A focus group is a wonderful way to gain feedback on your company’s product launch, its brand, or its marketing communications strategy. It’s also very time consuming, which is why I think many smaller companies skip this process.
That’s a mistake, in my view, especially if you’re marketing to a market or market segment you’re not entirely familiar with.
Focus groups allow marketers to identify what customers really need and want. By talking to real potential customers, you gain a fresh perspective. Research companies conduct focus groups to large companies with robust marketing budgets; a small business can also utilize market research techniques to gain powerful insights about its business. You can also gain information about your consumers’ impressions of your competitors.
In this article, I’ll provide a cursory review of developing a focus group. The article Conducting A Focus Group by Professor Glenn Blank from Lehigh University does an excellent job outlining the step-by-step process of study development in depth. I also recommend Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group, courtesy of Duke University, to walk you through the process.
What is a focus group?
In a focus group, a market research team selects 6 – 10 participants of the market of interest to “focus” on a specific topic.
What Will You Need?
Over the course of the process, you will need:
- A team. Several people should help put the focus group together. You need at least two people, but three or four are even better. Each person can take on different duties, including recruitment, study design, transcribing, and analysis.
- A location to have the focus group
- A budget. Items will include compensation for the participants, materials, book the room, etc.
- A research plan. Your research plan outlines the purpose of the study and research question, provides a review of other secondary research, has a script, and includes the questions that you will ask. I use a Google Doc with my team, and we build this research plan together.
- Release forms. Outline the purpose study to the participants. Tell them what you will be using to record their voices, and what will you do with the information. Ensure that participants are not in danger by participating in the study. Protect their privacy by keeping their identities anonymous. Give them a signed copy as well.
- Recording Device
Decide the purpose of your focus group
Outline the purpose of your focus group in your research plan. You may have a lot of ideas. Narrow down the ideas so that your focus group doesn’t become too laborious.
Determine your recruitment strategy
It’s important that the right participants are selected. They should be representative of your market. For instance, if you are developing a men’s fragrance, a focus group filled with all of your girlfriends won’t provide you with the correct data. (That is, unless the purpose of your focus group is to create an advertising campaign for women who may purchase for men.)
You also must be aware of how you select your participants. This is challenging, because certain market segments may be more inclined to participant than others. For instance, if you are doing a focus group for hand soap, elderly retired participants might be more inclined to participate than Gen-Y participants. Consider how your cash incentive also encourages certain kinds of participants.
Write a script with questions
Develop a list of questions that addresses the goal of the focus group. After you’ve created a list, do a trial-focus group with your team. Ask them to answer the questions in their own words. You’ll be surprised to discover that questions you thought were clear appear strange to the listener. Or, your questions may evoke a response that you are not interested in, and you need to reformulate. Learn more about how to craft great questions here.
My company Bleubird Digital regularly hosts focus groups for beauty brands that are about to launch products. We do all of this work for clients in roughly 6 – 8 weeks. They receive a comprehensive report that outlines everything they need to know for a product launch or marketing campaign. To learn more about how we can conduct your research, connect with me!