Things to Consider When Conducting a Focus Group

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

A focus group is a small group of people led by an impartial person to gather data that tells you what your target market thinks about your company’s products, services, ad campaigns, or brand. The group setting gives you the ability to ask questions that are too complicated to put on a simple survey, and focus groups are often more effective than one-on-one interviews because participants build their answers off of statements and ideas discussed in the group. Before conducting your first focus group, you may want to consider the following issues.

Choosing a Focus Group Topic

The purpose of a focus group is to collect opinions on a single topic. This could be a new product you’re getting ready to launch, a marketing campaign, or a new advertisement. Limiting the focus group to one main topic keeps the conversation as focused as possible, and all of the questions asked to the group should pertain to the main topic. The more focused the group, the more likely you’ll receive in-depth answers to your questions. If you plan to cover more than one topic, make sure the topics you cover relate to each other. For example, if you’re gathering opinions on a new product, you could show the group one or two ads to see which one gets a better response.

Identify Your Target Audience

To collect useful data, you want people who fit your target demographic to participate in your focus group. For example, if you’re getting ready to launch a new toy for toddlers, your focus group participants should be parents with children between the ages of 2 and 4. Once you identify your target audience, you can use local radio and TV ads to find participants. Alternatively, you can use social media, or email your current customer list to find willing focus group participants. Remember, not every participant you select will show up for your focus group. Inviting nine to 12 people to participate in your focus group ensures between six and eight will probably actually attend.

Develop a Discussion Guide

Your discussion guide should include between 10 and 15 questions for your focus group to answer, as well as some general ground rules for the group to follow, such as:

  • Stay focused
  • Maintain momentum
  • Discuss each topic until closure is given
  • Only one person should speak at a time
  • Everyone needs to participate
  • Give in-depth answers

The questions that you ask your focus group should all be open-ended; yes or no answers aren’t very helpful. Remember, participants might not immediately know how to respond to questions they are asked. To keep participants focused and talking, consider asking your moderator to occasionally repeat questions, rephrase answers that were already given, or play “devil’s advocate” to some of the answers and ask others to respond to the statement.

Record the Session

Recording the focus group session ensures you have all of the information gathered. At the very least, you probably want to record the audio portion of the session. If possible, record video of the focus group session so you can watch the participant’s body language during the discussion.

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