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What Is a Focus Group? Best Practices for Your Business

Whether you want to promote a new product or evaluate the public perception of your company, focus groups can provide you with the information you need to make well-informed business decisions. Read further to learn more about focus groups, their benefits, tips for conducting a successful focus group and some additional topics to help guide your own research.


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What is a focus group?

A focus group is a small group of demographically diverse people (by age, gender, profession or ethnicity) who participate as part of a market research group for a company or in response to a political campaign, social issue or another topic such as a new TV series.

Related: What Is An Affinity Group? A Guide for the Workplace

Benefits of using focus groups

Using a focus group for your business can benefit your company in many ways, including:

  • Helps you gauge the perceptions of your customers
  • Provides an opportunity for an in-depth conversation because of the limited number of participants (easier to keep on track than a large group)
  • Gives you the opportunity to make changes before you launch a new product or campaign
  • Creates quicker research because of the ability to conduct multiple interviews at once
  • Creates cost-saving research by establishing what your business is doing right or wrong
  • Allows you to see real-time reactions to your products, campaign ads or other topics
  • Reveals the language customers use that could be beneficial to include in campaigns

Tips for conducting successful focus groups

Here are some tips to help you conduct a successful focus group:

Establish the purpose of the focus group

To help start the process of creating a successful focus group, you first need to establish the purpose of creating one. This can help provide you with a sense of direction in choosing participants and creating a guided discussion. Establishing the purpose of the focus group can help determine whether it’s successful in helping you gauge public perception of a topic.

For example, if a clothing company wants to see how their customers feel about the fair trade industry, they could choose a wide range of participants from fair trade activists to clothing designers or members of the general public. They could develop a list of questions to see how this audience feels about the company’s absence from the fair trade industry.

Create a list of potential focus group participants

Before you contact potential participants, talk with your team to determine a list of the most qualified and beneficial candidates for your research. For example, if you’re looking to release an ad campaign promoting a new soft drink for your company, you might want to include a notable marketing professional within your area, someone from your target age demographic and a professional taste-tester. These three participants can help you assess the effectiveness of your campaign, whether it resonates with the public and if it tastes good enough to purchase.

Offer an incentive for participating

While some people might be honored to offer their opinion free of charge, others might need more convincing. You can remedy this by offering an incentive for participants. For example, you could offer them free food and refreshments at the meeting, give them a discount on your products or services and even offer them payment if you want. Offering an incentive can also help you show your appreciation for their participation.

Draft a list of questions prior to the session

Preparing a list of questions prior to the focus group session can help ensure that you receive the most valuable answers from your participants. Consider creating a list of 10-12 open-ended questions. Having enough open-ended questions can help ensure that you have enough topics to cover a 60- to 90-minute window and that each question has the potential to provoke an in-depth response from participants.

Host a mock focus group in preparation for the session

Before your actual focus group, host a mock session to help you establish what works and what doesn’t. You can do this with company employees and gauge their opinions on the questions or how well you mediated the session. This is also a great opportunity to see how your questions fill out the time window and whether there are additional topics that would benefit the discussion.

Videotape the focus group session

When it comes time to host the actual focus group session, you may want to record it. This can help you stay present during the session instead of worrying about absorbing valuable information from your participants. This can also be helpful for you and your team members to watch back later and create more valuable conclusions based on what the participants said during the session.

Focus group FAQs

How long should a focus group last?

According to information from theCDC, an effective focus group should typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. If your focus group runs longer, it could be a sign that the scope of the topic is too broad and needs a more narrow focus for better results.

What is the best size for a focus group?

The best size for a focus group is typically between five and eight people, with an exception of ten people if necessary. This allows you to get a more in-depth response about a topic because there are fewer people to voice their opinions.

Do focus groups get paid?

Focus groups can get paid, but they can also participate on a volunteer basis. Pintermedia estimates that paid participants can earn between $10 and $150 depending on their qualifications and the time involved.

Where do you find valuable focus group participants?

You can find valuable focus group participants by enlisting the help of industry professionals who either know willing participants or are willing to offer their own perspective. If your resources are limited, there are a multitude of online services that can help you find the right candidates based on your needs.

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