Yet one company after another moves ahead with an unfortunate strategy “because it did well in focus groups” … and loses (“wastes”) money.
Do not think that you can count on what a roomful of people tell a moderator. Not even the most honest people with the best intentions can accurately report, much less predict, their own attitudes and behavior. People haven’t a clue as to how they’ll react to your ad campaign, what products they use, how much they’d pay, how they feel about this or that, etc., etc.
Do focus groups have worth? Sure. They are great for exploring contingencies. Every now and then a focus group will raise an idea or point out a risk that hadn’t occurred to you. That can be valuable. But for predicting the future, you might as well roll dice.
Lest anyone despair, there are scientific, predictive ways to evaluate your marketing plans before you bet the farm on them. I wrote about one such example last month. I describe another valid, predictive test here.