Putting the Focus back in Focus Groups

Focus GroupGathering a group of strangers in one room to give their opinion on your product or service sounds like a potential nightmare, but a focus group can be one of the most productive ways to conduct market research. It gives you a chance to test the market and get a feel for customer likes and dislikes before launching your product. Think of it as a final tinkering, putting on that last coat of paint before it’s released to the customer. You do have to be aware, however, that not all focus groups run smoothly. We’d like to warn you of a few things you should look out for when organizing a focus group.

Take into account your method of compensation. If you anticipate that the focus group will take a long time to complete, you should provide incentives to stay like food or covering transportation costs. This gives participants a reason to show up and take the discussion seriously. You may have to dish out a bit of extra cash now, but it’ll pay off after the launch of your product.

Another thing to keep in mind is the moderator. Your moderator should be personable and able to effectively control and guide the discussion in the direction you want it to go. Otherwise the conversation can get hung up on irrelevant topics, wasting everyone’s time and leaving you with useless data. The moderator can’t be too assertive or else participants may feel pressure to answer what they feel the moderator wants to hear. They also have to be assertive enough that they don’t allow one or two dominant participants to control the discussion.

You also have to be careful of putting too much trust in your participants in the focus group. Typically, they’re great because you can ask follow-up questions and probe more deeply than you’d be able to with statistical data. However, you have to know your target audience. It helps if you can get a diversified group of participants from a number of demographics, but even if your entire focus group loves the product it doesn’t guarantee that your product will be successful once launched. Focus groups are a good way to get outside perspectives and work out any kinks before the product is launched, but they can’t always predict the swings in the market.

The overall goal of the focus group is to collect customer feedback before launching your product. You just have to make sure that your focus group really is ‘focused’ on discussing the improvement of your product and/or service!

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