compensate him/her.

How often can I participate in focus groups?

Industry guidelines dictate that consumers should participate in no more than one focus group every six months. Focus group companies keep track of how frequently people participate in focus groups. If asked, you should be truthful about your participation. People who abuse participation guidelines are flagged to not be used in future research.

Should I be suspicious of accepting a check for payment?

To deter theft and robbery, most focus group companies pay participants by check. In almost every state, it is against the law to issue an insufficient check. If this happens, contact the research company and give them an opportunity to replace the check. If the problem persists, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Can I sign up my whole family to do Focus Groups?

Yes, all members of your household may participate in research. Participation is tracked by individual.

I just signed up to be in Focus Groups, I paid my fee and no one has called me. What's going on?

You may have been victimized by one of several unscrupulous companies that promise a lucrative income from participating in focus groups. These companies ask for money and in exchange provide an out-of-date list of research companies for you to contact. The organizations that make these offers are not in the marketing research profession. If you feel you have been victimized, you should contact the company and demand your money back or notify your credit card company.

Remember: you will absolutely never be asked to pay to become a research participant by a legitimate focus group company!

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