How To Conduct Effective Product Focus Groups

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 16, 2022 | Published April 5, 2021

Updated November 16, 2022

Published April 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product focus groups are a great way for companies to gain insight on what customers may enjoy about a new product and which improvements to make before its release. Applying the feedback you gained from focus groups can increase the likelihood of more customers purchasing your product and being satisfied with it. In this article, we review what a product focus group is, the benefits of using one and how to conduct your own.

What is a product focus group?

A product focus group is a market research method companies use to better understand their target audience's thoughts and opinions about products they're about to release. During the focus group, attendees review the products and provide their thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions. Company employees closely analyze these opinions afterward and apply them toward the updates made to the product.

Most focus groups contain around eight to 13 people with traits and buying behaviors similar to the company's current customer base. You can typically find the strongest results by running at least three focus groups for a product to get a wide array of opinions. This gives you a clearer understanding of elements a majority of your customers are looking for in an ideal product. It also helps you more accurately predict of how the audience may respond to the product when released.

Related: Market Research: 5 Examples and Explanations

Benefits of using product focus groups

Focus groups can provide you with great insight into what customers look for, need and value in a product. Common benefits of using product focus groups include:

  • Get quick and honest input on products: Most focus group participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions with one another, especially if the host remains positive and appreciative of their feedback. This helps you understand what customers do and don't like about certain products.

  • Discover unique product ideas: There may be some product ideas you and other team members haven't yet thought of. Focus groups help you gain a better idea of products or features to add. They may have ideas you haven't yet thought of.

  • Delve deeper into certain customer issues or concerns: Focus groups open up deep and specific discussions on product and their features. It allows customers to go in-depth on what they'd like to update or change to make it more effective, valuable and enjoyable to customers.

Related: Guide To Understanding Product Development

How to create and use product focus groups

Before you can implement a successful focus group, you must recruit the right participants and establish the goals you'd like to reach. Follow these steps to conduct your own product focus group:

1. Set clear objectives

Work with team members to establish the goals to reach with the focus group. This can include getting insight on the effectiveness of a product before its release or determining which updates to add to make your product more valuable to your audience. Once you have your goals set, you can develop research questions to ask participants.

These questions should align with the goals you'd like to accomplish. For instance, if you'd like to learn more about which updates to add, center the questions on what the participants would fix or improve about the current product. Talk with current team members, managers, executives and stakeholders to get plenty of ideas of effective goals to establish and questions to ask during the focus group.

2. Create a casting call

Coming up with goals and questions should give you a clearer idea of who to recruit for the group. Consider the key demographics and buying habits of your current customers. Try to find individuals who match these characteristics to increase the accuracy of your results. You can include a mixture of current or potential customers in your focus group, depending on your goals.

Reach out to participants through online casting calls. Conduct a brief check on the people who volunteer for the opportunity to determine if they fit your target audience. Try to collect a significant number of participants and split them into groups according to different factors like age, location or buying habits.

3. Choose your location

Find a location to host your focus group. It should be an easily accessible location for yourself, coworkers and participants to visit. Make sure there is plenty of room in the selected area and that you and participants have plenty of privacy and limited distractions. Send the address to participants as soon as possible to ensure they don't have any issues traveling there. Visit the space ahead of time to set up tables and chairs before participants arrive.

4. Select your moderator

Choose someone on your team or a professional connection who has leadership or teaching experience to be the moderator and run the focus groups. They should be personable and have strong communication skills to lead and guide the conversation. A great moderator should also know how to take control of the situation and ensure participants cover the necessary questions in case the conversation veers off topic.

Related: How To Become a Focus Group Moderator

5. Write a discussion guide

Write a discussion guide, or script, for moderators to follow when talking with participants. Think about the questions you'd like them to ask to help you better understand more about the participant's opinions on the product. The script should list each question in the proper order to ensure the host looks prepared and confident throughout the session.

6. Prepare participants' materials

You can prepare instructions, product details or discussion topics for participants to review during the focus group. These materials can detail why you asked the participant to attend, what to expect during the session, the purpose of it and the goals you're hoping to achieve from it. You can also reach out to the participants ahead of time and ask them to respond to a survey or conduct research on your brand or company beforehand. This helps them feel more prepared and educated before attending the focus group.

Related: Classifying Consumer Products (With Examples)

7. Keep participants on topic

Instruct the host to control and guide the discussion throughout the session to ensure they cover the necessary topics before it ends. If the topic switches to other subjects, the moderator should direct participants back to the questions provided.

During the discussions, you and other team members can study the focus group as you take notes on the participant's answers to evaluate them later. Consider recording the sessions as a reference when analyzing the answers afterward and ensuring you don't miss any important details.

8. Review your notes afterward

Once the focus group is complete, take time to review and analyze your notes. Compare one group's answers with another to determine any similarities between the two. If many participants share similar suggestions or comments, turn them into actionable steps you can take to improve or update your product.

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