Focus Group Tips

Posted on May 13, 2010


Considering a focus group to help you better understand your customers’ needs? Explore your motivations and follow a few helpful tips to ensure maximum value.

Questions to consider before beginning:

  1. What is your primary session goal? Is this narrowly defined?
  2. What are your secondary goals? Define each in order of importance and share with  your moderator.
  3. What types of questions would you like answered? Discuss as a group to better define goals and help create the best demographic survey and ranked question lists. While quantitative results are not the goal, ranked questions can help your organization more quickly key in on the most critical needs of your customer population. It simplifies analysis and helps confirm qualitative observations.
  4. How will group(s) be identified? Are there customer lists (names, emails, addresses, etc.) that can be consulted? Is data available to help target the particular groups most in demand? If not, what are some other options for reaching the target segment?
  5. Consider possible venues and weigh pros and cons. A neutral venue can be helpful to free participants to speak. At a minimum, a venue that is private and free from company representatives is a must to encourage participants to speak without reservations.
  6. What is your timeframe?
  7. What do you hope to get out of the sessions? How will you use the data gathered?

Make the most of your groups:

  • Groups should be limited to 8 to 12 people maximum to allow everyone a chance to participate and provide value. If you are inviting and confirming participants without professional support, be sure to select enough target individuals per group at the outset to allow for cancellations and no-shows.
  • Keeping groups consistent and narrowly defined helps facilitate a smooth session and secure the most valuable depth of experience data. Segmenting by customer type, and holding multiple groups to address various customer groups, may allow you to better explore and later address specific needs and desires. Conversely, if you choose to create a mixed group (with segment crossover) consider that you may get breadth rather than depth of information, with the ability to contrast experiences but also the potential for reduced and possibly less reliable themes and patterns. Consider what is most important to your organization at this time.
  • Rather than trying to do too much in one session, it can be valuable to attempt to focus on a specific, pressing issue (e.g., Why have some customers left? How can we attract new customers from “X”? What do current customers feel are our most critical strengths and weaknesses? What could we do for our customers that we are not currently doing?).
  • Keep in mind that quantitative data is not the ultimate goal of the focus group. Rather, focus groups are an excellent way to explore how groups of people think about and experience your services and products. They help organizations brainstorm creative solutions to buyer/customer problems and investigate differences between groups to help better serve various segments going forward.

Interested in learning more? In honor of Barten & Associates’ 15th Anniversary, new and existing clients are invited to schedule new focus groups at a 40 to 60% or more discount (depending on number of groups) until June 30, 2010. Email us and mention code “anniversary” for more information. And, as always, please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions at any time.