Biz Talk
Past Issues:

The Art of the Focus Group

speechesHave you ever lined the shelves of your store with a new product or offered a terrific new service, and then waited until someone bought what you were selling? Maybe they looked at the items, even asked about them, but then put them back on the shelf.

When you are selling a product or service, it can be very difficult to figure out what people actually are going to buy. You can take a guess, according to what you think, or ask a family member for their opinion, but this doesn’t give you a broad enough answer. If you’re a large business, you might be able to invest in expensive market research, but even then, how confident are you that the researcher actually knows your market and your products?

This is when a focus group comes in handy. It’s something any business can do, large or small. Nothing beats sitting down face-to-face (or in an online chat) and letting potential customers talk in front of you. It’s better than a survey because you actually hear the reason behind the answers.

Best of all, you’ll have a much clearer idea as to what your customers want and what they don’t want!

How to set it up

  • Set up your focus group in person, or as an online chat. Pick the format that is most comfortable for your audience.
  • Approach a few of your customers or put a sign-up sheet in your store. A good size is 8-10 people.
  • Send out a short survey to those that have shown interest. Make sure you’ve got the right group – for example, if you are doing a focus group about coffee, make sure yous participants drink coffee.
  • Only use first names and ask permission to keep names and email addresses on file for follow up.
  • It’s always nice to provide an incentive, such as a gift card for each participant.
  • Set a time limit – an hour but no more than two.
  • An assistant is a good idea so there are no interruptions and you have someone to take notes.
  • If you record the discussion, let everyone know and get their permission.
  • Let your group talk but don’t let one person dominate. This is why it is good to have a second person with you to help move the discussion along.

Questions to ask

Ask questions that give you definitive answers. Vague questions gives you vague answers, for example:

Vague: What style of umbrella would you buy?
Clear: Do you prefer a neutral shade for an umbrella or a bright colour?

Vague: Do you like this product?
Clear: Would you buy this product?

After the event

  • Thank everyone and possibly give them a thank you gift.
  • A month or two later, send a note to follow up on what you’ve done because of their input. You don’t need to tell them everything, but encourage them (in case you do another focus group) by giving them some inside info!