Organize a focus group for audience research

Use case

Test how your new brand or product will perform in the broader marketplace.

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1. Choose one thing that you want to test about your product or brand.

Your focus group could look at factors like:

  • A new website design.
  • Changes to product packaging.
  • Updates to software UX.
  • Reactions to specific marketing messages or slogans.
  • Common struggles your audience faces.
  • Services or features that they feel are missing in current solutions.
  • How much they would value a proposed solution, service or product – the price they’re willing to pay.

If you have a range of topics you want to test, it’s better to use multiple focus groups.

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2. Design 5-10 focus group questions that give you insights into your audience's perceptions, concerns, questions, and emotions.

Look at the main objective or goal you set in the step above. Create tailored, probing, open-ended questions that get into the how or why. For example:

  • What is your first thought when you see this packaging?
  • What is something you find confusing about the logo?
  • What do you think this product will do?
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3. Assign a notetaker and a moderator.

During the focus group, you want to be able to focus on group engagement, body language and emotions, and group dynamics. Assign one or more people to take notes and a different person to be the moderator – the person asking the questions. The moderator should never be the notetaker.

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4. Choose a space that's quiet, has any resources you need like a projector or internet, and is easily accessible for your group.

If you’re conducting the focus group in person, make sure you’ve scheduled all the logistics in advance and that the location or facility you’ve picked has everything you need. Alternatively, conduct your focus group online.

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5. Recruit 10-15 participants through your existing customer database or external outreach.

This gives you flexibility in case a few don’t show up. In the end, you want at least 8-10 participants to ensure you have a diverse array of opinions. Recruit existing customers for product launches or changes. Recruit external participants if you’re testing brand perceptions or a marketing campaign. Keep in mind that choosing too broad a group will overwhelm your participants and dilute the value of your data. 

To recruit participants:

  • Email existing users or recent purchasers of your product.
  • Run paid ads on social media that target the core demographics of your ideal user or audience.
  • Use location-specific ads if your product, brand or service is focused on a specific geographic region.

If people aren’t responding well to your recruitment, consider offering an incentive like cash or gift cards, a free copy of your product or service, or a gift draw for a large prize or giveaway.

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6. Ask the focus group your questions and allow time for each participant to answer.

Present the questions you outlined earlier to the group, one at a time, and solicit feedback from each participant.

  • Keep the conversation natural and organic.
  • Use your list of questions as a helpful guide and not a checklist that must be completed in strict order.
  • If the conversation begins to go off topic, but the feedback and conversation is still related to your focus group topic, let your group chat away.
  • Encourage someone to speak up if you haven’t heard from them about a specific question. For example, I noticed you’ve been quiet, Jane. Do you have any thoughts on this?
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7. Ask probing questions if anyone says something unusual, unexpected or concerning.

Be careful to avoid confirmation bias – seeking to validate your own beliefs about your brand or product. The best focus groups help you uncover something unexpected or unknown about your brand, product or service that helps you to better market, communicate and develop your services.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do you think that? What about X made you believe that?
  • That concern is important to know. How would you fix it if you were us?
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8. Cap the focus group at 90 minutes and do a post-meeting analysis of the feedback.

Wrap up your focus group, thank everyone for attending, and provide any incentives you might have promised. If you’re hoping to do a follow-up with the group down the road, ask for their consent and collect any relevant contact information you need.

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9. Have your team review the raw feedback and note down any commonalities.

A one-off comment may not indicate anything actionable, but a trend in responses may point to something that needs changing, updating or implementation.

For the best analysis, loop in stakeholders who are affected by any of the feedback involved, such as product developers, copywriters, marketers, and customer service.

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Current Playbook:

Organize a focus group for audience research

Mar 14, 2022

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