The Questions Your Residents Can’t Answer

by | Apr 4, 2016

By Tim Bracken, Vice President

iStock_000043738284_MediumAre you wondering what type of amenities and services your community must offer in order to stay relevant in the coming years?

Are you considering what kinds of health and wellness programs will attract your prospects in 2016 and beyond?

Trying to decide what type and level of furnishings and finishes will help sell your apartments to today’s demanding prospect?

Ironically, these are questions your typical Life Plan Community resident can no longer answer for you. Your residents don’t mean to mislead you, but their perspective changed once they moved in. They no longer have the perspective of a prospect because they already made the decision to move. Residents typically express a clear preference for what they already experience, rather than pushing you to modernize, update or become forward thinking. They already indicated about what they prefer—they moved in.

To truly find out what future residents will demand, you need to ask them directly. This is where consumer research comes in during your strategic planning.

Combining two kinds of consumer research—a written survey followed by a series of focus groups—during strategic planning leads to the most thorough results. This approach allows you to gather quantitative information with the survey, and then to drill down on specific topics and gather qualitative information with the focus groups.

The distinction between quantitative and qualitative information is important to keep in mind. Gathering one without the other can provide an incomplete or misleading picture of your market. For example, the most common misconception we hear about consumer research has to do with the role of focus groups. True, focus groups are valuable venues to dig deep into the issues that come to light in a written survey, but they cannot replace a survey completely.

One benefit of focus groups is that they allow you to hear real stories, real reactions, real misunderstandings, and real emotions from people—reactions a survey can’t possibly capture. However, the quantity of responses you capture in a typical focus group scenario is far too small to extrapolate your findings to the entire market. One focus group captures the opinions of that specific dozen people, but it doesn’t tell you how people in general within the market place think. One or two, or even three or four focus groups of twelve people can’t provide a statistically reliable number of responses. For statistically reliable results, you need a large number of responses that a survey can provide.

When surveying a market area, the ideal target quantity is to get about 400 survey responses.  From a statistical perspective, 400 responses (from a representative sample of the market) provide you with a 95% confidence level that the results of the survey are within 5% of the true market perceptions.  Should your market not be deep enough to readily get 400 responses, 200 responses will still produce a reasonable degree of reliability:  a 95% confidence level that the results will be within 7% of the true market perceptions.

When sending your surveys, ask if people are willing to participate in a latter focus group. This approach is a cost effective way to recruit for the focus groups.

Market research is a crucial factor to making informed planning decisions. To find out more about how Love & Company can help you learn more about your market, contact Tim Bracken at 301-663-1239.


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