Conducting a focus group
Have you considered conducting a focus group to seek feedback from a targeted audience, like your customers? This effective way to gauge how your business is doing may keep you from functioning in a vacuum.
A focus group allows you to interview several people at once and gather qualitative data (personal reactions, opinions and experiences) to gain insight or address concerns you may have about a specific product or service. For example, you may want to use a focus group to learn:
- What users want from your website
- How to improve your products or services
- What your customers think about your new marketing campaign
Getting the perspective of a hand-picked group of your customers can be illuminating. It allows you to discuss customers' experience in a group setting as a cost-effective way of exploring ideas that cannot be expressed by numbers or other quantitative data.
Once you decide to conduct a focus group, you may want to start preparations by fine-tuning your objective. What do you want to learn? What specific issues do you want to address?
You may want to try to hold more than one focus group session of about 6 – 12 people; time and money permitting. An incentive such as a gift or honorarium may increase customer participation, as well as a maximum time frame of two hours. Feel free to send 5 or 6 open-ended questions to the selected participants before the meeting, so they are ready, as well as get their consent to participate.
It is useful to have both a facilitator and a note-taker at the session. As facilitator, you may want to:
- Establish ground rules, so all participants have a chance to speak
- Make sure the purpose of the session is clear
- Remain neutral and be neither too formal nor too friendly
- Listen carefully and be observant
- Use probes to get more in-depth answers, but don't lead
- Keep the pace moving, yet allow for some silence so that participants may collect their thoughts
Although participants may influence each other, there are no right or wrong answers. Given the time constraints and multiple points of view, there may be limits as to how much and what kind of information you gather. Nevertheless, your focus group session will be a jumping-off point to further discussion and research.