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Using Focus Groups to Drive Marketing Strategy

Kayla DiPilato

If you have just begun to develop a small business marketing strategy you may feel like you are making guesses about what your customers want to see. Of course, you can use other companies’ successes as a guide, but how do you know if that is what is best for your company? Enter the focus group. This tool can help you gather the data you need to develop the right marketing strategy. 

What is a focus group?

Focus groups are a type of qualitative research that helps you to gather real insights from your target market. These groups are usually comprised of about 5-12 participants who participate in a guided discussion. 

Who are the participants?

When gathering participants for a focus group they are usually people who already have some sort of relationship with your company or with the demographic you want to study. They are often recruited through word of mouth or advertising. Therefore, the insights gained cannot be generalized to the entire population being studied. Participants are often compensated for their time with free products, gift cards, or even cash. 

Why choose a focus group?

Focus groups are great for quickly collecting data in a low-cost way. They offer a flexible approach that can be adopted to gather the information your company needs most and the results are closely related to your key questions. They are also a great way to study the existing knowledge participants have about your brand. Additionally, because of the group setting, something one participant says may spark ideas from other participants that would have gone otherwise unaddressed. 

How do I conduct a focus group?

Preparation

The first step is to identify the goal of the session. What are you most interested in learning? Keep this goal in mind when developing questions. Ideally, during the session, you will cover 8-12 questions. Use this time for analytical questions, you can gather basic demographic information from participants in a pre-meeting survey. Brainstorm a lot of questions and then narrow and combine until you have questions that are most important to your core focus. At this point, it may be helpful to do a test run of the questions with your staff to uncover any issues that may arise. You want to avoid questions that are too vague and questions that can be answered with a yes or no answer. Language should be open-ended and you should avoid making participants feel uncomfortable or threatened. Finally, start with more vague questions and then get more detailed as the session progresses.

Planning

Next, you need to find participants. You may already have people you want to include or you may advertise via your social media accounts or other websites. Ideally, your participants should not already know each other and should be people who will feel comfortable participating in discussions.  The session should be scheduled for 1-1.5 hours. Determine where and how you will meet (focus groups can be successfully held remotely and we recommend using video chat rather than a conference call line). You should also decide how the information will be collected whether via audio, video, or a notetaker. If you will be recording, ask participants for consent to do so. 

Facilitation

Begin by introducing yourself to the group and explaining the purpose of the session. Then work through the list of questions you prepared. For each question, give the group time to write down a response on their own and then begin a group conversation. After each discussion, summarize to the group your understanding of what you heard so that they can clarify any miscommunication. Be mindful of the time and guide the conversation back on course when necessary. If some participants are more vocal than others, call on them, or consider using a round table method. Wrap-up by thanking the participants for their time. 

Analysis

Immediately after meeting, write down any thoughts you are having before you forget them. Then go back through the recording or session notes and identify key takeaways. Remember to think of the big picture rather than getting caught up in the details. Discuss these insights with your team and use them to inform your brand image and marketing strategy. 

What makes a successful focus group?

In order to run a successful focus group, participants should be put at ease and if possible, should be in an environment that is free of distractions or items that may influence their thoughts. Moderators should seek to create a naturally flowing conversation rather than one that feels like it changes topics abruptly. All participants should be given an equal opportunity to share their thoughts. When analyzing results, managers should focus on the large themes rather than the small details the group discussed to gain the most useful insights. 

What if I don’t have time?

We get it! When running a small business you may not have time to add one more thing to your already overflowing plate. Our marketing experts can conduct a focus group for you, provide critical insights, and develop a marketing plan based on the information gathered. Our team is passionate about helping small businesses use their marketing budget in a way that drives results. Please drop us a line if you are interested so that we set up a call to discuss your options. www.kuv.io/contact

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