Focus groups, this is probably something your business might have never done. In civic society circles, focus groups are commonplace, not so much in business circles, Zimbabwe in particular. You could be missing out on some great initiatives if you are not already doing this as a business. The focus of this article is focus groups, their importance and how you can use them for your business. By the end of this article you should be inspired enough to start using them in improving your business.

What Are Focus Groups?

A focus group is group of people, typically six to ten in number, which discusses wide ranging aspects regarding a specific topic. What that group of people engages in is essentially a focus group discussion. It is a basically a qualitative research method used to come up with data pertaining to a subject matter. A focus group will in principle have a moderator or leader who somehow anchors the discussions. The participants will be selected based on their knowledge with respect to the subject matter. It is always a rule of thumb that the participants must be strangers.

So for example, a focus group can be put together for the purpose of establishing customer feedback. Thus roughly 10 customers can be gathered to convene a focus group discussion to review a product or service. How they are selected can be premised on several metrics e.g. location, age, purchase history, and so on. The idea is they should share certain common characteristics but they should be strangers. In my other article I was talking about measuring the effectiveness of ads. Focus groups can be used to do pre-tests where they review an ad before it is put out.

Why Focus Groups Matter To A Business

Focus groups can be of immense value to a business. One of the core areas that stands to benefit is market research; most businesses use focus groups for that. Product or service testing can also be effectively done using focus groups. Here are some of the reasons why businesses should use focus groups:

Focus group participants by virtue of being strangers are more likely to speak freely and openly. The diversity that comes with several different individuals in a group setting stimulates rich and insightful discussions.

Most of what people truly mean is communicated through non-verbal cues. Experts even say more than 80 per cent of what people truly mean but do not say is hidden in their non-verbal actions. Focus groups make it easier to observe those aspects – something the moderator will have to pay close attention to. This in-person interaction makes communication more revealing as opposed to communicating behind a digital veil.

There is always a bonus that focus groups bring about. Initially, you will be having clear goals of what you seek to gather data or information on from this focus group. However, as is always the case with a group discussion, more details will emerge that you might have not thought of initially. So at the end of it all you will definitely get more insights than anticipated.

Cost Implications

There will be some costs attached to convening focus groups. Consider the fact that some selection process will have to be done. Depending on the method used, money might be needed. For instance, using targeted paid ads can be used to select participants. Then the participation of the group members might have to be paid for. You might have to cater for their transportation and upkeep whilst you are hosting them. You might also need to secure some venue for the focus group to discuss at, that all needs money. In some cases you might have to pay for someone to do the moderation. For instance, it could be a consultant or some expert depending on the purpose of the focus group. The good thing though is that you can always explore ways to limit costs as much as possible.

Some Important Guidelines When Convening Focus Groups

Planning is extremely important because you will usually have limited time. A focus group session should not be too long or too short – anything between 90 to 120 minutes is recommended. Your objectives should clear from that onset so that the focus group can be guided accordingly. You can work with 5 questions that will spark conversations on the various areas you intend to gather insights on.

Ground rules at the beginning are important so that there are timeous, productive, and cordial discussions. You must ensure that you get a skilled and experienced moderator. This has a huge bearing on how effective the focus group session will be. Group size should not exceed 10. It is also wise to record the sessions audio-visually, whichever works. This must of course be communicated to the participants beforehand.

When conducting focus group sessions make sure you facilitate pure undiluted discussions. It is possible to end up leading participants on such that they say things biased towards your assertions. You want to establish what these participants think not to impose what you already think onto them. Be very wary of that.

Focus groups can be a fun, engaging yet insightful exercise for your business. Once you start them you might realize you will be tempted to regularly conduct them. Practice makes perfect, the more you do it, the more you get better at it. Focus groups can be used for just about anything. You can even use them to gather insights on human resources dynamics for your business.