Last Updated on May 1, 2019
For decades, large organizations have used focus groups as a way of gathering data and gleaning powerful insights from customers. But for small businesses, the challenge of conducting focus groups often seems too large of a feat to tackle.
The role of a focus group
A focus group is a formal method of observation and research that companies use to bring a collection of people together – usually 5-10 individuals with a variety of backgrounds – to answer questions, try products, and discuss beliefs. Focus groups have multiple applications, including:
- Keeping assumptions in check OR verifying that assumptions are true
- Gathering opinions, insights, attitudes, and beliefs that are important to the organization
- Stimulating and analyzing conversation and discussion on particular topics
- Analyzing the receptivity of a group of people to a particular idea, product, or service
It doesn’t matter if you’re launching a new piece of software, gathering ideas for a new business venture, or analyzing the relevancy of a mature product, focus groups can provide valuable insights.
5 Keys to better focus groups
If you aren’t careful, you can get rooked into thinking that focus groups must follow a very stringent set of guidelines. And while research firms do implement rigid processes in order to protect the integrity of their data, you have the freedom to be as lax or specific with your approach as you deem appropriate. You know what you’re seeking, and it’s your decision how you get there. But with that being said, we’d recommend you do the following:
1. Start with a purpose
Never conduct a focus group without having a clearly defined purpose on the front end. Most businesses prefer to boil the objective down into a single sentence or statement. Doing so allows you to direct and redirect the session as needed.
2. Find the right people
Small businesses often make the mistake of assuming they need a group of like-minded people. However, you actually want some diversity among your participants. The goal is to gather insights from as many vantage points as possible. If everyone has the exact same experiences, wants, needs, and beliefs, the focus group will turn into an echo chamber.
3. Structure accordingly
Think through every aspect of the session and how you want things to go. Focus groups have a tendency to get out of control if you don’t have a particular plan in place. You already know your objective; now you need to implement steps and guidelines to help you achieve this goal.
Carefully identify a handful of specific questions you want to ask – as well as potential follow-ups to each of these questions. Set out a specific time allotment for each question and don’t be afraid to cut people off in order to move on to another question. People have finite attention spans and you risk negatively influencing your results if you take too long to get to the big ideas.
4. Analyze with intentionality
It’s not always what you learn during a focus group that’s most beneficial. In many cases, it’s the analysis that happens after a group has concluded that yields the most powerful insights. It’s for this reason that video recording is recommended.
As Intelligent Video Solutions notes, “Recording focus groups allows companies to review the sessions in depth and pick up on extra information that is often missed by a human observer.” This includes non-verbal cues like facial expressions and posture that the facilitator and observers didn’t originally spot.
5. Apply the insights and proceed
The focus group is just the start. After the session is over, the real work begins. Sit down and analyze the insights you gathered and then look for practical ways to implement what you’ve learned. Insights without action are essentially useless.
Adding it all up
Focus groups allow businesses of any size to gather important insights from a unique vantage point and account for the precise thoughts, feelings, and interactions of a target group of customers. Even if you don’t have the funds to hire a professional research firm, there’s nothing stopping you from conducting your own focus groups. Give it a try and see what you think.