Focus groups are a strong weapon to have in your research arsenal. They are a great way to gather in-depth perception about your brand + get feedback on new ideas. I am a firm believer that if more companies utilized focus groups many terrible marketing snafus could be avoided. Here are some basic guidelines to help you conduct informative + productive focus groups.
How you recruit depends on your audience. If your sample could be people you know in your community, you could create a Facebook event + invite people who fit the criteria. You can also create an event using Eventbrite or ask for volunteer through other social channels. Using a focus group facility/agency is one (pricier) way to ensure you get the correct audience. Be sure to screen your group members before to ensure they meet the requirements. You want 8-12 people to participate in order to have a variety of opinions + create conversation. When hosting a focus group providing an incentive like a Starbucks gift card, free meal, or something else of monetary value for participants. Keep in mind that diversity is CRUCIAL to getting reliable results.
The next thing you will want to consider is your location. You’ll want an environment that is comfortable + easily accessible. You can use a focus group facility, library, coworking space, or even a room at a community center or church. You want a space set up in a circle, square or “U” shape so that your participants can all see each other. If you plan on having them write anything you’ll want to provide tables + ensure you have any visual equipment necessary.
Once you have picked your location + chosen your participants, it’s time to start your prep. The most important part of this is preparing the presentation or spiel you will be giving. You’ll also want to write out the questions you plan ask participants + organize them in a cohesive manner. How many you have depends how long your meeting will take place. You want to allow 5-10 minutes for discussion for each question so you can gather intel from the entire group. Also as part of your prep you will want to print any materials, purchase refreshments, and test out all the equipment you plan to use.
Moderating a focus group is similar to moderating a Facebook page in that you want to set up ground rules with participants such as no interruptions, what type of answers you’re looking for, and how to civilly disagree. The first thing you’ll want to do is do an introduction of yourself, allow members to introduce themselves, and explain the procedure of the meeting. As you dive into the questions be sure to not let any one (or two) members dominate the conversation. You’ll want to be wary of the time + keep things on schedule so you don’t go over your allotted time. Provide breaks when necessary + be sure to thank them for their time + provide any follow-up information participants may need.
During the focus group, don’t worry about analyzing your data or even compressing it. Just write down as much as you can, whether you do that during the group or through video/audio transcription. Once you have all the data, then gather together similar thoughts + relevant information to make it easier to draw conclusions later. Be sure to note any major differences from group members with different opinions (i.e. older members felt this way or women preferred this approach). This data can help inform elements as complex as your overall communication strategy or as simple as the font on a webpage.
Conducting a focus group is the most efficient way to get opinions from people who you can follow-up with. By gathering people in your audience together you can also see subtle differences within that audience + see how they may perceive the nuances of your presentation.
Is there a brand you think could have used some focus group testing? Tell me in the comments!