A focus group is a marketing research technique which provides qualitative data and involves a small group of people (6-10) having a monitored discussion based on predetermined topics and guided by a moderator. The members of the focus group should belong to your brand’s target market. A focus group is an effective way to gather insights for any size business.
This type of research is accessible to small businesses due to its relatively low cost. Focus groups can be used to evaluate or explore any topic regarding your brand. You are able to organize, manage and conduct a focus group yourself or hire a firm to manage the process. Ideally, the moderator should be trained and be a neutral person with no stake in the brand.
In order to gain the most meaningful insights from a focus group, it is important that your moderator understand the goal of the focus group. For example, your goal could be to understand the level of loyalty devoted to your brand and the drivers behind that loyalty. In that case, the moderator would focus on understanding why your target market is buying your brand and what situations may drive them to switch to another brand. If you are developing a new product or a product-extension, your moderator should guide the conversation to determine what needs your existing products are not meeting and how they can be met. The moderator is in charge of allowing everybody in the group to have a voice and to dig deeper into the insights being expressed by the group.
Focus groups allow you as the brand to get into the minds of the members of your target market and to get feedback that they would not normally provide. Participants in a focus group are able to be more candid in their responses than if you asked them a question directly. Also, a group setting can make participants more willing to share their insights and opinions. Focus groups organized by a firm take place in front of a one-way mirror. As the brand, you are able to observe the focus group in progress and learn from the body language and other non-verbal communication of the group. The sessions are typically recorded and you are able to watch them over and over again to study the non-verbal communications in response to the various topics explored.
Since focus groups involve 6-10 individuals, you are able to get input and perspective from people with diverse backgrounds and experiences all at once. If you are testing out a branding positioning idea that may be controversial, you are able to see how different segments of your target market react and evaluate which segments your new positioning could potentially alienate and which segment will relate to the new positioning. This is an example of how focus groups can lower the risk during decision-making as the outcome will be much more predictable.