Paid Surveys vs. Focus Groups
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Paid Surveys vs. Focus Groups

EPF October 10, 2016

Why Paid Surveys and Focus Groups Exist

Why do paid surveys and focus groups exist?  How can these companies afford to pay you for your opinions and personal information?  Why are they willing to pay you for this information?  What is the difference between online paid surveys and focus groups?  Which one is a better fit for me?  If you are asking yourself these questions, this article will help you answer them.

Paid surveys and focus groups are similar in that both of them are paying you for your personal information and/or opinions.  They may be asking about habits, patterns, likes and dislikes, or opinions. Companies ask these questions to develop better products and services or to validate an idea.

Some of these surveys or focus groups are hosted by the companies selling their own products and services, while most are hosted by professional survey and focus group companies.

About Focus Groups

Focus groups date back to 1939, when they were used in World War II to test the effectiveness of marketing and propaganda on consumers and citizens.  However, the term “focus groups” was not coined until 1991 by Ernest Dichter, who was an expert in the fields of psychology and marketing.

Consumer focus groups usually involve 8-12 people (sometimes as high as 20) that match their specific demographics, and these people are asked 10-20 questions by a moderator.  People may be a little bit hesitant to be completely honest due to other people being in the room, but in general it is a very good way of getting consumer feedback on products and services.  Focus group members can make as much as $300 to take part in these surveys.

In the past, focus groups were held strictly in-person but many focus groups are now held in an online format as it is much easier to facilitate and far less costly.  Holding focus groups online also allows for more honest answers, because other people are not in a room observing you as you make your opinion known.  This can definitely increase the effectiveness of consumer focus groups.

The focus group process typically looks something like this:

  1. A company wants feedback on a product or service
  2. The company hires a focus group service to conduct the research for them
  3. The focus group service gets all relevant information from the company to best perform the focus group such as the demographics of existing and potential customers
  4. Based on this information, the focus group service will find a group of individuals to fit the demographic and invite those individuals to take part in the focus group
  5. The focus group service will create a questionnaire specifically tailored to answer the question of “how can we make this product or service better?”

Demographics of a focus group can include questions such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Education level

What We Like About Focus Groups

Focus groups can be a great way to make money from home, and here are some of the great things that we love about focus groups:

  1. Many can now be performed online, which means you never have to leave the comfort of your couch.
  2. Most focus groups pay quite well, some as high as $300 for a full day.
  3. They will hand you a check before you leave the building.
  4. Some pay in the form of products, which can mean free goodies for you and your family.


What We Don’t Like About Focus Groups

Here are some of the things we don’t like about focus groups:

  1. Because the pay can be quite good, the competition is intense. This means that opportunities to participate in focus groups can be hard to find.
  2. Spaces fill up extremely fast, again due to the fact that it is easy and often good money.
  3. Most focus group companies require you to apply and get pre-screened prior to each focus group. These pre-screening applications can take up a significant amount of time.

About Paid Surveys

Paid surveys, like consumer focus groups are generally used to discover information from honest survey-takers.  Paid surveys are now taken almost strictly online, and the reward is generally an entry into a sweepstakes, a small cash reward, or some other type of small incentive.

Unlike focus groups, most paid surveys do not pay more than $5 per survey.  Due to this fact, they are much easier to find and participate in, so ultimately they can be a great and sometimes better way to make money long-term due to their availability.

Like focus groups, paid surveys can also have demographic requirements such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Education level

What We Like About Paid Surveys

  1. Most paid surveys are hosted online, which means you never have to get out of your pajamas to make money with paid surveys.
  2. It is easy to find and participate in many paid surveys at any given time.
  3. They are easy to do and don’t take much time.

What We Don’t Like About Paid Surveys

  1. Low pay – most paid surveys pay less than $5, many even $1 or less.
  2. Many of them pay in the form of gift cards.
  3. Many sites require you to have a minimum in your account before allowing you to cash out.


