How to Conduct a Focus Group

Step by Step Information on Planning and Moderating Focus Groups

Family shopping in Asian grocery storeYou may want to know how to conduct a focus group in order to understand how buyers feel about your brand, which new product ideas to pursue, or who your buyers are. While survey research can tell you how many, or what, focus groups are good at uncovering why people feel certain ways. Letting people talk with each other means they build on each other’s ideas and sometimes influence each other – just like word of mouth influences people in “real life”.

While you may spend every waking moment considering new uses for your product, you may well find that your buyers seldom do. So letting people come together to consider your business means they are reminded of what little they do think and can evolve their feelings over the course of the group. Since marketing is the art and science of influencing people, it’s helpful to see this happen in real time.

Decide Who You Want to Talk To

Who will you be selling your product or service to? Talk to them. If you already have an ongoing business, you might talk with people on your customer lists. If you want to expand into a new group of buyers, or you aren’t established enough to have customers, you’ll need other ways to find them. Whether social media or professional recruiters, you’ll want to set criteria and follow it.

Invite them to a Place at a Particular Time

Focus groups should be held either in a place that doesn’t influence the proceedings, or a place that mimics the buying environment. Your house or corporate boardroom might influence buyers to say nice things since they are on your turf, so try to find a neutral place or even consider going into the buyer’s environment. Paying people for their time helps them find the time and show up, and snacks and drinks make it more pleasant.

Write Questions Before the Group

You’ll want to create a guide with topics and questions to use during the groups. Start more general, helping people get comfortable with the setting, each other and the topic. Ease into your goals, and listen constantly to see whether your assumptions need to be adjusted, or even thrown out, in favor of following new directions. Your list of questions should be a guide, not a script. If you are curious about someone’s answer, or sense there is more to be uncovered, ask follow up questions.

Synthesize the Information, Put Together Findings

Read your notes or transcripts and look for themes, quotes, telling details and recurring ideas that help to answer your research goals. Study language usage – how something is said can communicate quite a bit about the topic and the buyer.

Make Recommendations for Action

Research should drive action, so after connecting the dots, recommendations will create the value. Be specific in giving your business advice on how best to market using the new insights.

A rule of thumb in focus group research is that if you hear the same idea three times, especially in three different groups, there’s probably something there. It’s an art as well as a science, so follow your instincts as to what’s important. Also, consider whether it’s best to do in-house research or to hire an expert focus group moderator.

Jennifer Cooper, President of BuyerSynthesis, helps established and emerging companies grow revenues through better understanding their buyers.

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1 thought on “How to Conduct a Focus Group

  1. Pingback: 7 Signs It's Time to Conduct Qualitative Marketing Research

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