Yes, really! Focus groups are a must for product development and marketing no matter the type or size of your business.
As an entrepreneur, business owner, business professional, I’m sure you have heard time and time again, “Know your target audience.” Focus groups are a great market research tool to help you identify your target audience, how they feel, their values, what they feel may be the problems and attributes of your product, service, and/or circumstances that impact your product/service.
Focus group is a technique, a powerful 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. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. The open-ended interaction of focus groups leads to stimulation of thoughts and emotions and the revelation of material which is not ordinarily forthcoming in an individual interview. The average size is 6-10 people at the same time in the same group.
The better you understand the true motivations, like, dislikes, wants, and needs of your consumer, the better you can develop your product and/or service to meet your target audience needs.
Now, it’s truly a science developing and moderating quality focus groups. You can conduct a focus group yourself or solicit the services of a marketing research firm or consultant who specializes in this area. Whether you do it yourself or hire a company, you must understand what it takes to produce a focus group that will bear quality outcomes.
Five key areas: (note: relevance – your objectives, your brand, your product/services, the information you are seeking all shape your entire focus group process)
- Question Strategy
- Planning the Session
- Facilitating Session
- Immediately After Session
Today we will focus on two areas of preparation, identifying the major objective and focus group modes.
“Put a lot of creative energy into the topic. Nothing effects the acceptance rates, the show-up rates and the involvement of the participants as much as the topic of the group and how it is stated to the participants. The idea is to find a truthful topic which is of great interest to the participants and encompasses the research objectives, but does not bias the group or tell them more than is appropriate, given the research objectives. I routinely see acceptance rates double and triple as I change the topic and subtopics slightly… For example, imagine that you were being invited to a focus group. Which group would you like to attend? “Research Methods” or “New Advances in Research Methods,” or “How to Conduct Research which is Cheaper, Better and Faster,” or “Ways People Have Found for Getting Beneath the Surface Responses.” It makes a difference, doesn’t it?” –George Silverman, http://mnav.com/focus-group-center/bensurf-htm/
There are three major modes of focus groups: face-to-face, telephone, and online. The key consideration in developing the focus group experience is creating an atmosphere to receive the richest expression and greatest number of cues for interpretation (body language, voice inflection, etc). In this context, of course, face-to-face is ideal. But in situations where respondents are geographically far apart, hard to recruit, when you prefer people to be in their own natural environment, telephone focus groups are much more ideal. A texting / typing based online focus group takes away from non-verbal communication such as body language and voice inflection. Now, the combination of telephone and online (like many webinars are done) can provide the comfort of a level of anonymity while still allowing for stimulus material and the cost savings of renting of a facility.
Also, consider using a Google Plus Circle to find qualified participants or to screen your participants. Take it one step further by adding a telephone conference number to conduct a small (5-6 people) focus group using Google+. (check out guest post by Srinivas Rao on Socialmouths, How To Create A Focus Group Using Google Plus)
Again, your objectives, subject matter, and participants will help you determine which mode will work best. Remember, a focus group requires interaction between participants and should be comfortable and safe enough for people to open up. Participants must feel psychologically and physically safe.
Coming Soon PART 2 – Invite, Screen, Confirm