Many business leaders believe they have all the knowledge they need to run their businesses successfully. After all, they are the ones who have watched their companies grow from the ground up — who else could possibly know more about how the company is doing and where it should place its efforts moving forward?
The answer: Focus groups.
Focus groups bring companies down to earth by giving them an outside perspective on how their brand is received by consumers and the products or services they should provide. But just as important as the outside opinions are the people who deliver them.
For example, iResearch had the opportunity to work with a chocolatier. The company had created a quantitative survey to gain insights from consumers, but, thankfully, it decided to conduct focus groups prior to sending out the survey.
The chocolatier had discovered that after eating chocolate, women tend to make a solemn vow to never eat chocolate again. So to uncover how to get these people to break their vow and eat chocolate again, we recruited a specific type of person for the focus groups: people who had just broken their vow that they would never again each chocolate.
We were able to find out some pretty incredible insights: Simply hearing about, smelling, seeing, or thinking about chocolate was all it took to get these people to break their vow. And we only unearthed this information because we homed in on the perfect participants for our focus groups.
How to Find the Right Participants
There are myriad ways to find the right people for your focus groups — you just might have to get a little creative.
First, you must think about and articulate who would be the ideal focus group participant. Ask yourself, “Who would I like to talk to?” and “Who would give me the information I need to make improvements?” Generally, you can look through your database of consumers and select the group that is the most applicable to the topic at hand. Or if you’re talking to employees, pick from both the seasoned and the new, as both will provide diverse insights.
Screening is also a vital part of creating a focus group because you want to talk to people who have characteristics that align with your objectives. When screening, include all the questions you would like to explore. Then, move forward with the people who were honest and conversational in their answers.
Don’t be afraid to be selective. The biggest temptation when it comes to screening is to try to fill the group with just anybody who says “yes.” However, the biggest difference between a “meh” focus group and a great one are the participants who are going to give you the exact information you need — and give it to you straight. Also, remember that a focus group doesn’t have to be huge; the sweet spot is only seven to 10 people.
How to Manage Your Focus Group
One of the more challenging aspects of conducting focus groups is keeping participants engaged. Given the online presence of our society, many focus group participants actually prefer a chat-based discussion. This provides a veil of anonymity for participants, which makes them feel at ease. And when there’s a level of comfortability established right off the bat, the probability of drop-outs is markedly lower.
It’s also important to establish the rules ahead of time. You know that each group will have a “talker,” so it’s good to mention at the beginning that you want to hear from everyone in detail. Try following the classroom method of calling on those who haven’t spoken up. This direct approach will aid in getting involvement across the group.
And as mentioned before, anonymity is key. Explain exactly how participants’ identities will be protected. Maybe you’ll use first names, numbers, or pseudonyms. Again, this builds trust with your focus group, which will yield better results.
How to Compensate Your Group Fairly
Let’s be honest: If there’s no incentive, you’re not going to show up, so why would your focus group participants? But even beyond just showing up, you want participants to know that their opinions and time are important and valued. That’s where fair compensation comes into play.
To determine your guidelines for compensation, first consider the value of your participants. If they aren’t participating but you still highly value them, you have to compensate them more in order to encourage more participation. If the feeling of value is mutual between you and your participants, you do not have to compensate them as much — but still enough to make their contributions worth their while.
Cash is king when it comes to focus group payments, but it’s not the only option. You can also provide your participants with gift cards, discounts, or promotions. The bottom line is that you have to stay within your budget while providing participants with enough of an incentive to stay engaged.