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Why are focus groups important?

16th September 2015

Why are focus groups important

You may be familiar with the term ‘focus group’, and here at Cosmic we use them within our own marketing strategy, as well as hosting groups for our clients. We find them invaluable when needing to gain information to grow the business and services that we provide.

A focus group is a form of group interview. Like any other research or evaluation you carry out, their purpose is to gather information. Through listening and observing (and recording) interactions, focus groups can help us to appreciate how people think and feel about an experience, issue or service.

The history of the focus group goes as far back as the 1920’s. This non-directive approach increased in popularity during the 1930s and 1940s as sociologists were looking for alternative ways to conduct interviews and gather information. Focus groups also played a valuable part during the Second World War evaluating the effectiveness of propaganda efforts and the effectiveness of training materials for the troops (Merton & Kendall 1946). What had become recognised was that people tended to reveal more information when they felt they were in a safe, comfortable place with people like themselves.

From a personal point of view, Cosmic are always keen to find out if there is anything our customers need that we aren’t providing, or to hear what is successful. If we are testing out a new service it is extremely useful to ask our potential customers, or those who will be using the service. We use the focus groups to build the business, and focus our strengths where they need to be.

Our most recent focus group sessions resulted in some really interesting feedback with regards to certain directions we were aiming to move forward in.

We entered the groups thinking we knew exactly what our clients wanted, but in a couple of suggestions we were completely off the mark! However, in other circumstances we had it spot on, so therefore it was such a useful process that really got us concentrating on exactly what is needed from us as a digital business and which direction we are heading in. Questions arose such as; How do they perceive us from our branding? Do they really understand what services we offer? Can they find what they need from our website? Our clients bought new perspectives to our discussions and generated fresh ideas which we can now build on. We can therefore make decisions with more certainty as a result.

So we have discovered, as an organisation it is very easy to focus on your own business plan and grow according to your internal aims. However, if you are providing a product or a service it is essential that you ask your potential customers their feedback. How can you grow as a business without knowing whether what you are doing is right?

There are many guidelines surrounding what makes a successful focus group and we highlight a few of them here.

  • 5-10 people per group
  • A relaxed atmosphere
  • The exploration of a particular theme and the gathering of opinions
  • A focus on interaction. Unlike standard interviews where the discussion depends on the interviewer asking questions, a focus group encourages data from group interaction.
  • Meeting for around one to one and a half hours
  • Several meetings with similar groups of participants (so that we can identify patterns and trends.) This usually requires a minimum of three focus groups.
  • Recording. Focus group sessions are recorded with notes or audio so the results can be managed and monitored afterwards.

By running focus groups, you gain insight into your customers and what they are looking for from you. You can learn about their behaviours, attitudes, feelings, perceptions and opinions. By having this information you can improve your odds of success. It also builds your customer/client trust. If you are seen to be taking their opinions on board to develop your business they will see you as a trusted business, one who is willing to mould and develop to the needs of the public. Ultimately, they are deciding your fate in the market.

If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.