Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hispanic Focus Groups

Since we're busy with focus groups these days, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to share some tips for successful Hispanic focus groups. Please note that these tips are based on seeking more recent immigrants versus American-born or acculturated Latinos. There are definitely some differences in how you manage this group.

For example, when you're recruiting for the group, the screener should identify the qualified participant as Spanish-dominant. Many Latinos are bilingual, but immigrant Latinos will likely say they're more comfortable conversing in their native Spanish. These are likely your target (versus the more acculturated Latino who may be better integrated with the general market group or at the least involved in separate research).

We recommend that Hispanic focus groups are kept small--6-8 participants is usually ideal. Why? The Latino participants are generally more likely than the general market participants to "follow the leader" and allow one participant to dominate and influence the rest of the group. By keeping the group small, there's more opportunity for each to speak his/her mind.

Once your participants pass the screener and confirm attendance, you'll be wise to mention that they should make arrangements for their kids (as appropriate). So many times, I've moderated groups in which the participants show up with kids in tow. It's a shame, because they're perfectly qualified for the research, and yet now they're turned away because there are no accommodations for their kids. Better just say it up front.

This goes for guests, too. Oftentimes their spouse or friend who may have driven shows up and expects to stay. This is not recommended, and it's wise to make it clear as you confirm their appointment.

Sometimes it's been helpful to offer an additional cash bonus to the first to arrive, or to those who arrive before the actual start time, when possible. It's a definite incentive and compensates for any cultural differences in terms of how time is viewed!

Keep writing exercises to a minimum if possible. We just learned this one recently. Writing assignments can be difficult for people who are not accustomed to writing and impossible for those who may not have learned to read. The immigrant population can include both groups, so it's best to keep the conversation going. We found in our last experience that it works to provide participants with sheets to rank their favorites (to avoid the influence of others), but to limit it to check marks and numbers versus explanations, for efficiency's sake.
>>Please note that in no way am I making the assumption that foreign-born Latinos can't read/write! But when you're planning your research, it's helpful to understand that education isn't always accessible for those from other countries; they may have had to work at an early age, or help their parents, etc. Just a different culture than what most of us in the U.S. are familiar with.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for our readers (or for us!). We're always learning!

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