Alicia Lawrence

Focus Group: Five Tips to Help Marketers

By: Alicia Lawrence | October 3, 2013 | 
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focus group

By Alicia Lawrence

Upon entering the communications field I found it shockingly disappointing to find many agencies didn’t hold focus groups to back up their campaigns.

Or, if they did hold focus groups, they weren’t doing them justice.

Focus groups are a critical part of a campaign’s success.

Below are five ways to get the most out of your focus groups.

Focus Group Feedback Based on Experience

The Internet brought big data and more research than we hardly know what to do with.

With this abundant resource, the reasoning behind holding a focus group was boiled down to 1) Proof  the marketer’s creative idea and target market analysis was accurate or 2) The marketer doesn’t know where else to start.   

Beyond those wrong reasons to hold a focus group, many marketers have valid reasons to do original research, but they chose the wrong method.

Focus groups are qualitative in nature. They are meant to flesh out themes and theories.

For example, if a moderator asked what the participants thought about a mousetrap, they will give their opinion. That opinion might be based on attitudes, hearsay, or what they have read, but their opinion might not be based on an actual experience with the product.

To gain true insight, users must experience the product on their own. Feedback based on experience, not a hypothetical scenario, is far superior. Therefore, a usability test would be a better option than a focus group.

Look for Opportunities, not Answers

If the moderator and marketers are focused on finding answers to their long list of questions, they could miss the gold nuggets. Your team must be open to ideas and thoughts from focus group members, and not just concentrated on trying to find “proof” to give to the client.

The moderator should be willing to go down the rabbit hole, and explore deeper insights than what surface answers can give.

Let People Talk

Surface and forced answers are often the biggest problem with focus groups. While a good moderator will usually remedy this problem, it’s important to remember there’s often a disconnect between what people say and what they would actually do.

Instead of trying to get answers to a strict set of stock questions, let the group fall into a natural conversation. Only guide them into further and deeper conversation through the questions.

Prepare for Personality Types

Besides making sure you have at least two to three good-sized focus groups (six to eight participants), take into account the personality types of participants. You want to have a well-rounded sample, but extroverts will rule the introverts in focus groups.

While putting together your groups, place the introverts together so they won’t shrink into their shells during the focus group. The opinions of introverts are just as valuable and different than those of extroverts.

Use a Pro Moderator

The subject of how a moderator affects a focus group is highly controversial. Some say the moderator should be an employee of the company because they know the many facets of a company’s brand to help guide the conversation. Others argue  the moderator should be a third party so they are not biased or otherwise emotionally involved.

But what is critical to a focus group is having a moderator who knows what they are doing. Moderators should have years of experience running focus groups, and the knowledge to compare groups to those in similar focus groups he or she has done in the past.

Along with the numerous duties of a moderator, they should be able to bring out the deeper meaning behind participant’s answers. A good way to judge their skill in this is how they interview you regarding your company’s marketing problem.

What can you add? Have you held successful focus groups in the past? Love to hear your thoughts!

About Alicia Lawrence


Alicia Lawrence works for WebpageFX - the best SEO company (in her humble opinion). WebpageFX is a full-service Internet marketing company offering innovative web marketing solutions to mid to large size companies across the globe. Alicia also blogs at MarCom Land in her free time.

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