How to Use Focus Groups to Your Advantage

Many large corporations use focus groups to create new products and services. They also use focus groups to improve on products and services that they already offer. Typically someone records the responses from a variety of individuals who have agreed to participate in the research. The responses might be in the form of a group discussion, a survey filled out during and after participation or after the use of a product or service, or via one-on-one interviewing.

Know the Purpose of Your Focus Group

Each focus group should have a particular purpose. Knowing the purpose in advance will help you design the questions asked, as well as put focus on who will participate. The focus group might analyze products and services, measure processes, provide facts, help create a FAQ, and even evaluate the effects of change on a product or service.

Focus groups have many uses that offer immediate answers, which is why so many companies use them. Once you know the purpose, you can move on to starting the process and taking advantage of the opportunities focus groups offer.

Understand Your Audience

You want your focus group to actually consist of your audience in order to be the most help. If your audience are females between the ages of 25 and 30 who were teen moms, it won’t do any good to choose a bunch of 50-year-old men for your focus group. Choose the participants based on real world knowledge of your audience and niche. However, as much as possible the choices of who participates should be random from within the target audience to avoid biased results.

Prepare Appropriate Questions

It’s imperative that any questionnaires are created in the right way. It is not appropriate to ask leading questions or pre-judge potential answers. At this point you’ll also need to figure out how you’re going to collect the answers. Will you use video tape, bubble sheets, computerized questions or another method entirely? Understanding in advance what the questions will be will help you determine their form.

Arrange for a Facilitator

You can actually pay trained facilitators who know how to get topics back on point. But if you don’t want to spend the money, just understand that the traits a good facilitator should have is understanding of the subject matter, the ability to interact with others to restart discussions that wane, and the ability to keep participants on topic without encouraging “group think”. In addition, a facilitator needs to be able to discourage aggressive personalities while encouraging introverted participants.

Finally, it’s important to note when it’s a good idea to use a focus group. Spending time creating a focus group can be expensive – in both time and resources, so you want to ensure that you use a focus group for the right reasons. Focus groups allow you to work closely with real people on your products and/or services. They provide immediate, honest-to-goodness feedback, tips and ideas through a variety of tools from questionnaires, group interaction, one-on-one interviews, polls and more.

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