Focus groups are useful for companies who want to learn more about their customers or a potential target group. They enable you to gather insights and have interactive conversations that can affect your business decisions.
So what exactly are focus groups ? In general, this is a guided discussion with a representative group of consumers about a new product, a new initiative or a new marketing campaign. They ask questions and enable a dialogue between your target market to learn their opinions, and then use this knowledge to shape your future campaigns or launches.
Once you have decided that your small business needs to hold focus groups, you need to figure out how to do it. To conduct a focus group:
Not all focus groups are the same. However, there is a general list of steps that can help you gather useful information from target customers.
Each focus group should have a specific goal. Don't treat it as a general market research session. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn about consumer opinions on a specific part of your initiative. For example, if you are considering implementing a new product line full of environmentally friendly products, your discussion topics should focus on how much customers value this quality, and not on other aspects of these products.
You also need to think about which target customers you want to learn from. If a new product is primarily aimed at an older population, you should focus on that group. In general, you want a representative group, so try to find people from any demographic or interest group who could form your relevant customer base.
You need a physical location that is large enough to accommodate your attendees in a room such as a hall or a large meeting room. Generally, you only want about five to fifteen participants in every conversation. However, you should make it easy for everyone to get there with ample parking or close to public transportation. When planning, consider the time when your ideal participants are likely to be available. For example, if you're marketing to professionals, it should probably be after work.
Then it's time to invite people to join your focus group. You can reach customers directly from your email address or list, or advertise the opportunity in publications or outlets that are popular with the group or the target market. For example, if you're looking for pet owners in your community, place ads in local veterinary offices. Ask people to inquire, and you could even offer a small gift or incentive to participate.
Once you have your goals and participants in mind, you need to specify what you want to ask. All questions should focus on your goals and trigger deep conversations. Try to keep everything impartial and open, like "why" and "how" questions.
Now you can actually hold the event. Ideally, two or more team members should be present. You are there to ask questions and facilitate discussions. The other should take notes, record, and assist throughout the session. While it is important to stick to a general overview and a list of topics, you should also remain open and allow participants to address issues that they consider important. You might be surprised at what you learn by simply following a thread and giving people a forum that they can openly share.
Your focus group is only effective if you can respond to the information provided. After that, take some time to review the notes and records and read the information provided by the participants. You may notice trends that shape your campaigns or initiatives, or you may notice interesting points that you hadn't thought of before. You can then respond to this information to improve your new products or marketing campaigns based on the results.
Leading a successful focus group requires a lot of careful planning and finesse. If you are new to this concept, take these tips to heart when planning, simplifying, and analyzing this useful market research method.
In addition to your general goal for the focus group, create a selection list with questions that you would like to answer until the end. These are not necessarily the exact questions you are asking. These should be designed to facilitate discussions about your goals.
You also need to evaluate which demographic groups you want to include in your focus group. Then determine what percentage of each group should suit each customer type.
If you want to receive information from multiple groups, but are concerned that customers will not honestly share with the entire group, you should separate them and lead different groups. For example, it may not be pleasant for men and women to discuss certain topics in the same room, so you may split them into two groups.
You must make it as easy as possible for the participants to show themselves. So choose a public place that is easily accessible and doesn't take too much time to travel there. Then give clear instructions so everyone knows exactly how to get there. Bonus if there is free parking or access to nearby buses or trains.
You want your participants to feel comfortable so that they can speak openly and stay focused throughout the session. Set a comfortable temperature and offer nice seating with enough space for everyone. So that people feel socially comfortable, put name tags for everyone so that they can get to know each other and introduce themselves in a friendly way when they arrive. You can also offer light refreshments, especially if you want to keep them for an hour or more.
Even if you offer an incentive, some of your participants may not be shown due to last minute scheduling conflicts. Therefore, you may want to invite more people than you can actually use for the focus group. Don't go overboard because you don't want the room to be too crowded. However, if you want a group of 10 people, you should invite 12 or so just in case. Ideally, create a series of acceptable groups and then invite the highest number you feel comfortable with.
Participants are probably the most focused and open to discussion. So prioritize the questions you really want to address in advance. This also helps ensure that they are answered if other topics run longer than expected or if the discussion deviates from the course in an unexpected direction.
Avoid answering yes or no questions as much as possible and try to keep everything open so that people can speak for as long as possible. The whole purpose of a focus group is to collect information. So deep diving is almost always an advantage. Try to use topics that start with “what,” “why,” and “how” as much as possible.
However, you can better protect people's interests if your questions vary in format. For example, you could go with some open questions, some word association games, and some loose discussions. Try to distribute these types of questions evenly across the session. Create different sections so people don't get bored and the focus group doesn't repeat too often.
You should also avoid biased wording. If participants think you are looking for a specific answer, they will likely tell you what you want to hear. Since your goal should be to get honest feedback, stay away from questions that use phrases like "Wouldn't you say …?" Contain. or "Don't you think …?"
Your focus group may contain topics or information that you did not expect. You should therefore be open to asking questions that are not on your list. You could prepare some possible follow-up, but you should also be ready to think spontaneously.
Sometimes one person dominates the discussion in a focus group. Therefore, speak directly to other participants so that you can gain insight from everyone. You don't have to be rude or demanding, just walk around the room or ask certain questions to specific people.
At the beginning of the focus group, you can consider walking around the room and asking people to introduce themselves or to ask quick questions about the icebreaker. This can help people to open up better with other participants.
Even if you record the session, you can later use useful insights if you write down certain parts of the session. Have a team member who doesn't make the meeting easier listen and point out points that seem important.
You may also want to listen to the full discussion later with notes. An audio or video recording can help you return with other team members so you can carefully analyze everything.
Not all of your insights need to come from things that were actually said during the focus group. Sometimes you can learn just as much by looking at people's faces and noticing their body language as they speak. Let your note writer determine things like facial expressions and posture throughout the session. For example, a person who stands up and has wide eyes during a particular ad or question shows that they are particularly interested in this area. And if possible, a video recording can help you later analyze this aspect of the focus group more effectively.
Time is an important element in the planning of focus groups. The longer your focus group runs, the more likely your participants will get bored or loose. This can lead to less accurate insights or less engaging discussions. Try to limit everyone's attention to about an hour and a half. Practice the session in advance and keep an eye on the time during the discussion to keep it moving.
During the discussion, participants can sometimes address issues that are somewhat complex or disjointed. Try to summarize these points regularly to keep other participants busy and to clarify everything for you and your team members. Simply summarize in your own words. Then you can ask that you have a clear understanding of what they meant.
As you go through and analyze the discussion in the focus group, try to look for recurring topics or points that multiple participants have used or made. You don't have to go into every single point that everyone does, but those who keep coming up are probably worth investigating at least.
You must obtain the consent of each focus group participant. You should also collect some basic personal information so that you can further break down the insights. Before you begin, have each person fill out a quick form that gives you permission to use their insights, asking for their email address or contact information and basic demographic information. This can help you identify deeper trends in the sessions. For example, you may find that older participants tend to be more positive about your potential new product than younger participants. This makes it easier for you to determine who you want to market your new product to.
Focus groups are a popular market research method that you can use to learn more about your customers. If you've never organized a focus group for your small business before, you can stay organized with the tips above and get valuable insights from attendees that can make your new initiatives successful. Once you've hosted your first focus group, you can learn which strategies you've best used for your business, and then make adjustments as you go. Every time you run focus groups on your business, you are likely to get better every step of the way and ultimately achieve more beneficial results.