Marketing includes two conversations: the one the company has with its customers and the one its customers have with each other. Focus Groups not only allow you to understand how effective your conversations have been with your customers. They also let you listen into the conversations they are having with each other.
Number of Participants
Focus groups come in various sizes. There is no magic number – 10-12 gives a larger group with more perspectives, where mini-groups of 3-4 allow for more interaction between people and rely on each person to contribute more to the conversation.
Discussion Guide Development
The Discussion Guide serves as the moderator’s script for the time period of the group. It combines survey-style questions with journalistic or improvisational elements. So unlike a survey, where the questions cannot change once it has been launched, focus groups include direct interaction between researcher and participant. As a study unfolds and responses come in, specific questions or even topics may be adjusted to take into account newly unearthed understandings.
All questions and follow-ups should correspond to a moderator’s understanding of the business and the goals of the study. Writing timings into the Discussion Guide helps to keep things focused as the group evolves.
Creative exercises seek out participants’ less conscious opinions using metaphor, storytelling or art. In my experience a little goes a long way, so they work best using just a few interspersed with more straightforward conversational elements.
Observable behaviors augment conversation and opinion gathering. Watching people browse a store shelf or bring in their collection of casual footwear can ground conversations in something real.
What is a focus group? Ideally it must be well recruited, smartly moderated, and its findings applied with an understanding that they are directional, not statistically projectable. Well done, it can point you to the answers to questions you didn’t know to ask.
Colorado marketing research professional Jennifer Cooper heads BuyerSynthesis, the buywhys™ marketing research company. Her research helps clients make smarter, more profitable marketing decisions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.