Conducting Marketing Research Focus Groups: Online & In-Person

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  • 0:04 Your Opinion Is Valuable
  • 1:02 Planning a Focus Group
  • 1:56 Conducting the Meeting
  • 2:28 After the Meeting
  • 2:53 Online Focus Groups
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Gathering a group of people together to ask their opinions is a staple of marketing research. In this lesson, we'll examine what goes into building and running both a traditional and an online focus group.

Your Opinion Is Valuable

These days, many restaurants have a comment card on the table seeking feedback from the patrons. Imagine gathering a group of customers together in a room all at once, and letting them interact with each other as they share their opinions. Do you think they might say something different in that setting than they would write on a comment card?

This described scenario is a focus group, and they are used by marketing researchers to learn more about a company's clients and what they need and want. Focus groups can, of course, be conducted in person, but they can also be run through an online platform like web conferencing, online chat, or instant messaging. Many companies run, not just one, but a series of focus groups on a topic. Why? Running more than one eliminates the possibility of skewed results due to environmental variables. For example, at any given meeting, the respondents moods could be affected by the weather or by unusual group dynamics.

Planning a Focus Group

The first step in planning a focus group is setting an objective — what is it that you want to learn? Once you know that, you can determine what segment of your customer base to invite. Normally, an in-person focus group numbers between six and twelve people. The objective will also lead your design of the questions. Questions must be open-ended to encourage discussion and should progress from general questions to more specific ones.

You'll want to develop a discussion guide that includes an opening in which you'll explain the process, the question section itself, and a closing to wrap things up and thank the participants. During planning, you can also select a moderator to facilitate the meeting and keep track of the agenda.

Selecting a comfortable location is important as well. Make sure the location encourages conversation, is easily accessible, and that the image is consistent with your company's brand.

Conducting the Meeting

The moderator is the key on focus group day. This person should arrive early and make sure the room is set up properly, then greet people as they come through the door. If the session is being recorded, the moderator should let everyone know this to make sure they're still comfortable with participating.

The moderator should follow the discussion guide and make sure everyone stays on topic. They may have to draw out the quieter ones in the crowd to ensure that everyone's voice is heard. A good moderator will keep the meeting running on time, but leave some room for spontaneity.

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