Skip links

The Beginner’s Guide to Running Successful Focus Groups

From time to time, businesses need to catch up on how their goods and services are being perceived. This is of the utmost importance because businesses have to know what they can do better so that they can thrive. Creating focus groups is a perfect ways to figure out what people think about your business.

What Are Focus Groups?

Focus groups are very useful because they can give businesses insight about what people think about certain goods, services and products. Focus groups are created by gathering a bunch of people together and conversing with them about their opinions. A researcher plans out the situation, and a facilitator guides the conversation among participants and asks questions. There is also a person who takes notes and records the conversation as it happens. The information is eventually organized and analyzed.

There can be focus groups for about anything:

  • Product focus groups
  • Customer improvement focus groups
  • Merely idea generation.

What is the Purpose of a Focus Group?

Focus group research is used to develop or improve products or services. The main purpose is to provide data to enhance, change or create a product or service targeted at a key customer group.  A focus group is a common qualitative research technique used by companies for marketing purposes.

When TO do a Focus Group:

  1. To delve deeper into issues identified through a larger, quantitative study.
  2. To collect additional information to prepare a survey for a larger quantitative study.
  3. To test marketing materials with a target audience, like undecided voters or consumers.

When NOT to do a Focus Group:

  1. To make major marketing or budgetary decisions.
  2. If you need to generalize results to a large population or statistical data is required.
  3. To save time and money in the data collection process

How To Run a Successful Focus Group

Choose A Topic Of Discussion

The first step to planning out a successful focus group is to plan out a topic of discussion. What should be discussed is entirely up to you and what you want to discuss. The topic of discussion can be about anything. It can be about the the products that you sell, the quality of services that your employees provide, how people feel about your business, the ethical side of things and/or the aesthetics of your business.

The topic of discussion has to be related to something that you want to know more about. What topics do you think are most relevant to your business? What topics are the most important when it comes to improving the quality of your business and reeling in more customers?

Choose Your Questions of Discussion Prompts

Just like the general topic of discussion, the sky is the limit when it comes to questions and discussion prompts. Again, it really depends on your priorities, what you want to discuss and what you want to improve.

  1. You can ask very general, open questions, such as “What is your opinion of business?”
  2. You can also make more specific questions about goods and services such as “What is your opinion of our cake?”
  3. You can even get more specific by asking something like, “Do you think that our cake needs more chocolate chips?”

Think about the types of responses that you might get, and expect to get responses that you never expected. Be prepared to ask, “Why.” Also, be prepared to ask people to elaborate on their opinions. Ask things like, “What do you feel like that?” or “What makes you think that?”

Prepare your Focus Group Questionnaire

Before you hold the focus group event, it is of the utmost importance to create a focus group questionnaire. A questionnaire is a survey with questions that participants answer. The point of a questionnaire is to collect as much information from participants as possible. Think of the questions that would be most advantageous to ask. Again, the questions can be about anything pertaining to your business. As you create the questionnaire be sure to have a section where you ask people about various aspects of their identities and who they are, so that you get a better idea of how your services appeal to different demographics of people. Depending on the circumstances and what seems appropriate in a given context, some of the things that you can ask include age, religion, gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, interests, viewpoints, familial situation and current social situation.

Appoint A Note-taker

It is important to appoint a note-taker for a focus group because it is imperative for notes to be taken. Make sure that you appoint someone with good judgment. It is a big plus if the person can show credentials relating to this type of work. The note-taker must be proficient in reading and writing, and must be able to think critically. The person who takes on this role must be able to write down notes quickly, as well as his or her own impressions of what is going on and the general feel of things.

The note-taker should do as many things as possible to record the focus groups. Of course, the note-taker must write notes. However, the note-taker should also be recording the focus group with a voice recorder and/or a video camera.

Recruit and Schedule Participants

A huge part of creating a focus group is recruiting and scheduling participants. After all, a focus group without participants is nothing—it doesn’t exist! There are various ways that you can create a focus group. For example, you can tell people, face to face and by word of mouth, that you are running a focus group and that you need people. You can also put advertisements up over the internet and in paper publications that advertise your need for focus group participants.

An important part of recruiting participants is recruiting types of people that will give you an accurate view of conditions surrounding your business. The same goes for the number of people who you recruit. You want to recruit the right people and the right number of people so that you can get a clear idea of how things are. If the types of people who you recruit are not the types of people who would actually patronize your business, you may get skewed results. The tastes of those who would be more likely to patronize your business might be a whole lot different than the tastes of those who would patronize your business.

There may be a number of different groups that you are trying to sell to. Make sure to recruit an equal amount of people from each group so that each group is represented in your findings.

When recruiting participants, you have to think about various factors, such as where your business is, the types of people who live in the area where your business exists and what types of people your business would appeal to.

