How to Conduct Effective Focus Groups for Market Research
Market research is a valuable exercise that is vital to most business owners and entrepreneurs when they are in the initial stages of creating a product, service or business. Market research is the process of researching and collecting data to support whether or not your product or service will be successful on the market once launched.
Understanding what your consumers and customers want is vital in achieving success with your business, which is why the focus group research method is key in helping you get the results you desire. Not only do market research focus groups allow you to avoid potential mistakes or failures, they can also save you a lot of money.
What is a Focus Group?
A focus group is a commonly used market research method in which a group of specifically selected individuals gather to discuss a topic. The intention of a market research focus group is to gain perspective on a product, service or concept before it is launched on to the market. Individuals selected for focus group research are demographically diverse to ensure an effective and useful result.
Focus groups are a form of qualitative research which consist of an interviewer asking a small group of people questions regarding their beliefs, opinions and attitudes towards something in particular. Unlike a traditional interview, the market research focus group research method encourages group participation in order to allow the group to interact and influence one another during the discussion, giving a wider perspective of the topic and consideration of different views.
During the focus group process, the researcher typically takes notes or records the session to collect qualitative data paying particular attention the vital points that were made throughout the discussion.
What are the benefits of focus groups?
There are many benefits of focus groups as a form of market research , with the main one being that they allow you to have an accurate prediction to the response you will gain from the public, prior to actually releasing any information. This not only allows you to make improvements before releasing the product or service, but it can also save you a great deal of money.
Similarly, you can use market research focus groups to get opinions on your existing products and services, which helps you to identify improvements that can be made.
Focus groups are very helpful in also identifying the current position of your competitors enabling you to address needs of the product that they have not already considered.
One of the main advantages of focus groups, is their ability to save time in comparison to a company conducting individual interviews.
Disadvantages of focus groups
As with all methods of market research, along with the benefits of focus groups, there are also a few potential focus group disadvantages to consider:
- Moderator bias – moderators conducting a focus group can intentionally influence the groups views towards a product by leading the participants of the market research group to reach certain assumptions or conclusions.
- Expense – in comparison to other market research methods such as questionnaires and surveys, focus groups cost a great deal more as each participant is normally paid for their contribution, however they can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.
- Not as in depth as other market research methods – although focus groups are great for collecting an overall opinion on a topic/product, they aren’t able to cover subjects in as much depth as say an individual interview.
- Not always as accurate – individuals participating in the focus group may not express honest or personal opinions or may be hesitant to express their true feelings about something particularly if it conflicts with another opinion within the group.
Key Things to Consider When Conducting a Focus Group
What is your desired outcome for the focus group?
Before we go on to discuss how to run a focus group, it is vital that first you have clear goals about what you want to achieve within the time you have. Make clear notes of what your focus is going to be on and what you want your outcome to be. This will limit and prevent any time wasting, and will give you a clear structure to follow throughout. Begin by considering the following:
- What are you hoping to discover from conducting your focus group?
- Are you looking for direction on how to market towards a specific consumer group?
- Do you want ideas on how to improve an existing service or product?
- Are you trying to establish a market for a particular product or idea?
How to Recruit Focus Group Participants
Once you have established how to conduct a focus group, and outlined your goals clearly, you can then have a better idea on who you should invite to participate. Ensuring that your focus group is structured around your particular product and target consumer is crucial in order to gain the best results and outcome.
You should take into consideration the following demographics when it comes to selecting individuals for your focus group.
- Family status
- Education level
- Income level
- Sexual orientation
- Professional status
As soon as you have defined your target audience, you can then easily reach out to the individuals to ask them to participate.
You can do this via agencies who specialise in focus group recruitment and have their own databases to work from. You may also want to do it yourself – for example, through emails, telephone calls, or social media ads. The exact method will depend on your desired demographics and how they prefer to be contacted, and whether you have the resources to carry out the recruitment yourself.
What Makes a Successful Focus Group?
You may be wondering how to run a focus group,, and there are in fact many different things to consider if you want to conduct a focus group, from the size of the market research group, to the duration of the meeting and even the venue. All of these aspects will undoubtedly affect your outcome, so it is important that you get these right.
Consider the venue
When conducting a focus group, you want to ensure you consider a venue that is easy to get to, suitable for the size group that will be attending, and possibly has free parking. That way you are making it as convenient as possible for the participants, and immediately making them feel at ease.
Set an ideal duration
The typical duration of a focus group is between 60 and 90 minutes. This allows enough time to discuss the chosen topic in detail between the participants, without wasting any time or spending too long on certain aspects. You don’t want to keep your market research groups too long but also want to make sure you are getting the answers and outcome you require for your market research.
Time and date
Before you send your focus group invitations, take into consideration what will be the most convenient time and date for your focus group participants to make it easier for them to attend
Some platforms such as Eventbrite not only allow you to create a free event and registration page, but they also provide you with the opportunity to add custom questions so that you can collect specific demographic information prior to the focus group taking place. This will help ensure that everyone attending is properly qualified to take part, which also again; prevents time wasting.
Recruit your participants
The ideal focus group size is typically 10-15 participants, however aim to confirm 15 people attending, as this will have you covered for any potential ‘no shows’.
Reach out to potential participants in whichever way you see fit, this can be done with posters, flyers or emails. You can also do so via advertisements that are distributed throughout local targeted locations such as shops, gyms, churches or schools. For example if you are hoping to target students, then put posters up around universities or post online on a student forum.
Plan the questions
In order to get the best response from your focus group, you need to design and deliver questions that prompt an in depth answer. Your aim is that the participants can’t simply answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that they have to actually provide a reason for their opinion and as a result; a useful answer.
Ensure the group is moderated
The moderator plays a huge role throughout the duration of the focus group, and it is their job to set clear rules for the discussion from the beginning.
It is also important that they engage the participants and allow them to feel comfortable, as this will determine the results gathered from the focus group. For example greet the focus group members at the beginning, give out name tags and ask a few informal questions to get people talking amongst each other.
It’s important that you record the focus group so that you can get the most use out of the responses. We would recommend recording the session on a voice recorder or similar equipment, and then transcribing the full discussion for easy reference and analysis.
Analyse your response
Once you have followed the previous steps and have conducted your focus group, you need to organise and analyse your responses. This is definitely the most important stage out of all of the focus group techniques discussed that will help guarantee the best results for your market research.
We hope this has helped you to plan your focus group market research, and shown you a bit more about how the process works.