Focus groups provide a variety of benefits when developing initial strategies for clients. They can provide valuable insights into consumer behaviour and preferences, allow for testing of marketing concepts and messages, and help evaluate competitors.
However, if they’re not planned and facilitated correctly, focus groups can easily end up being a waste of time. So, what makes a good focus group? And how can you help to ensure consistent, reliable results every time? To find out, we sat down to pick the brain of Sean, Agent’s Senior Strategy Consultant, and he gave us 7 essential tips for running the perfect focus group.
Tip #1 – A strong introduction
Providing a clear and concise introduction, explaining who you are, what you’re doing, and why you specifically want to hear your group’s thoughts and input, is a key part of the process. It sets the tone for the group, establishes rapport with the participants, and helps them recognise the value of their thoughts and opinions, making them more likely to share.
Tip #2 – Let everyone speak
It helps to give everyone a chance to speak from the beginning by asking for names and other rudimentary questions about the participants. By starting with an icebreaker question, you can help put the group at ease and create a friendly and open atmosphere. This also gets your participants used to speaking in front of the group and can help them be more open to the key questions later.
Tip #3 – Size matters
Keeping the group size roughly between 4-6 people encourages active participation. Smaller groups allow for more intimate and in-depth discussions, making it easier for participants to share their thoughts and feelings without feeling overwhelmed or overshadowed by others. Two groups of six will almost always be more productive than one group of twelve. This always depends, however, on the subject, the context, and the topics that are being discussed.
Tip #4 – Prepare to flow
Prepare a set of essential questions and a few themes to explore as the conversation flows. You don’t want it to become ‘Question… Answer… Next Question… Answer’ etc. Having a structured set of questions that you must hit, and then a few themes you want to explore, ensures that you cover all the important topics and areas of interest, while allowing the conversation to flow organically.
Tip #5 – Embrace the unexpected
Don’t be scared to deviate from the questions if interested in a particular point or answer from a participant. We want to have a conversation with people. That’s where the most interesting and often useful insights come from. It also stops participants looking to give you the answer that they think you’re looking for. Being flexible and willing to explore interesting points or insights that emerge during the session often leads to valuable and unexpected insights.
Tip #6 – Read the room
Pay attention to body language and ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak. You don’t have to be a body language expert to do this. Simply noticing someone trying to speak before being drowned out by another participant, allows you to circle back later to continue the conversation.
Tip #7 – Audio > video
Recording the audio session ensures that you can review the conversation later and capture any important details or insights that you might have missed. Taking notes also helps you keep track of key points and provides a record of the session, quickly accessible for future reference. Video can sometimes be used depending on the context, but often makes people clam up and feel uncomfortable, so it’s best avoided where possible.
Do you agree with Sean’s points? Is there something you would add? Head over to our socials using the following links and let us know!