Whether you’re launching a new product or service, or just want to get to know your existing customers better, holding a focus group is a great way to gain valuable insight into the needs of your target audience.
Bringing a group of potential customers together for an hour or two at the outset of a project can save you significant time and money in the long run.
Research conducted with a focus group can also prove useful if you’re seeking backing for your project, providing evidence of that gap in the market you’re looking to fill.
Follow our simple 7 step guide to running a successful focus group event.
Reaching out to your customers doesn’t have to be hard.
Keeping short “field notes” about your work will help you better relate to your process and know when it might be time to move on from a certain theme, image, idea or material. It can be sad to spend so much time working on a body of work and to move on from it. When you believe your logo may only be attracting a certain kind of audience or demographic, it might be time to rebrand. By choosing the right color, font and design, you can be more inclusive and attract more people. If you have outgrown the mission of your company when you first started, it is time to let your customers know how you.
Before you can start gathering participants, it’s important to understand why you’re organising the focus group. What are you hoping to find out?
Are you trying to establish a market for your product or idea? Do you want direction on marketing to a particular group? Do you wish to understand how you can provide a better service to existing customers?
Setting clear goals, in the beginning, will provide you with a roadmap for planning your focus group.
Now your goals have been set you will have a clearer idea about who you need to invite to participate. Demographics to consider include gender, age range, ethnicity, sexual orientation, postcode, religion, relationship and family status, education level, professional status/income level, and hobbies/interests.
You may wish to hyper-target i.e. Asian housewives aged between 30-60 who enjoy cooking, or it might better suit your purposes to have a broad cross-section. You can always drill down later into different groups and gain deeper insight.
Once you know exactly who you are trying to target, you will better understand where to reach out to those individuals.
You will not require a fancy venue for your focus group, simply somewhere that is easy to find and access. Public transport links are important – a venue close to a train or underground station or a bus stop is ideal.
However, if some participants are likely to be driving, it’s important to consider car parking arrangements. They will no doubt resent having to pay £5 to park in a multi-story, so either choose a venue with free on-site parking or agree in advance to cover participants’ expenses.
Good value venues include church halls and community centres, schools or colleges, a meeting room in a business centre that can be hired by the hour or even your own offices. The ideal duration of a focus group is between 60-90 minutes.
When setting the time and date for your event consider what would be most convenient for your target audience – after work or during school hours, or maybe even on the weekend? Be sure your date doesn’t clash with anything that could be detrimental. If you’re targeting football fans, you won’t want your group to take place at the same time as an important match!
You can use Eventbrite to set up a free event page, providing your participants with full details of your focus group and the opportunity to secure a place via the registration facility. Eventbrite’s ‘Custom Questions’ feature enables you to collect demographic information at registration, ensuring attendees are properly qualified to take part.
Language of the handssindarin lessons. Language of the hands - Sindarin Lessons Language of the hands One hand palm upwards Gesture of recipient, or asking for something.
The ideal size for a focus group is 10-15 people – any more than that and not everyone will have the chance to provide proper input. Aim to confirm 15 participants and you’ll be covered for the inevitable 10-20% of no-shows.
In order to incentivise people to take part, and thank them for their time, it is usual to offer a moderate gift, such as a £25 gift voucher for a popular restaurant chain or store. You should also offer your participants refreshments (tea, coffee, and biscuits as a minimum). Your adverts should make these incentives clear, as well as the date, timings, and location of your event.
You can reach out to potential participants with flyers, posters, emails or advertisements distributed via targeted locations such as clubs and groups, schools, workplaces, community centres, gyms, churches, libraries, post offices, shops, local newspapers and online forums.
For example, if you wish to target pregnant women, you could put posters up in doctors’ surgeries or post in a pregnancy forum online.
The purpose of a focus group is to stimulate rich conversation so it is important to ensure questions are opened-ended, with no particular answer implied. Starting questions with “how” or “why” or “what” is a good way to get participants talking. An example might be “what motivates your decision when choosing a washing powder?”
The idea is that the participants cannot answer with a single “yes” or “no”, although this might be useful on occasion; for example “do you always buy the same brand of washing powder?”
Each question should be followed up with a probe, eliciting more information, such as “why is that important to you?”
Questions should be clearly worded, to the point and ask only one thing. For example, asking how the smell of the washing powder and the packaging design influence a participant’s buying decision is asking for two different things and should be split into two questions.
The ideal number of questions is between eight to 12 – you need to ensure there will be time for every participant to answer.
