As a Moderator….

“As a moderator…” will be an ongoing, semi-regular series discussing my thoughts on being a qualitative market researcher.    Since becoming a moderator since 2007 – having conducted numerous focus groups, in-depth interviews, home visits, and so forth – I have had some wonderful sessions and some pretty terrible ones (albeit, the terrible ones have become both less frequent and less terrible). The goal here is not to detail my experience nor is it to regale the reader with stories.  I am also not going to be discussing specific techniques such as “laddering” – there are several books that explain them quite well already.


As a Moderator – More of Rapport

In my own experience, when I become overly focused on the mechanics of moderating (i.e., following techniques by the book, etc.), my moderating has suffered.  Going into various techniques (e.g., laddering) can help in getting questions answered or getting better answers.  A skilled moderator will know when to go down that path and when not to.  It takes experience.  It takes making mistakes to know when to do it and when not to.  It takes research and knowledge in the field/market that the moderator may not have. (more…)

As a Moderator – Do the Discussion Guide

Do the discussion guide.  In the moderator’s quest to impress their clients, to uncover key insights, he/she might become overly complicated in their moderation.  This can have some unintended consequences.  If the moderator makes sure that the questions are at least addressed, then he/she has done their job.  Perhaps only the bare minimum, but they did their job.  The questions were asked and answered. (more…)

As a Moderator – When Respondents are Interested in Something Else

When conducting a focus group, or even an in-depth interview (IDI), there are a lot of factors that can derail the proceedings.  Respondents could be fakers (i.e., lying during the screening process), late, inebriated, offensive, dominating, or simply quiet.  All of these issues have to be dealt with by a qualified and experienced moderator.

However, even when the respondent is fully qualified, sober, respectful, and communicative, another issue can arise that is rather insidious.  That is when a respondent is more interested in something else besides the topic being discussed.

Goal of a Business

When working in a business, it is very important to know the reason behind the business.  In other words, what is the business in business to do?


In answering this deceptively simple question, one must look beyond the PR and make an honest assessment of the brand.  For example, the goal of a car dealership would be to sell cars, obviously.  Well, perhaps not.


Advertising for the Competition

A strong brand is unique because a brand is a specific promise to a specific audience.  The promise effectively delineates the brand’s market.  If the people behind the brand do not know what they are promising, or to whom they should be delivering, then the brand is likely weak, diluted, confused, or all of the above.  The competition then is able to enter, taking market share and revenues.  Importantly, the competition only becomes a problem if first the brand is not clearly defined and communicated.


Just Kidding Around

The increasing prominence of online retail, coupled with slow economic growth and sustained unemployment has significantly changed consumer behavior and placed unique challenges on boutique mom-and-pop stores.  Just Kidding Around, a family-owned toy store in Montclair, NJ, has been occupying a familiar spot at 507 Bloomfield Ave for the past 11 years, and Manager Nissa Murphy has seen first-hand the effects online retailers have on customer behavior.   (**Note: I interviewed Mrs. Murphy in December 2013)


As A Moderator – Creating Rapport

One of the key challenges of any moderator and a key determination of success for any focus group or interview is creating rapport. The moderator is attempting to get people to speak on their associations, feelings, opinions, experiences, etc, moments after they have been placed in a room full of strangers.  It is vital that the moderator overcome this obstacle quickly and establish rapport.