In an ideal world, you know exactly how your product or business idea will be perceived before it’s published. This knowledge can help you make changes to your offering to get the best reception possible and better inform your sales projections and marketing strategies.
Unfortunately, you will never know exactly how your target audience will perceive what you are selling, which is why companies do market research.
Collecting bulk data through surveys, while providing you with the quantitative information you need, doesn’t provide as much qualitative insight into how your target market views or thinks of what you are selling.
This is where a focus group comes in.
What is a focus group and how can it help you navigate your market research? Next, let’s examine these two questions.
What is a focus group?
In the context of business research, a focus group is a cohort of people who participate in a guided discussion about a company, brand, product, and / or service.
Typically, a focus group is led by company representatives and is made up of people in the company’s target market who share their thoughts and opinions on the topic or offer in question.
What is the purpose of a focus group?
With focus groups you can carry out qualitative market research on a product, service or general brand image. They allow you to gather constructive feelings, opinions, or perspectives that can be used to ensure that your product or service is helpful to the target market and that your marketing materials are compelling.
A focus group is usually moderated by a company representative or representatives who ask participants 5 to 10 questions within 30 to 60 minutes. Another moderator takes notes on the focus group questionnaire.
Follow along with a free focus group questionnaire template
The HubSpot Research Kit includes a questionnaire template to use in your focus groups, as well as four other templates to aid you in your research efforts. You can download the kit here to help plan your focus group and market research.
For more information on how to run an effective focus group, see our blog post “How to Run a Focus Group for Your Business”.
Focus group size
A focus group can consist of 3 to 15 participants, with many groups between five and eight participants. The size of your focus group will depend on your company’s resources and intentions. For example, the size may vary depending on whether you prefer a few in-depth reviews or a wider range of perspectives.
Next, let’s examine the pros and cons of having a focus group.
The benefits of a focus group
1. You get the story behind the data.
In focus groups, the focus is on qualitative data. Survey data is incredibly powerful, but it’s hard to understand why the numbers are out of context. Focus groups are a way to understand how someone really feels about your company and to state the why behind the data.
When someone answers a question in a way that interests you, you have an opportunity to dig deeper. Ask why? “See how the other participants feel about the specific answer. Measure facial expressions and tone of voice to see how people react to what you are talking about. In the end, you get the emotional input from your target market, the Your surveys may not be able to deliver.
2. Focus groups are interactive.
Those who respond to a survey or questionnaire cannot pick up or use your products, but they can in a focus group. When the topic of your focus group is tangible, observe and ask questions about how participants are using the product and how they feel about the packaging and design.
Here you see your product through the eyes of the end user, which allows you to realize something that you did not have before.
3. They are more efficient than interviews.
Interviewing people can take much longer than running focus groups with the same number of people. For example, let’s say you want to interview 100 people, and each interview or focus group lasts an hour. Getting the opinions of these 100 people would take 100 hours if they were interviewed, but only 20 hours if the participants were divided into groups of five.
This way, you can get quality feedback from multiple people in less time – a huge time saver, especially if most of your participants think the same way.
The disadvantages of a focus group
1. They are not entirely representative.
What you gain from the depth of focus group opinion, you lose in sample size.
Because focus groups last longer than surveys, you’ll hear from dozens or hundreds of people in less time than you would hear from thousands of people through your own surveys or researching desk research, such as B. previously conducted studies or surveys.
This limits the number of people whose input you get, which means your results may not reflect the opinions of your entire target market.
2. They could be thought provoking.
Have you ever been to a meeting where one or two people come up with an idea that you disagree with, but everyone else agrees with the idea before you have a chance to say your piece?
Maybe that’s why you choose the idea … even though you’re not the biggest fan?
This is called groupthink, and it happens when a group gathers behind a vocalized idea that not everyone thinks is right to move on or to try to avoid conflict.
Focus groups can quickly transform into one or two participants who provide the majority of the responses, while the other four or five quietly nod in agreement. The problem is, you will now only get input from two participants – not from the entire focus group as intended.
You can avoid this by asking specific group members to respond in depth. However, some hesitate due to shyness or disinterest.
3. Your focus group facilitators may have confirmation errors.
Focus group facilitators are often tied to the project in question and can come into the session with an idea of where they think it will or should go.
For example, a moderator may want a product to be rated, packaged, or colored in a certain way, and can lead the discussion to that conclusion. This is known as observer dependency.
For example, suppose a moderator wants a product to be colored blue and asks the group an open-ended question, “What color should that be?”
After everyone has answered – and nobody says blue – they might ask, “What about blue, would that work?” Everyone nods softly, and she notes that the group agreed that blue would be a good color, even though this is far from the perfect truth.
To overcome this, focus group facilitators should be specifically instructed to put their personal preferences aside and act as an objective group facilitator. You can also work with a research firm, which typically has less interest in the product or topic than those from the company that actually creates it.
Focus groups may not be the most efficient source for collecting data. However, when used properly, they can put a face and emotion behind the statistics and quantitative data you’ve collected to better educate your business, marketing, and product development.
Remember, focus groups are most effective when moderators organize their thoughts in advance and take notes on a focus group questionnaire during the session, which you can access for free here in our market research kit.