Tips and Tricks to Increase Your Income with Surveys and Focus Groups

Warning About Scams

This warning applies to both focus groups as well as paid surveys.  You should never be asked to pay to be a part of a survey or focus group.  This is a sure sign that you are being scammed.

How to Get Invited to More Focus Groups

We are not necessarily proponents of these actions, but some people say that you can just “be someone else” in order to get invited to the best focus groups.  What we mean by this is that when you are pre-screened, you can be what they want you to be so that you can get invited to the focus group.  There is a lot of debate about this causing problems with focus groups, because you are taking away from the true and quality answers that the companies need in order to provide the best products and services to customers.  Also, be warned that if the focus group companies find out that you are lying to get invited or re-invited, you can be blacklisted from their panels as well as other databases.  However, if you have no ethical or moral dilemmas here, it is our job to tell you what you need to know.

Stephanie Georgopulos, author of “Some Things I Did for Money,” stated that she would become someone completely different in order to get invitations.  The person she describes that would get the most invitations to focus group panels would look something like this:

  • Administrative assistant in a professional setting
  • Never speaks with marketers or advertisers or respond to advertising
  • Household income is over $100K
  • No ethnicity
  • Makes all of the purchasing decision in his/her household
  • Perpetually “about to buy” the next smartphone, HDTV, laptop, etc
  • Friends often look to him/her for advice on what to purchase
  • He/she is opinionated and highly influential on the people around them
  • Sometimes a mom (if necessary)

This persona that Stephanie devised and pretended to be allowed her to participate in significantly more invite-only focus groups and consequently helped her make a lot more money through focus groups.

Similarly, Will Leitch, a contributor to claims that he would become a different person (as needed) in order to get invited to, and get re-invited to participate in paid focus groups.

He claims that he has pretended to be anything from a world traveler to a man who sweats too much to a long-term asthma sufferer, all to get invited to focus groups with good pay.

Will makes the following recommendations to get invited to participate:

  • If the pre-screeners ask if you have participated in a focus group in the past six months, just say no.
  • If they ask you if you have purchased a certain product in the past month, or past year, just say yes. They only ask if it is relevant to their focus group.
  • If they ask you what brands you prefer, always pick the biggest name-brands you can think of.
  • If you are not sure how to answer a question, just pause – they will tip their hand and lead you in the direction of the answer they are looking for.

Will makes the following suggestions for getting invited back again:

  • Be as invisible as possible. Do not be too opinionated or rub the moderator the wrong way, as this will make it far less likely that you will ever get invited to return.
  • Try to determine the answer that the moderator is looking for, and feed it to them.
  • If they ask about prejudices or strong opinions, try to be vague or tell them that you have no opinion on the matter.

If this is all too risqué for you (it is for us!), here are some completely safe and ethical ways to get invited to more focus groups:

  1. Apply for as many focus group panels as you can.
  2. Be nice, attentive and informative during panels so that you may get re-invited.

Legitimate Focus Groups That Pay Well

Here is out list of the best focus groups.

  1. Savitz Research
    1. They conduct focus groups in 16 metropolitan areas, but they also offer some online and over-the-phone options. Their pay scale is anywhere from $50-300.
  2. Nicholas Research
    1. They are only in San Francisco. They do offer in-person focus groups, but they also have options for video game testing, surveys, and other types of paid groups.  They do not pay cash, but rather pay in products.
  3. Probe Market Research
    1. They are a nationwide company, and they pay between $50 and $400. They offer a variety of formats from in-person groups to online, over the phone, mystery shopping positions, product trials, et.
  4. MindSwarms
    1. They are an online platform that performs focus groups via webcam, smartphone or tablet. They pay $50 per focus group.
  5. Find Focus Groups
    1. They are a nationwide marketplace for helping individuals in finding the best focus groups to participate in. They will show you the details on locations, topics, and pay.
  6. com
    1. This company has many different ways to participate, ranging from online surveys to in-person focus groups to small discussion groups, among others. The pay for an in-person focus group ranges from $75 to $150 for an hour or two of your time.
  7. Fieldwork
    1. Fieldwork is a very well-known focus group company that operates in 16 major cities in the United States. Their pay ranges from $50 to $100.
  8. Adler Weiner Research
    1. Adler has been around since 1960 and performs focus groups, in-depth interviews and in-home visits.
  9. 20|20 Panel
    1. 20|20 operates in Miami, Nashville and Charlotte. They perform focus groups for many major corporations, and they pay between $50 and $150, and occasionally more.
  10. Plaza Research
    1. Plaza offers focus groups in many major cities, and they also offer phone interviews and in-home interviews. They also offer some online surveys.
  11. Focuscope
    1. Focuscope is only in Chicago and Atlanta, but they are a great option if you are in one of those two cities. Their price varies in the range of $75 to $250.

