With advances in big data and the ease of capturing customer insights with a computer, it seems old school to conduct a focus group.

While focus groups may be a traditional market research method, it doesn’t mean focus groups aren’t valuable.

It’s quite the opposite. Focus groups allow you to collect feedback, unlike any other form of research, and get to the heart of customer opinions. That’s why as of 2017, $2.2 billion worldwide ($809 million of that coming in the US) was spent on conducting focus groups, according to ESOMAR.

This post will provide insight into the basics of conducting a focus group.

What is a focus group and how do you conduct one?

A focus group is a type of qualitative research that market researchers and product marketers use. There are in-person focus groups and digital focus groups.

During a focus group, the market researcher will elicit help from a small group of people that well represents their target demographic. Usually, there are anywhere from 6-12 people in a focus group.

Once the members have been briefed on the project, the researcher leading the focus group will guide the group through an engaging discussion. The researcher will try and get detailed responses from every person about their opinions and attitudes toward a company or product.

Whether you’re a novice researcher or merely looking to refine your skills, it’s always good to review the necessary steps in conducting a productive focus group discussion. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Prepare for the focus group. To prepare for the focus group, take time to identify the main objective for holding a discussion. Then, develop your focus group questions based on your goal. Keep in mind the focus group should only be 60 to 90 minutes, so plan your questions accordingly. Once you have solidified your questions, invite your participants, which should be a nice sampling of your customers.
  1. Plan the session. Make sure to schedule a time that is convenient for everyone in your group and let them know it will take between 60 and 90 minutes. When you set expectations in advance, your participants will be prepared to attend the whole time. Also, plan to keep your participants comfortable. In-person, this means providing food and snacks, making sure everyone has a comfy chair and keeping the temperature of the room comfortable. Consider writing out an agenda for your focus group, so you stay on track, meet your goals, and don’t go over your allotted time.
  1. Facilitating the session. Once everyone has arrived, introduce yourself and any other facilitators. Explain why you are conducting the focus group, that you’ll be recording the session, and give an overview of your agenda. As you ask your questions, take the time to make sure everyone has a chance to answer. Take notes and record the session, so you remember what your participants said. It’s also critical to take note of who is dominating and who isn’t saying anything and then tactfully guiding the discussion, so others have a chance to answer.
  1. What to do after the session. After the meeting, write down additional notes, observations, and insights while they are still fresh in your mind. Then, make your records ready for analysis.
  1. Analyze your results. With the help of the right market research analysis tool, you can quickly code, analyze, and glean insights from your data.

When you properly prepare for your focus group, you’ll find the results valuable.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a focus group?

As with any group research study, there are advantages and limitations. Here are some things to consider before conducting a focus group.

Here are the advantages of conducting a focus group:

  • You can generate a lot of data in a short 60 to 90-minute session.
  • You have robust answers to questions that are difficult to capture via quantitative approaches.
  • It’s possible to guide the session and clarify questions as you go.
  • The process is social, making it possible to capture real-life data in a social setting.
  • The setting is flexible.
  • It has high face validity.
  • Focus groups are inexpensive.
  • When you get responses from different people, you learn things you may not have even thought to ask.

Here are the disadvantages of conducting a focus group:

  • Since there are so many participants, the discussion may go off course.
  • The interviewer has less control over the discussion than they would in a one-on-one interview.
  • You must have a skilled moderator, or the study could be in vain.
  • Qualitative data can be more difficult to analyze as it’s not as clear cut.
  • Sometimes differences of opinion can disrupt the group dynamic.
  • It can be hard to pull a group together.
  • One personality may dominate the discussion.

When you are aware of potential disadvantages, it’s easier to anticipate them.

Wrap Up

Focus groups are a great way to capture primary data in real-time and from the people you care about most—your target audience.

When sending out a survey will not get you the type of responses, or the detailed responses you need, then consider conducting a focus group.
For more information about focus groups and how to quantify the data, visit Fuel Cycle today.