About the Author:
Chloe Trogden specializes in research involving all forms of undergraduate grants. She has compiled thousands of resources including North Carolina college grants along with many others. She is currently attending UNC Chapel Hill and is entering her Junior year in the fall.
She is sharing some valuable tips on focus group here.
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging
Focus groups are a valuable marketing tool to help you gain insight into your products’ viability and the needs and desires of your target customers. However, running a successful focus group requires more than just hiring a company to put it together and then collecting the data. It takes experience and thoughtful planning to ensure that the time and the financial investment you put into it pays off by offering you valuable insights about your new product or service.
If you plan to conduct your own focus group, there are a number of things you should keep in mind. Even if you plan to hire someone else to lead the group, these tips can help you offer parameters so that you can get the most out of your focus groups to get useful feedback for product development:
Start work on Focus groups early
Focus groups are a great way to explore new ideas and to develop new products and business strategies. Since the feedback you receive from your focus group can help you make important changes that will be more beneficial to your customers, it is wise to get this feedback early in the planning stages when you don’t have to expend much more time or capital to make changes to what has already been completed. For example, if you conduct a focus group with parents for a new product designed for infant care and you find out that the design is unwieldy or presents safety problems, you want to have enough time to fix those problems before sending the product through to development, before you’ve produced a completed product. Getting the right feedback can help you develop your product with the customer in mind, right from the start.
Ensure Proper Parameters for your focus group
Selecting focus group participants is a skill, which is why many companies are hired for their expertise in doing so. Make sure your focus group conforms to proper parameters, including participants from a variety of backgrounds (not too similar to one another, but not too different either), the proper amount of participants (8 to 10 is ideal), and the right type and number of questions (try not to go more than an hour or two, and be sure to have focused questions). For example, if you want to get feedback about a new healthcare product, you will get vastly different results if your focus group consists of a group of personal trainers versus a group of stay-at-home moms.
Have Clear Objectives
Maybe you want to know how your product tests with women in a certain age demographic. Or maybe you want to find out how your service compares to your competitors.’ Be sure you have clear objectives for what you want to learn from the focus group so that you can keep it short and your efforts concise. Don’t try to cover too much information, as you will fatigue your participants and compromise the reliability of your results.
Don’t Look for Confirmation
We’d all like to hear that our product is wonderful and has been designed perfectly for the specific needs of our target demographic. However, such confirmation may not offer any room for improvement. It is easier to hear what we want to hear when participants offer feedback, honing in on those statements that confirm our own desires. Instead, try to really listen to the underlying message behind the feedback you are getting. Encourage open conversation, and don’t steer participants towards the answer you want.
Use Results as a Guide
Finally, remember that whatever feedback you receive from your focus group should just be used for guidance. Participant answers should give you insight into customer needs and desires, but they can’t be seen as conclusive. For example, Henry Ford once famously said that if he asked people what they wanted in transportation, they’d say they wanted a fast horse, and he never would have invented the car. Listening to the underlying message in the feedback – that people wanted faster transportation – led to a product that met those needs in a way they did not expect. A variety of other factors should influence your final decision, including additional market research.