How to Find the Best Paying Online Surveys

Here is our list of best paid surveys.

Survey Savvy is a high-paying invite-only survey site.  The surveys they send out can pay $50 to $100.  To get qualified to take their surveys, you should download and install their Savvy Connect program on your computer or smartphone.  It is a web-tracking software that gathers data and analytics from your daily web traffic and habits.

MintVine sends out a good survey invitation about once a week or so.  Their pay ranges from $10 to $30 for short surveys.

Pinecone Research is one of the most sought after online survey companies, and only available by invitation.  Each survey pays $3, and you get qualified to take every single survey.  They send out invitations 1-5 times per week.

Swagbucks is one of the most popular paid survey sites on the web right now.  They offer a whole host of different ways that you can make money on their site from paid surveys to shopping through their portal, to allowing them to track your internet activity.

Vindale Research is one of the oldest and longest standing leaders in paid research.  They typically have at least 20-30 surveys available at any given time.  Most of these pay less than $2, but almost every day they have a survey or two that pays out $4-5.

Focus Groups vs. Paid Surveys

If focus groups were as widely available as paid surveys, they would take the cake.  However, it takes time and dedication to get to the point that you are consistently getting invited to participate in well-paid focus groups.  Even professional ‘focus groupers’ would find it hard to actually make a living by participating in focus groups.

On the other hand, paid online surveys are widely available and you can find and take surveys left and right all day long.  However, the pay per survey is extremely low.  It is hard to make more than $5 per hour, which is well below minimum wage.

Why not do both?

If I were you and I was just getting started, I would start planning for both simultaneously.  Here are some steps you could follow:

  1. Sign up for all of the focus group companies that you can find.
  2. Start applying for and getting pre-screened for focus groups. Make sure you answer your phone on weekends, as that is when the pre-screeners usually call.
  3. While you are waiting for the calls to start rolling in from the focus groups, start signing up for paid surveys.
  4. Sign up for all of the highest paying paid survey sites, and start watching for the $4-5 offers from all of them.
  5. All of these first few steps will take time and patience, but in the meantime you can start taking lots of $1-2 paid surveys to start raking in the easy money.

The $1-2 surveys are not high paying by any means, but if you are just sitting at home watching television or relaxing after a long day at work, it does not hurt to make a few extra bucks!

As you are keeping yourself busy with the low-hanging fruit and making a few extra dollars every week, soon enough you will start getting invitations for the $4-5 surveys.  Keep at it and you will also soon start to receive invitations for great paying focus groups.

Neither of these money-making methods should be looked at as full-time jobs or ways to make a steady, full-time income.  These should be considered a way of making a little side-cash, and if you do it right and spend the time it may become more than just a little side-cash.  You could make some decent money from taking surveys and participating in focus groups if done right, and actually supplement your income quite well.  The people with the most drive and ambition have actually reported taking home well over $20,000 to $30,000 but that is with years of practice and hard work.

If you are willing to expend the time and energy, get out there and get started today and you will not regret it.  When the cash starts coming in you will be glad you read this article!

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