Get Consent and Start the Discussion

Prior to starting the focus group, make sure that you get consent from people so that you are not held liable in a situation where something goes wrong. You do not want to be blamed if someone somehow suffers some sort of physical or emotional damage. Another thing to be aware of is whether or not there are minors in your focus group. If there are minors in your focus group, be sure to have consent forms signed by parents. You may also want to ask the participants to verbally consent to being in the focus group.

Have Everyone Introduce Themselves

It is important that everyone is comfortable with each other. One of the first steps to making everyone comfortable is to have everyone introduce themselves. You can ask people’s names, ages, occupations and interests. You can also go down a more vague route by asking people’s names and telling people to say whatever they want to say about themselves. It may be a better idea to let people say whatever they want to say about themselves without the pressure of telling others the details of their lives.

Ask Your Questions

The next step is to ask your questions. Make sure to be mindful about how the questions are asked and what tones of voice they are asked in. Sometimes, saying things in the wrong tone of voice can elicit unwanted, negative, or inaccurate responses from people. If you speak to people in the wrong tone of voice or word things the wrong way, they may misunderstand you or get offended.

You can ask each and every person, separately, your questions. Another way to ask your questions is to ask the entire group and let a conversation flow from there.

Seek Equal Representation From The Group

It is important that you seek equal representation from every single person in the group. It is surprisingly easy for some people to fall by the waste side and to not equally be accounted for. Make sure that you receive a questionnaire from everyone, and that none of them get lost.

Also, when having a conversation with a group of people, it is very easy for some people to say less than others. Many times in group situations, some individuals talk disproportionately less than others. If you see that some individuals in a group conversation are saying noticeably less and tend to be more introverted, be forward and talk to them.

Be mindful of whether there are any people who are being disrespectful or trying to bump others out of the conversation. If someone is being blatantly disrespectful, explain the error of their ways to them.

End The Meeting In A Reasonable Amount of Time

It is important to end the meeting in a reasonable amount of time because having a meeting for too long can skew results. Time has an effect on people’s psyches, and if you keep people for too long you may start to elicit inaccurate answers. This is because after time has gone by, many people start to get antsy and want to finish. Some people may even have important business in their lives to tend to that you are keeping them from.

Depending on the facilities available to conduct the focus group, the amount of people and the amount of time that conducting the focus group will take, you may have to schedule numerous sessions.

Provide Things For Participants

You may want to provide certain pleasantries, like food and drinks, to the participants of your focus groups. Perhaps you can have a table with snacks, water and other types of beverages. This can uplift the morale of your participants as you collect feedback from them. Providing snacks and beverages may create a more casual, comfortable atmosphere where people are more comfortable to talk about what they really think.

It may even be a good idea to provide an ambient atmosphere with certain types of lighting and comfortable furniture so that your participants are comfortable.

Have People Try Out Your Goods And Services

While you ask questions and take notes about what people are saying, you should have the people sample the goods and services that you provide. For example, give them physical samples of the products and inquire about what they think of the products. It is helpful to give samples of your products to participants because they may not know anything about your products.

You could even create mock situations where you employees serve the participants of the focus group and pretend that they are serving regular customers. By exposing the participants of your focus group to a “normal day” in your business, you can collect information on how customers would normally feel.

Analyze and Incorporate Feedback

After you collect all of the feedback, make sure to rewrite and reorganize it so that it is the most comprehensive to analyze. If you wrote things sloppily or in shorthand, this is the time to rewrite those things. If there are any details that you remember but didn’t write down, make sure to write those details down before you forget them. Do this all within a day because the more time passes, the less easy it will be to remember particular details and things that people said.

Take time to look at the feedback and think about what it all means. It is a good idea to discuss the feedback with other people because you may miss something that someone else would easily understand.

You can incorporate the feedback into your business by making changes that would improve people’s opinions of your business. For example, if there is a particular change that people would like to see in one of your products, you should experiment with making that change. If there is a particular way of serving people that your patrons would prefer, experiment with that. On the other hand, if the feedback points to certain conditions being perfect, then keep those conditions going.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, a focus group is a group of people that you bring together to ask questions about topics that relate to your business. The use of a focus group is that you may find out things about your business that you never understood, yourself. You have to create a topic of discussion, as well as questions and discussion prompts. You must be careful when recruiting participants so that you can get the most accurate answers. Care must also be taken when receiving conjecture from participants because the opinions of some might not be spoken or recorded.

Thanks for reading "The Beginner’s Guide to Running Successful Focus Groups", by the Linchpin Team in Chicago, Raleigh, and Wake Forest.

Need help growing your business?

Contact our CEO directly to talk about your project and business goals.

[wpforms id="70235"]