A focus group is a group of individuals assembled to collect opinions. The objective of using a focus group is to gather quantifiable and qualitative data to ensure that a product, service or marketing pieces will be well-received by the general public. A focus group can be a powerful tool for building client relationships, obtaining product testing and strengthening a business model.
Setting Up a Focus Group
Before assembling a focus group, determine your budget. If you are offering an incentive to participants, include this in the budget as well. A typical focus group consists of six to 12 individuals, but the group can be as large as necessary if the budget permits. If the group exceeds 12 people, consider splitting the group into two smaller groups so that the size of the group does not influence individual opinions.
Outline exactly what the focus group aims to do and what will be expected of participants. Consider sending a list of questions prior to the group meeting so that the participants can begin thinking about the topic at hand. Indicate the time commitment required and the nature of the focus group.
Staying On Track
Since it is also easy to convey your personal bias towards a subject, consider having a third party conduct the focus group. The facilitator must keep himself in check and should not be overly formal or rigid, nor should the facilitator try to be the participants’ friend. You want your focus group to feel comfortable, but still take the group seriously.
It is easy for a group of people to receive a topic and, while discussing it, go on a tangent and stray from the actual subject matter. The facilitator of the focus group is responsible for ensuring that the focus group stays on-topic. Since you are enlisting your group individually, it is crucial to ensure that each person’s opinion is heard. If someone gets overshadowed at the event, it is of no benefit to you or your research. Set up tracking sheets and structured speaking times so that each participant gets a chance to share an opinion. Moreover, be watchful for any participants who could try to convince or sway another participant’s opinion.
Ask further questions to get in-depth answers, but try not to lead your participants in any direction. Don’t rush your participants into giving an answer. Remaining silent can be a powerful tool as it prompts the participant to fill the gap with their opinion, even if they were unsure of sharing it.
After the event, review the data and reflect on any changes you need to make to your product or service. Send a thank-you note to the participants, and consider following up with them if you need further customer feedback. Closing the group on a positive note keeps the door open for future focus groups, and the participants could be a powerful resource going forward.