The most important part of any customer focus group is the makeup of the participants. It needs to be representative of the customers to whom you sell your products or services – a specific demographic upon which you hope to sell your wares or offer your services. This can be an age group, gender, or that they share a particular interest in your offering. Also you want your focus group to be as specific and homogenous as possible. If the group is similar they are far more likely to feel comfortable and offer direct opinions.
For numbers aim for somewhere between 5 and 10 people. Any more and a few will find it all too easy to offer the occasional nod and grunt whilst hiding behind the bigger personalities.
It will seem incredibly tempting to simply throw questions at your group, to try and get as much information as possible. However, far more useful is to have more targeted, open-ended questions. Leading questions will result in unusable data – most people when asked, “do you like the product” will probably say yes. But a question like, “If you were to describe… to a friend, what would you say?” could provoke some real dialogue and allow for an interesting conversation. Especially aided by some helpful probes from the facilitator.
Location, location, location
You want your focus group to have a high attendance, and let’s be honest getting a group of unaffiliated people to agree to a time and place is no easy feat. The trick to ensuring a good turnout is to make it as easy as possible for your participants. Ensure your chosen place has parking and is easily accessible by public transport. Offer a variety of interesting snacks so there’s something for most tastes.
If your participants feel comfortable you are far more likely to get useful data. Provide name badges so they can refer to each by other name and allow for time at the beginning for some open networking. If they know a little about each other, and feel comfortable, you will gain far more from the exercise. Ensure your facilitator welcomes everyone at the beginning and that he (or she) has a relaxed and non-judgemental personality.
Recording and Observing
All your sessions should be recorded for later evaluation. Consider hiring an assistant to observe more subtle interactions. Body language, sighs and barely discernible gestures can all have an important meaning, so make sure you have a designated person focused on observing these signs. Observe all these factors and goals for relevant feedback on how you can make your products and services more outstanding in your marketplace.