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How Do Focus Groups Work?

Today’s lesson from the Clubhouse:

A focus group is a target cluster of consumers put together for a discussion on certain products, opinions, perceptions, or even packaging. Usually 8-12 participants are pulled from selected demographics and they are paid for their time.

While surveys and polls generate number driven data, focus groups are capable of capturing other types of data. Focus groups are conducted face to face which means not only are the companies capable of gathering verbal responses, they can also see body language and facial expressions. With the client on site and able to witness the live action, the feedback gathered tends to hold more weight with the client as opposed to statistics and numbers from traditional surveys.

Focus groups are led by a moderator who introduces the topic and guides the discussion. They are usually held in a conference type room with microphones and a one-way mirror. The clients can observe via the mirror or the videotaped sessions, like Commissioner Gordon, except the clients are often provided tasty snacks and maybe even lunch.

One of the drawbacks of focus groups is that they can be too small of a sample which might not accurately represent the thoughts of the buying market as a whole. Another hitch is if the moderator is weak the discussion may not fully capture relevant responses. The moderator is responsible for making sure everyone participates and they have to navigate the discussion without indicating the responses that the client is hoping for. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

What actually happens with a focus group: The moderator introduces the subject and guides the discussion based on what the client is looking for. Participants than actively engage in the discussion and interact amongst each other. The findings of the focus group are then compiled into a report. The client then acts accordingly based on the reported findings of the focus group.

Focus groups are just one more tool in the market research arsenal.

Stay sharp, Point Clubbers!

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