A Focus Group is a forum for interactive discussions about what participants think, purchase, or believe. A Focus Group is not a simple survey of audiences’ opinions but an opportunity to explore those views and feelings in-depth and from many vantage points.
A Focus Group is an organized discussion supervised by a trained moderator (trained facilitator). It usually involves 6-10 people who meet together in one or several sessions lasting 2 to 4 hours.
Focus Group Sessions
Each session may cover different topics. The number of groups conducted depends on the type of research objective and budget limitations.
After the first session with each group, at least one follow-up visit may be scheduled to evaluate trends over time.
Not all Focus Groups will result in usable information for every manager or organizer. However, the skilled facilitator can mine the gold from even a rocky topic like “what do customers want?”.
To organize a focus group, the manager, organizer, or researcher will need to do some initial work.
First, an idea must be articulated: a problem must be clearly defined, and the need for information about it recognized. Questions that might result from this are:
Second, data must be collected that will help determine what direction the focus group should take.
Data collection can include examining previous research studies; reviewing existing customer surveys; conducting customer interviews by telephone, in-person or online; soliciting comments on message boards or blogs in which customers may participate (e-satisfaction); surveying vendors who serve consumers; and other methods that give you valuable insight into your target audience’s needs and tastes.
Focus Group Members
One of the most important things to consider before planning a focus group is to know your target audience, the people you are looking for. For example, the research may be focused on moms and dads, or as one of my professors brilliantly put it – “Think about the market like a big dinner party.
You don’t invite only yourself to this big party; you bring your friends and relatives.”
The third step in organizing a focus group is determining what kind of information and opinions need to be collected.
There are many tools specially designed for this purpose: questionnaires, surveys, online evaluation forms, or focus groups—a helpful tool when there are too many variables involved.
All these tools can help gather information needed to come up with a solution to the problem stated before. When choosing which of these tools would work best in your case, always keep in mind your target audience and the main objectives of your research.
Focus groups are not scientific tools for measuring opinion.
Their strength lies in their ability to clearly understand how people think about a product, service, or concept—or why they do not think about it.
Focus groups tap into the collective wisdom of consumers rather than taking measurements or counts that might indicate interest among only a few respondents.
When seeking information from focus groups, researchers should ask questions that get participants thinking, debating, and expanding upon each other’s opinions and comments rather than being asked “yes” or “no” style yes/no type questions where simple agreement is likely to be the typical response.
Good focus group moderators help keep discussions focused, limit off-topic conversations and digressions, and manage the pace and process of the meeting.
Focus groups can be helpful when researching a new product or service, test marketing concepts, develop public relations strategies, or just try to understand your customers’ needs better.
In preparation for focus groups, the management or research planners often find it helpful to conduct telephone surveys, in-depth interviews, ethnographic field notes, and questionnaires to identify key issues addressed in a planned focus group session.
Focus Group Tips
The following tips will help you organize a practical Focus Group session:
Participants should feel free to share their genuine opinions without fear of repercussion or judgment for the group time to be most productive.
The groups should be kept small, usually ten to twelve people.
If a group is too large, it may not be possible for the moderator to get everyone actively involved in the session. Responses will vary based on how close participants sit to each other; that is, some may feel more comfortable speaking up than others.
To guarantee an effective session, members of your target market must feel like they are participating in your focus group voluntarily without any pressure on their part.
After the Focus Group has been set up, you need to consider who will conduct the meeting from which angle? Will you watch from behind one-way glass?
Will someone else run equipment in another room? Will the moderator speak up and ask a wide array of questions to some, or will he sit back and invite the participants to roam freely around the possibilities.
Technically, you have two options for running your Focus Group, either as an open discussion or a facilitated chat. A facilitator can guide the focus group by using thought-provoking questions designed to get participants involved in meaningful dialogue about topics and ideas relevant to your business.
The other option is for all participants, including yourself (if you dare attend), to join into an open conversation and answer each other’s queries with no particular order at hand.
Focus Group Success
The success of any work session depends on how much members feel like they are part of that session; if the view is from behind the glass, they feel like they are on display.
It is critical to develop a set of questions, statements, or ideas that will help you get maximum results from your focus group sessions.
It’s important to note that not everyone who takes part in your Focus Group session may be an expert in giving opinions.
So instead of asking highly opinionated questions, you should try using statements to encourage all participants to chime in with their thoughts and suggestions.
Once you have prepared your topic outline, make sure that each group member has access to the information on which you want feedback.
Again, The key is for them to get as much out of the session as possible while putting forth minimum time and effort into giving their comments.
Being a facilitator is no easy task, but you can get plenty of positive results from focus groups if appropriately conducted.
Focus Groups can provide you with invaluable insight into your target market’s wants, needs, and desires for your product or service.
The focus group will allow you to present information to members in an organized manner, compare responses across different participants and potentially persuade reluctant subjects that your new products or services will benefit them!
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.