focus group

Hosting focus groups are a vital practice for many companies. They offer a chance to really dig into how a product or service is working and how they can be improved.

From testing new logos to testing totally new products, sometimes it’s better to ask your target market than your team to get a more accurate understanding of how your customers and prospects will respond to a new product or changes in a service.

That’s where focus groups come into play. Focus groups are helpful for getting an outside opinion from the people who matter most: the one’s you’re trying to sell your products to. Focus groups can be helpful for:

  • Starting a new business or website
  • Implementing a new personality, logo or look
  • Revamping your already existing website
  • Company expansions
  • Targeting a new audience
  • Trying to better adapt a product or service to existing customers
  • Launching new tools, including social channels or new mobile apps
  • Basically anything new or any type of change that you want to implement as a brand or business

Before You Host a Focus Group

If you think you may want to hold a focus group, ask yourself the following questions before diving in:

  • Why do I want to hold this?
  • What insight can a focus group offer me that my own employees or friends can’t?
  • Specifically, which part of my business do I want to focus on?
  • Who do I want to ask?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What type of compensation can I offer participants of a focus group?

Remember that the point of a focus group is to stay focused. It’s too wide of a topic to just have people come in to discuss your brand as a whole. Instead, focus groups are most effective when you host them with a very specific purpose in mind.

How to Find Your Group 

Finding a focus group can be done either yourself or with the help of an outside contractor. Companies do exist that will run your focus group for you. They’ll draw up the questions, find the audience and run the show, coming back to you with the results in the end. However convenient, these companies are often rather expensive, making them an option for larger companies, but less affordable for small businesses and startups.

Luckily, it’s definitely not impossible to hold your own focus group without outside help. All you need is a little organization and a lot of… well… focus.

To find your participants, if you’re doing it yourself, you can basically post ads online. Some companies use sites like Craigslist, while others use social channels to reach out. The key to finding your own participants is to focus. Map out important demographic factors, like age, gender, education level, income level and any other factors that are relevant to your company specifically.

It’s also really important to offer your participants some type of compensation. Maybe this is a check or maybe it’s a free giveaway of one of your products. If you’re not getting enough volunteers, it probably means that your compensation isn’t compelling enough, so rethink and retry.

Preparing Materials for Your Focus Group

It is imperative that you have very specific materials prepped and ready for your focus group. You want to make sure that you have physical and visual examples of exactly what you’re talking about. You want to observe initial reactions and watch the process as they test your new product or use your new website. You never want to ask a group to try something out before coming in because, first of all, you can’t trust that they’ll do this, and second of all, you probably want to be there to hear initial reactions.

Questions to Consider 

Physically write out the questions that you want to ask your focus group beforehand. Many times, it’s easy to get sidetracked in these types of meetings, so it can be incredibly helpful to map them out beforehand. This will help you stay focused and on track. When brainstorming questions, consider some of the following areas:

  • Colors, visual, look, logo
  • Usability
  • Potential problems
  • Flow
  • Language
  • Competitors, other examples of brands they admire and why
  • Helpful suggestions for changes
     

The Pros and Cons of Focus Groups

Focus groups can be really helpful to businesses implementing company changes. They can offer insight and ideas that the employees may not have otherwise thought of. That said, there are also some definite drawbacks of conducting focus groups. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You get an outside perspective from people who are totally removed from your product. It’s hard to be judgmental and critical of our “babies,” so sometimes we need some eyes from the outside world to see what’s really going on.
  • You can ask your target audience what they think. Instead of speculating and wondering, you have the real deal in the room with you.

Cons:

  • Focus group participants tend to bounce ideas off one another, just as we do when we’re brainstorming with our coworkers. Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean that you don’t get a totally honest reaction because the group generally goes in the direction of the first couple participants who speak up. To avoid this problem, you can always have your focus group participants write out their responses before having a verbal discussion.
  • Focus groups are based on a small sample size. You probably don’t want to pay thousands of people to join in, so you’re going to have to assume that your little group represents majority of your audience. You can only do this however, if they are a representative sample of your target audience. If the ideas that stem from your focus group don’t really work out, you probably need to grab a larger or more representative group next time.

Remember, most of the time focus groups are insightful learning experiences. You just have to remind yourself to receive the feedback (especially negative) with an open mind. You don’t have to implement every change that comes out of the group, but it should give you a good idea of where to head next.