The Power of Focus Groups.

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I’m not a fan of meetings.

When I first came to North America, I was frustrated and amused by how much time business people spent in meetings. I used to joke that people had meetings to plan meetings.  Committees for every purpose – but all they ever seemed to achieve was a staggering number of hours spent in meetings.

At the beginning of my marketing career I viewed Focus Groups in the same light.  However, I later came to realize that if handled correctly, a Focus Group can be an extremely valuable tool.

Seeing a change in your traffic or sales patterns?  Seeing demand for a certain product or service drop? You can wrack your brains until you’re exhausted looking for the reason.  Why waste your time and energy?  Simply get a Focus Group together and ask them a few well targeted questions.

By tapping into your actual target market and customer base, you will quickly discover their changing perceptions, needs and desires.  As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, even experienced marketers do not know better than the market.  It’s always best to get a reality check sooner rather than later.

How do you organize and run a Focus Group?

  • identify 10 – 15 candidates from within the top 20% of your customer base (you can do exactly the same using candidates from your perfect target market base who are not yet customers.  This group should be surveyed separately.)
  • identify between 5 and 10 crucial things you need to know – for example: What do you think of the current inventory?  How are you finding pricing? What would you like us to do for you?
  • have an independent third party conduct the session, posing one question at a time and recording the answers.

The answers may be all over the map, but you should see some trends emerging.  By asking open-ended questions, you will get people in the group talking.  When people talk without too much interference,  they will eventually open up and you’ll glean all kinds of interesting information about your business and the market perceptions.  Not to mention valuable information about your competitors.

The key is to really analyze the results and formulate your response.  Simply being aware of the perceptions is not enough.  To increase profitability, you have to go where the market is headed and be there, ready to provide what they want when they arrive.

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