A focus group is usually composed of eight to 12 people who do not know each other and are invited or brought together by a moderator to discuss thoughts, certain beliefs, and reactions towards a specific issue, a product, service, or other subjects. Originally it was referred to as a “focused interview” or “group depth interview” which was first used to evaluate audience response to radio programs following World War II.
In a focus group, a moderator encourages the participants without pressuring them to voice their points of view and varying perceptions, by creating a liberal form of discussion where everybody is free to talk with each other in line with the issues addressed. In marketing, this is deemed as an essential tool for gaining feedback on products and services enabling companies to develop new products, brands, and packages based on the analysis generated from focus groups.
Focus groups can supply a results group, evaluation group, or market group with information on how people think or feel about a particular subject, why they hold specific insights, and provide means to develop new strategies and designs of new programs, products or services that entrepreneurs, private, public, non-profit organizations and the like provide. The types of focus group include two-way, dueling moderator, dual moderator, client participant, respondent moderator, teleconference, online, and mini focus group.
- Identify your target. Who will benefit from your ideas, product or services? What would they need the information for? Consider demographics to help you determine who you need to invite. Getting the information right from your target audience will create a lucrative output.
- Prepare your questions. Determine what issues or problems are needed to be discussed or addressed. Use open-ended questions and organize them in a logical sequence.
- Prepare your session. Schedule your focus group meeting at a reasonable hour, running not too long, not too short. At least one and a half hours long would be ideal. Conduct your meeting in a convenient and comfortable setting where everyone can see each other and can be at ease throughout the duration of the discussion. Serve refreshments. Plan your agenda from the arrival of participants, introductions, through session proper, to the conclusion. Have someone record the session so you can easily replay the discussion thoroughly and not miss a point.
- Do not forget the importance of having an efficient moderator. The moderator is responsible for managing the flow of discussion, making sure that each participant gets to speak up instead of having only one person dominate the discussion. He or she must ensure that order is maintained and free-flowing discussion is encouraged.
The advent of the Internet popularized the online focus group, which links respondents through the net. Using web survey software, you can produce and publish survey questionnaires for your survey group without the need for logistical expenses. While online focus groups are believed to be more organized, are cost-effective because logistics and travel costs are eliminated, and provide faster results, many companies still prefer the conventional focus groups that take place in a more personal setting where participants meet eye to eye.