Customer Insight: Can Focus Groups Help Your Business?

As modern marketers, we need to look both forward and backward to create the most effective strategies to reach our customers.

In this “Customer Insight” series, we’ll explore some proven, classic methods of getting to know your customers in meaningful ways. The topic of the day: discussion groups.

Let’s take a look at how focus groups have been used in the past and how they are still applicable in today’s digital marketing landscape.

What is a focus group?

According to the Marketing Research Association, a focus group is:

“… a marketing research technique for qualitative data that involves a small group of people (6-10) who share a common set of characteristics and participate in a discussion on predetermined topics led by a moderator.” There are opportunities to organize discussion groups with the use of discussion group software.

One of the most important details highlighted in this definition is that focus groups are considered qualitative research.

Unlike quantitative research, such as surveys, structured interviews, and digital data collections, qualitative research focuses on collecting subjective, non-digital, and unstructured information.

The unstructured response style of focus groups allows you to better understand the needs, weaknesses and opinions of your target customers. You can collect ungeneralized responses to questions that put the opinion of your target customers at the center and allow them to freely elaborate.

Perhaps the most important differentiating aspect of qualitative research is that it explores the How? ‘Or’ What and the Why of decision-making and not only who, what, Where when.

Who used the focus groups… and how?

Focus groups have been in use since as far back as 1920 and were originally called “focused interviews”.

They were famous used during WWII to study the effects propaganda. They have been used in military contexts, sociological studies, psychological studies and town planning.

They have also been widely used by marketing researchers.

Focus groups allow businesses to better understand how their target customer will react, interact with, and use their product or service.

Many companies choose to form focus groups early in the development of a new product, so that they can make any necessary changes before the product is rolled out. Other companies will seek help from focus groups to name a new product. Others might form a focus group to get opinions on the packaging or to gauge public opinion on a controversial slogan.

Focus groups can function as a single source of data about a product or in conjunction with surveys or polls. They can also be an important part of a multidimensional research offering that encompasses both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

How do you select the participants for your focus group?

The easiest way bringing the focus group participants together is by using a local newsgroup database.

These databases are full of respondents who have agreed to participate in studies; the database will also offer the demographic, psychographic and cultural criteria you need to form the most effective group for your particular product or service.

A second way forming a focus group involves pulling information from your own business database about respondents and customers via email. If you have robust software, you will already have information about the location, age, and maybe even income or occupation of prospects. However, getting these prospects to agree to participate in your study can be difficult.

A third way finding your participants means advertising in publications in your target city. Newspapers, print and online, are viable options.

A fourth way finding participants means creating targeted advertisements on social networks.

How much does it cost?

Depending on the geographic scope and extent of participation you are seeking, organizing a focus group can get expensive.

  • Since a typical focus group session can last up to two hours, you will need to provide some form of compensation for each participant. You may also need to find a professional examiner who has experience in conducting focus groups.
  • There are costs associated with recruiting your participants, paying your breeder, and getting a facility with the features you need. Many cities have research centers with rooms created especially for holding focus groups (single-sided glass, offices, multi-purpose kitchens, fixed digital video and audio recording equipment, live streaming capabilities, etc.).

According to this marketing research company, the average expense to organize a focus group might be around $ 5,000.

You can also take advantage of free software, like FocusGroupIt, which allows you to quickly conduct qualitative research online. You won’t need to book a room or pay for a breeder’s time, making this a great option for small businesses that don’t have the budget to build a traditional focus group.

Wrap it all up

As you learned about focus groups, how much they cost, and how you can recruit participants, you might have wondered: is it worth my business to take this step?

It really depends on you.

As we watch emerging statistics On the modern consumer, we can spot a few trends that are making focus groups as relevant today as they have ever been.

For starters, your target audience doesn’t want to be mass-marketed. They want personalized messages; they will massively support brands that demonstrate a deep sensitivity to their needs and concerns.

Focus groups are a great way to learn more about your customer on his terms. It is not limited to filling out bubbles on a questionnaire or choosing “A”, “B” or “C” on your online survey. He can speak freely about his weak points and give his opinion in an unstructured setting.

This kind of in-depth qualitative research is invaluable for brands in the digital age, perhaps more than ever before.

As consumers demand more empathy and intuitive marketing from brands that really understand them, focus group could become one of the best options for gaining customer insight.

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