Companies of all sizes use focus groups to better their businesses. Whatever the intent of the focus group, the expense and time it takes to plan and conduct the focus group are recouped in the information gathered that will enable the company to grow its business based on real-life data and customer opinions.
Focus groups can be used to gather opinions about a product, a marketing campaign, or the overall operations of a company, such as billing or customer service. The focus group director generally states the intent of the group upfront and then asks pointed questions directly related to the topic. Based on the results, product development plans or marketing strategies can be altered to achieve higher customer satisfaction.
Focus groups can be face-to-face groups gathered in a neutral, off-site location such as a meeting or conference space. There are also focus groups that receive and submit written surveys and those that are surveyed over the telephone or by email. The focus group type is determined by the customer base, the target market, and the goals of the focus group director. For example, a few quick questions gathering opinions of a new marketing campaign might best be handled by telephone or email, depending on the geography of the target market.
The size of a focus group size is based on a significant sampling of the customer base or target market. The focus group should be large enough to ensure that a variety of people participate so the results are not skewed, but small enough that the size of the group is not unwieldy. The size will also be affected by whether a particular segment of the customer base will be the focus of the questions. For example, if the customer base is men and women over age 40, the focus group might be set up to seek the opinions of a campaign targeting women over 40 with two or more children.
Focus groups can be relatively inexpensive and do not necessarily require renting an off-site facility or hiring extra help. Focus group members are generally paid for their participation; however, the compensation can also include more inexpensive considerations, such as refreshments during the meeting. Focus groups can also be conducted electronically via email, Internet-based surveys or even through the use of webcasts.
The ability to gather real-life opinions about a company’s products, operations, and marketing campaigns offers the potential to change strategies to more closely match the needs and desires of that company’s target market. Information gathered based solely on objective demographic data does not reflect circumstances--such as economic issues--that may change the profile of a company’s customer base. A focus group can provide current, accurate information collected directly from customers and potential customers, based on their existing situations.