August 18, 2022

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How to Run a Focus Group

6 min read
How to Run a Focus Group

If you’re looking to gather information from your target audience about your business, running a focus group may be the right move for you.

A focus group brings a small group of strangers together to gather their opinions and attitudes on a given concept or product. It’s one way businesses can collect information and data that helps them refine their strategies to improve for the future. In 2017, companies spent a whopping $2.2 billion globally to conduct focus groups, proving they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

In the marketing world, focus groups can serve more than one purpose. They give insight into the thoughts of your target market, so you know how they feel about your products and services. Many companies use these groups to test out new products and features before they’re available to the public. That way, they have a good idea of how it’ll perform once it’s available for everyone to use.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at how the following six tips can help you run a successful focus group:

  • Setting clear goals from the beginning
  • Targeting the right people
  • Compiling and finalizing your questions
  • Recruiting participants
  • Running the focus group 
  • Analyzing and consolidating data

1. Set objectives.

When you know what you’re trying to determine, it’s easier to choose questions and discussion prompts for your focus group. It’s important to set clear, actionable goals from the beginning so you go in with a clear mindset about what you want to achieve. The more you narrow your focus, the better.

What are you trying to find out? What do you want to know from the group? Who are you targeting? Do you want to gain feedback about a product or service? 

Write down a list of your most pressing questions as a way to create your goals. When you narrow them down to a few, you’re ready for the next step.

2. Know your target market.

You can’t run a successful focus group without targeting the right audience. That’s why it’s essential you know who you want in your group and what purpose they serve for your market research. Consider what types of people will help you reach the goals you set in place.

For example, if you’re a dental company trying to gauge what customers think about the new flossing product you’re launching next year, you’d want to target only flossers. Adding non-flossers to the group doesn’t help you because they won’t use your product or give you accurate feedback.

You can create buyer personas to narrow down the types of people you’re looking for so it’s easier when responding to applicants. The information is right in front of you so it’s easier to make a balanced, informed decision about who’s going to join the focus group.

3. Compile questions for participants.

Once you know what goals you want to achieve and the audience you’re targeting, it’s time to gather your questions and discussion prompts. What you ask your audience determines your results and how well you reach your goals, so it’s imperative to choose the right ones.

Avoid asking “yes or no” questions that don’t give you further insight unless they serve a purpose. The last thing you want is to ask questions that leave you at a dead end. Stick to open-ended questions that prompt discussion and make it easy for participants to dive further into the topic. 

It’s important to keep the discussion going once it starts because any lag in momentum can discourage participants from speaking up. That’s why it’s crucial to go over your questions before the group meets so you know how, when and where to steer the conversation.

4. Recruit participants.

The most important part of your focus group is the people who participate in it. Their feedback and attitudes on your topic determine its outcome. If you don’t target the right audience, your results won’t be accurate. 

It’s crucial to hold a proper screening process to ensure respondents qualify for the group should you choose them. You don’t want more than 15 people in your focus group so that you can pay attention to each person and gain clearer insight.

Unfortunately, few people are willing to take part in a focus group if there isn’t some form of compensation. They have to travel to your location and take time out of their day to give you data and feedback. So, it’s a courteous gesture to incentivize the process and show your appreciation. You can offer these to participants: 

  • Discounts
  • Cash
  • Gift cards
  • Gifts

The best way to find participants for your focus group is by promoting the opportunity to participate everywhere you can. Use social media to add relevant hashtags and keywords to your posts. Advertise on various social platforms where you can target a specific audience. Use email marketing to reach out to existing customers. Consider local-based promotion using flyers, local ads, billboard ads and more.

Since you already created a website for your business, you can make a separate webpage to accept applications. Use an optimized survey form to collect applicant information and keep data in one place. It’s best to narrow down your questions so you know those you choose fit your target audience. Ask for information about their demographics and other criteria that will help you choose candidates who qualify.

5. Run the focus group.

Before running the focus group, you need to make sure enough people register to attend. If there are too few participants, you won’t get enough data, and the group won’t serve its full purpose. 

Use an event registration form to keep track of everyone attending the focus group. Be clear about the date, time and location so everyone is on the same page about where they need to be. There are usually a few no-shows in every focus group, so expect a few people not to show up. 

Focus groups typically have more than one person who runs them, including a moderator and an assistant moderator. How you choose to run your group is entirely up to you. Hand out a consent form for everyone to sign for legal purposes. 

Start the discussion by explaining why everyone is there and what you hope to achieve from the process. If there are rules, now is the time to announce them. Ask your questions to each participant and moderate the discussion while your assistant records the session and takes notes. 

When the meeting is over, hand participants their incentive and thank them for their time.

6. Analyze your data.

Once you have the information you need, it’s time to organize and compile it into research you can use to better your small business. If you recorded the meeting, which most companies do, then you can convert the audio into transcripts and analyze them further. You can expect to cut out unnecessary information, ramblings and other nonessential parts of the discussion.

Take note of similarities and inconsistencies in participants’ feedback. You might see a common theme that leads you to a newfound discovery. Go over your notes and compare them to the transcriptions to continue making connections. 

When you have everything you need, compile it into a report that summarizes the focus group’s goals and findings. Review it as needed when it’s time to refine your strategy and enhance your business. 

When you own a small business, running a focus group is a great way to gain customer insight, collect feedback and improve your brand. It gives you valuable information you can use to grow your business and reach success. How will you run your next focus group?

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