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Fielding Questions

When laboratory-like focus groups aren't cutting it, you need operatives in the field.

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This story appears in the September 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

So a pollster walks into a bar . . . no, really. He wants tofind out what kind of bourbon fills your highball glass, and theold "sit around a conference table in a hermetically sealedconference room" method just ain't gonna cut it. Becauseno human makes buying decisions in front of a two-way mirror,traditional focus groups have evolved into a much more hands-on andrelevant process.

Hoping to get a grasp on their audiences' tastes, companiesare using a plethora of investigative methods to try to understandwhat makes their target demographic scream "I must haveit!" Some send anthropologists into the field to observeconsumers in their element. Others use online surveys to getimmediate results at low costs. "The new methods are attemptsto get closer to the consumer. The closer a researcher gets, thebetter the data will be for understanding needs, attitudes andbehavior," says Doug Magee, vice president of research forpublic relations and advertising firm MGA Communications inDenver."

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