What Is a Focus Group? 5 Ways to Improve Sales through People

Although surveys and questionnaires are useful in collecting statistical data, they may not be able to capture the thoughts and feelings of an individual. If you want to gather opinions, beliefs, and ideas on a topic of concern, product or service, you should consider conducting a focus group. But what is a focus group?

Although the responses you get from such a method are hard to record on a scale, they provide excellent insight into people’s attitudes, experiences and reactions in a manner that no other method can. This article will answer the question what is a focus group? and provide tips on how you can use the method to improve sales.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a research process undertaken by organizations to gather information on consumer opinions and perspectives about products, services or ideas that are either currently on offer or in the development phase. Participants in a focus group are asked questions in a group setting and encouraged to discuss and influence each other. The responses given provide insights and clues on the group’s perception of the product, service or idea.

Focus groups were first conducted after World War two, where they were used to evaluate how the audience responded to radio programs. Since then, business organizations have been using them to understand market perceptions and the reasons behind them.

When to Use a Focus Group

Not every situation may call for the use of a focus group. However, you can use them as an appropriate market research tool for your company in such circumstances as stipulated below.

  • When you intend to start a business but have no knowledge or experience in the new market.
  • If you have a product or service in the development phase and would like to have consumer input.
  • When you want to change or improve your marketing approach and would like to know which methods would be more effective.
  • If you are unable to gather useful data by using other market research methods.
  • If you’re interested in uncovering fresh ideas, approaches and formats that you may not have thought of on your own.
  • When you want to know the motivation or inspiration behind a particular action or inaction.

Ways in Which Focus Groups Can Help Your Business

Before you begin a focus group, you need to recheck your goals. Why are you conducting a focus group? What is a focus group going to achieve? Consider other methods you can use to accomplish the same purpose. The moderator will determine the success of the team. Therefore, consider looking for a good leader outside your organization if possible.

When creating the questionnaire, avoid awkward and biased questions since they can derail the focus group and skew the data. Use a reasonable number of items to avoid exhausting participants. The number of participants should be between two and eight. Having more participants may turn into a crowd. Also, decide whether you will provide incentives or not.

5 Ways to Quickly Learn How to Use Focus Groups

1. Select the Right Participants

Take time in selecting participants for your focus group considering your set objectives. For example, if your purpose is to discuss and revamp your firm’s pricing strategy, make sure you involve participants who are:

  • Aware of your present pricing structure;
  • Familiar with the value your products and service offer for the money.

Consider the dynamics of the group of people you’re bringing together. What are their personalities and what unique perspectives do they bring to the table? What areas of concern are they likely to address? Your invitee list should conform to your requirements thus encouraging the right level of discussion and providing useful results.

2. Get an External Moderator

If it’s possible within your budget, consider hiring an external moderator with the right experience to:

  • Conduct a productive discussion;
  • Smoothly facilitate the group;
  • Reveal findings;
  • Make recommendations.

An excellent moderator will ensure everyone participates, prevent team thinking from occurring, lay down the rules of the discussion and create a favorable environment for participants to freely share their opinions. If the moderator comes from within the organization, participants may be reluctant to provide critical feedback.

3. Establish Clear Objectives and Well-Defined Outcomes

What is a focus group going to achieve? Conducting a focus group before coming up with clear and measurable goals and objectives will be an exercise in futility.

Ensure you know why you are conducting the focus group and the specific things you want to achieve beforehand. Having clear objectives will keep the discussions focused and ensure that you meet your desired goals.

employees discussing ideas

4. Integrate the Focus Group into Your Overall Customer Care Strategy

You should not conduct customer focus groups in isolation. They should be part of a broader customer care strategy that includes a host of other elements like:

  • User groups;
  • Executive visits;
  • Listening sessions;
  • Sales promotions;
  • Product announcement webinars;
  • Customer events and newsletters.

What is a focus group in the large scheme of things? You should conduct your focus group in collaboration with other customer-centric parts of the organization; it will ensure that event timing, topics, customer selection, messages, etc. leverage and are consistent with other customer initiatives. The intention is to offer communications and programs that appear well-thought-through and consistent in the eyes of the consumer with the aim of improving their relationship with your business.

5. Sweat the Details

Planning your focus group doesn’t have to be that elaborate. You should come up with a simple agenda. However, you should execute all the elements exceptionally well.

Pick a moderator who can drive the agenda and keep everything on track. Ensure, also, that you record minutes during the meetings.

In the End

Market research is a critical part of planning for any business. If you want to know the opinion, attitude and feelings of potential consumers about your new idea, product or service, a focus group will be the most effective market research to use. Before conducting a focus group, take time to define your goals and objectives. What is a focus group going to achieve? Having a clear goal will help keep the discussion focused.

Do you have any thoughts or experience on the subject focus groups? Feel free to share your perspective by leaving a comment below.

Images from depositphotos.com.