Are you constantly getting rejected from focus groups? Are you wanting to dip your toes into market research but intimidated by all the information out there?
Don’t worry, I got you. Participating in focus groups is a very rewarding side-hustle, but it can seem mysterious and complicated at first (it’s not, once you know which way to look!)
Most people that succeed have been doing it a long time, so they know all the little tricks. Some ‘focus group gurus’ are generous to share their wealth of knowledge on subreddits and obscure forums. But all the noise and low signal gets loud and overwhelming, especially just starting out.
If you want to save your time and frustration, look no further! I’ll teach you how to increase your chances of qualifying for focus groups WHILE maintaining your integrity. Because we like being good people, over here.
Before that, though I think it’s important to understand… why should you care about focus groups at all?
The Importance of Market Research
Market research helps businesses, service providers and manufacturers understand and build things that consumers want. The idea sounds simple enough, but has a potentially huge impact on the market as we know it.
For example, in the 1950s, a focus group was responsible for making Barbie one of the first ‘adult’ dolls. And more recently in 2014, a focus group influenced Mattel to make Barbie curvier, to reflect the population.
If you think about the impact Barbie has on culture for decades now (almost every little girl had – or still has – one)… she reflects the way we see ourselves, and the world. Barbie is more than a doll. She is a cultural icon in songs, movies, books, etc.
Focus groups are also responsible for changing blockbuster movie productions and endings.
But marketing isn’t the only use for focus groups. Law firms, government agencies, public officers, and other industries also use focus groups to learn more about the people and processes relevant to their work.
Market research, specifically focus groups, are a chance for the population to participate in the world we consume. Oftentimes as consumers, we think we are being marketed to, sold to, etc. But it’s a two-way street.
Participating in focus groups gives you a peek behind the curtain into the process of the things you purchase. They are a great way to impact your community – and perhaps even the world!
How to Qualify for Focus Groups
Here are a few basic tips to increase your chances of seeing and qualifying for more studies. If you want to know more about the process and how to qualify, read our Complete Guide to Focus Groups.
Apply to different companies.
You won’t qualify for every survey listed so the more studies you are exposed to, the merrier. Some firms have more interesting studies to choose from than others, so it’s important to diversify your options. You’ll also learn which firms you like the most.
Be (one of the) first.
Studies fill up quickly. Sign up early so you have less hurdles to jump through. The more people a study has, the more a recruiter has to consider other factors to make sure the group is balanced to their internal criteria.
Also keep in mind that general studies fill up faster than specialized ones. For the best chances, turn on notifications, if you are able so you can know as soon as a new study is posted.
Mind your industry.
The purpose of a focus group is to hear from general consumers. So, if you have expertise in a certain field or industry, don’t apply to those groups or surveys. You will most likely be disqualified through screening questions.
This goes for marketing professionals too. If you work at a marketing firm or department, focus groups are probably not your best bet. Recruiters are very cautious to avoid bias or leaked information about the product or service being researched.
Honesty is the best policy.
It’s never worth it to be dishonest throughout the screening process. Between multiple screening surveys, phone calls and the actual focus groups, recruiters and moderators are trained to sweep for inconsistencies and red flags throughout the process.
Even if you slide through the checks, sitting in a room for 2 hours that you aren’t qualified to be in is uncomfortable at best.
Insiders Guide to Screening Questions
You won’t know the exact details of a study or the qualification process (it’s confidential – legally, in most cases). BUT there are common screening and qualification questions that can help guide you to approval. That is, if you know what to listen for!
We cover the most common hiccups below.
If they ask you about your character/personality…
Sometimes recruiters will ask questions like how open/outgoing you are. Answer as if you were at a job interview. If they ask if you are outgoing or open… the answer is yes!
Recruiters aren’t asking this to assess your Myers-Briggs type or to judge your natural tendencies. They care if you will be successful/valuable in a team environment. Even if you are more reserved or introverted in nature, you can function and participate in group settings. If not, focus groups probably aren’t your cup of tea anyway!
If they ask you about products…
The products recruiters ask about are most likely the products or category the study is about. For example, if they ask you about potato chips, the study is most likely a potato chip brand, or maybe an emerging competitor.
Then, we can most likely assume they are looking for participants who consume and are knowledgeable about that specific market. So, if you like potato chips and know the common brands on the market, make sure to answer positively.
Many people get caught up in technicalities and talk themselves out of qualification. So yes, of course – be honest – but if you have a general idea or appeal about the product, that’s enough. Remember, firms understand that you are a general consumer, not an expert.
If they ask you a random (unrelated) question…
Don’t be thrown off guard. This is a common practice recruiters use to judge your articulation and critical thinking skills. Answer as intelligently, yet concisely as possible!
If it’s a fun question, show your personality. This shows you’re not just trying to answer ‘the best way.’ It also demonstrates you are quick on your feet and socially acclimated. Remember, recruiters screen for technicalities and demographics as much as how much of a ‘group fit’ participants are.
Also – don’t hesitate to ask clarifying questions. If you are not sure how to answer something, or just want a sneaky little hint, recruiters are more than likely to help you. After all, they WANT you to qualify. That means one less phone call for them!
Even with all the tips and practices we listed above, it’s important to note that qualifying for focus groups can be finicky. There’s so many factors and demographics to consider. So even if you only apply to studies that appeal to your profile, there can be some details that aren’t directly advertised.
Maybe you make too much or too little money. Maybe they filled the internal quota for single people. Or, possibly the study filled up just as you got off the phone with the recruiter. Crazy as it sounds, it happens – that’s why we say apply early!
This isn’t to discourage you. In fact, hopefully it’s encouraging to realize that screening out of surveys is quite common. And it’s not personal (although sometimes it definitely feels that way!)
Recognize that although there are things that you can do to increase your chances of qualifying, at the end of the day, most of the process is beyond your control. So, please, don’t stress over it! Relax, have fun, and enjoy the process!
Let us know what part of the process you’re struggling with in the comments. We would love to help you out or give you some specific pointers. Keep at it – you will get a study sooner than later.
I am a father to a beautiful baby girl, a husband and a serial gigster 🙂 I live in Toronto, Canada. My claim to fame: I made thousands of dollars from focus groups and surveys over the last 15 years. Studied Marketing in Ryerson Univerity and worked in Marketing and Marketing Research for the last 14 years+ My mission is to educate others how to be successful with side hustles. You can contact my be email or on Facebook.