Making a Difference: How Focus Group by Schlesinger Gets Parents Involved

A mom of four founded this global marketing research company in the 1960s and today it offers families the chance to share their opinions on an array of products and services.

In the 1960s, Sarah B. Schlesinger was busy raising her four children when she decided to get a part-time job to make some extra money. Little did she know she was laying the foundation for a highly successful global marketing research company that boasts 40 offices around the world today.

“There were four of us living at home and she wanted to just go make some money, so she got a part-time job being an interviewer for a research company in New York City,” says son Steve Schlesinger, CEO of Focus Group by Schlesinger. “She did a really good job. They liked her a lot and started giving her more and more responsibilities. Eventually what happened was she wound up being asked by the people that she was working for to open up a company and basically set up a region of the whole New York metro area to supervise those territories.”

She set up that region right in her bedroom, then moved to the kitchen and eventually to the basement — and right at home is where Focus Group by Schlesinger was born.

Managing a career while raising children isn’t easy, and it wasn’t as common in the ’60s as it is today, but Schlesinger says his mom did it all.

“My mom was still a typical mom. She was at all the different things related to all the kids’ activities. She was still playing tennis and getting her nails done and playing mahjong and cards with her friends,” he says. “But the job allowed her to do that because it gave her flexibility to do all the things she needed to do while still earning quite a bit of money.”

Today, Focus Group by Schlesinger remains a family business, but it has grown and works with businesses around the world to connect and conduct marketing research studies for an array of products and services. Parents in Chicagoland and beyond can get involved with this market research company by joining a panel to offer insight. Here’s how.

Getting your voice heard

Whether it’s a child’s toy, a soon-to-be-launched sneaker, a new app or service, companies want to know what consumers really think — and that’s where Focus Group by Schlesinger comes in.

“What we really do is give people a voice to help design, develop products, advertising, marketing by way of public opinion,” he says.

To do so, the company conducts focus groups, phone interviews, online self-guided surveys and more throughout the world to get opinions on anything from food to pharmaceuticals, marketing or packaging design.

For this help, participants, known as panelists, are paid anywhere from $5-$500. Compensation varies based on how long participation takes, the depth of involvement and how hard it is to recruit for the panel.

Beyond being paid for your involvement, being part of a panel gives you the opportunity to truly have a voice in how things get developed in the world. Plus, it gives you a chance to meet other parents in your region through forums, Schlesinger says.

So much of the work the company does is with new moms and parents of children of all ages, he adds. In some cases, with the parent’s permission, the company conducts panels with kids. For example, if a company is developing toys, they may want a group of 6-, 7- and 8-year-old kids to play with a variety of different toys as a way to get their thoughts and observe how they play with them.

“I encourage everybody to think about it in a sense of every time someone asks you to participate in a marketing research study, you are providing insight and opinion that helps form that client’s decision-making,” Schlesinger says. “And that’s why it’s so important. If our clients solely relied on their own opinions, they would not develop products that would meet their audience’s needs. It’s really important for them to get that opinion, that input.” 

To join a panel, visit Focus Group by Schlesinger to upload your photo ID, along with some general information about who you are and where you live. This information will give Focus Group by Schlesinger a sense of what surveys or studies you might be needed for. While you won’t be called on all the time, when you are, Schlesinger encourages you to take the time to be involved.

“There’s an old expression in our industry, which is ‘your opinion counts’ and it really is truly the case,” Schlesinger says. “I encourage everybody to participate when they get called on to be part of a research study. If you think about it, it really does make a difference. We love having you be a part of the process.”

Content brought to you by Focus Group by Schlesinger. Visit them online to register for a panel


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