Why consider a focus group?

Focus groups take us outside of our comfort zone. Consisting of interview questions, a group of people are asked about perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards ___________ (fill in the blank). They provide the kind of objectivity that we need to consider or reveal something that we would not have thought about on our own. They are a useful method to inform decision-making, strategic planning, and resource building, and often add a human dimension to impersonal data. Focus groups are also a great way to measure the relevance and viability of a new project or initiative.

Before defining a new market or developing a new product or idea, a focus group can affirm or challenge assumptions, provide data that could lead to a more cost-effective journey, or yield unexpected and halting results. If that’s the case, a focus group may offer an idea of segments that are worth pursuing vs. segments that are not profitable.

Carefully organize a focus group of individuals who are committed to and affected by your service or product. Ensure that the participants have a sufficient awareness of the topic to impart useful information, yet are diverse enough to provide a variety of perspectives. Build and leverage the group neutrally and appropriately. New ideas or concepts might surface. The prepared and experienced moderator will be ready to respond to surprises as they arise.

The ideal group size is 8-12 participants. Fewer than 8 may lead to inconclusive or misleading results. More than 12 may be intimidating to folks who are typically introverted or lead to group thinking. Sessions typically last between 1-2 hours.

Have an agenda and make sure that participants understand the purpose of your research. They should be aware of what is expected of them, how long the session will last, and any promotional incentives to participating. It’s helpful to provide a meal or a snack and perks like branded pens and pads. Gift certificates are always a gracious way to reward attendees for their honest feedback.

Remember to maintain a focus on the group. Pun intended. Momentary chaos means that we are doing something right! An effective facilitator will be able to steer people back to topic and notice when the collective needs more (or less) information than what has been provided. We want everyone to participate and to challenge not just our perceptions, but also each other’s.

Fresh, original research keeps a company relevant and interesting. The shelf life for data and new ideas is growing shorter and shorter. Consolidate a summary and provide the results as an added “thank you”, when possible. If your focus group talks about a confidential beta project (inform at first approach), you don’t need to share the results. As soon as possible, we should act or react to what we’ve learned.

If we are not engaging, we are invisible. Be human and interesting. Invite employees, customers, vendors and anyone who could benefit from the product or service to share their opinion on how we’re doing. A focus group is the perfect method. Be ready for good and bad surprises… Brace yourself.

Infinite Vision can help you from start to finish with a focus group, or at any stage where we can leverage your knowledge base and capacity with ours. Contact us to get started: Christine@infinite-vision.net.