How to run a focus group with real focus

Politicians may have given focus groups a bad name but they remain a powerful tool for testing new ideas and evaluating a brand or product’s potential for success.response

Focus groups usually involve six to 10 people in an open discussion with a facilitator. It may cover their views on a consumer or political issue, their feelings about a brand or their reaction to the taste of a new grocery product. At the end of the session you should have garnered some really useful insights from the participants that will inform your marketing plan.

So how do you go about running an effective focus group? Our eight top tips will ensure your focus group delivers a brilliant result.

  1. Set a clear objective

What is it that you want to find out about? Is it people’s reaction to a new product or service, or how they feel about your overall business? These are very different objectives but you need to be clear so that your focus group has focus, the clue’s in the name.

  1. Recruit the right people

No point in talking to middle aged men about their attitudes to make-up or young women about their views on insurance products for the over fifties. So make sure you have the right target audience in the group.

  1. Concentrate on a few relevant questions

Five or six questions should be enough to create an active discussion. But make sure every member of the group has a chance to participate equally, so that you get a good spread of opinion and don’t let one person dominate.

  1. Use a professional facilitator

You may well be very good at asking questions, but you’re close to your brand so it’s fair to say you might not be impartial. Therefore use a professional facilitator, they will not only be neutral, but they will be used to keeping the discussion flowing and will be best placed to probe unexpected answers.

  1. Be clear from the start

At the start of the session clearly state what it is you want to achieve, cover the agenda, explain the ground rules and highlight that you are recording or filming the answers that people give. This will help you keep focused, maintain momentum and cover all the questions.

  1. Timing and venue

The focus group should last for about 1.5 hours so people need to be relaxed. Hold sessions in a room with adequate air flow and lighting. Set up the seating so that everyone can see each other. Provide name tags for members, as well as refreshments.

  1. Closing the session

At the end of the session thank members for their time and ensure they are happy with the way the session was run, after all you may want to go back to them in the future or get them to participate in future group discussions.

  1. Next steps

Your facilitator should produce a detailed report of the session for you. Take time to review the results and recommendations. You’ve spent time and money finding out what people think about your brand so don’t ignore it. You may not like some of the answers you received but there may well be a revealing consumer insight that will fundamentally change your marketing campaign.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.