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Most focus group moderators and clients probably have experienced the following scenario: The group discussion has ended and the tape recorder/camera has been shut off, however, a few participants continue to talk about issues previously discussed or bring up entirely new concerns. Sometimes a very important insight or piece of information will be revealed during these post-group conversations. If at all possible, it may not be a bad idea to let the tape recorder/camera continue to run until everyone has left the room.

Frequent post-group comments and discussions actually led Doane Marketing Research Inc. to formally follow up with California Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) on a topic that was very important to them in their efforts to control pest problems. It was not uncommon after conducting qualitative work with PCAs that someone would say, "If you really want to take something back to your client, tell them that since the removal of a given chemical, we need a new product to control X pest."

In the spring of 2001, St. Louis-based Doane decided to conduct with PCAs a quantitative syndicated study, "Problematic Pests (Unmet Needs)." The purpose of the study was:

(1) To identify insects, diseases and weeds that PCAs are having difficulty controlling. (2) To understand what factors may contribute to a given pest being difficult to control.

Approximately 140 California PCAs participated in this quantitative study. More than 95 percent of the PCAs identified some type of problematic insect, disease or weed. However, the removal of a pesticide was not as frequently identified as a factor causing a pest to become a problem as Doane researchers first thought based on the random comments heard after conducting qualitative research studies.

This study reinforces the idea that random comments obtained after a focus group can be important and informative. However, as with all qualitative research, the findings represent only the group involved and not the universe. AM

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