Ideally, the focus group is conducted by a team consisting of a moderator and an assistant moderator. The moderator facilitates the discussion, while the assistant runs the video camera and takes notes.
After greeting each group participant and providing them with nametags, the moderator should begin by sharing information about the focus group including the goal of the event and how the information will be used.
Next, set the ground rules for the discussion, such as raising your hand before sharing a comment and pose an ice breaker question, such as “what did you have for breakfast today”, just to get people talking.
It is good moderator practice to paraphrase and summarise long, complex or ambiguous comments. It demonstrates active listening and clarifies the comment for everyone in the group.
At the end of the session, thank the participants for attending and hand out the incentive.
Transcribe the answers recorded on the video, cutting out anything unnecessary and boiling down to the essential information. Enter the answers to each question into a spreadsheet and begin to analyze the data by organising the responses into categories.
For example, when you asked about the factors that motivated the purchase of washing powder, the answers could probably be broken down into categories such as these:
A) Price/on offer
B) Seen an advert
C) Recommended by a friend
D) Packaging design
Assign each answer to a category. Using this method, you can then easily see which category has the most responses and identify common themes.
Finally, you should write a report outlining the major findings and conclusions, as well as the subsequent recommendations for your business or product.
Running a focus group will provide you with invaluable business intelligence and could give you an advantage over your competitors.
However, you should bear in mind that you might need to host more than one (using the same questions) to obtain thorough results. When you’re not hearing anything new anymore, you’ll know you’ve reached a saturation point!
Deciding whether to stick it out or leave your job and explore new opportunities can be one of the most stressful decisions you ever make. How many reasons do you need to take the leap and pursue something different? Well, we've rounded up eight scenarios to help you make this difficult life decision a little easier.
1. Your relationship with your boss changed. For years you've had a fabulous working and personal relationship with your boss, but you begin to sense a shift in the organization's culture and your boss's leadership. You are being asked to take on more responsibility and do more with fewer resources. The relationship is deteriorating, and you feel like you are losing your support system within the organization.
2. Work and life values are no longer being met. When you were hired, you knew the organization and role were a good fit that met your work and life values. However, with the changes in the organization you’ve noticed you are no longer feeling satisfied with your work. Or maybe the culture shifted, and you are not able to perform at your fullest potential. Ask yourself: If you interviewed at the company today, would you want to work there?
3. You are left out of decision-making meetings. A business decision was made without your input and you don’t agree with the direction. You’re losing influence with upper management and are no longer “in the know.” Your subordinates begin to ask others for input and decisions, which further diminishes your authority.
4. You are not being asked to take on high-visibility assignments. What about me? You begin to notice that your subordinates are now in the spotlight and asked to lead a major project working directly with your manager. Your high-performing team is being broken apart and moved onto other teams to maximize their strengths. Not only are you not being put on highly visible assignments — your team is being broken apart.
5. You are frustrated with the direction of the company and are more vocal than usual. The company is changing its focus, and you do not support the decision. You are becoming more vocal about your disagreement. You are feeling frustrated; your input is not being heard because management is hearing undertones of dissent in your voice, as opposed to the content of what you are saying.
6. You find yourself awake at night with an anxious feeling, replaying conversations. The pressures of work assignments, tight deadlines or disagreements with your manager resulted in not getting a solid night’s sleep. The anxiety over work is increased, and the lack of sleep has prevents you from performing at your best.
7. You are managing the political arena more than performing your job. There are rumors the company may be bought and “every person for himself” seems to be the mode of operation, which doesn’t allow time to do the work. At the end of the week, you have spent more time managing the politics than accomplishing something on your to-do list.
8. You are no longer passionate about your work and dread going to the office each day. Do you wake up in the morning energized and look forward to your day, or do you dread it? If getting out of bed each morning is becoming a challenge, then you need to listen to your instincts and ask yourself, “Why?” We spend a majority our lives working, so don’t ignore the signs that are telling you, “It's time to move on.' You will find another job in which you look forward to going to work each day.
Accepting that it might be time to leave is the first step toward finding a job that is in alignment with your values, skills and interests. Finding the courage to leave is the next step, but before you do, make sure you plan an effective exit strategy.
The Mashable Job Board connects job seekers across the U.S. with unique career opportunities in the digital space. While we publish a wide range of job listings, we have selected a few job opportunities from the past two weeks to help get you started. Happy hunting!
Social Media Manager at SpotCo in New York, N.Y.
Account Executive - Interactive at Walton Isaacson in Chicago, Ill.
Account Manager, Ladies' Home Journal at Meredith Corporation in New York, N.Y.
Image via iStockphoto, MHJ