Behind the Scenes: What goes into a focus group?

By: Sarah Clark

What is a focus group?

If you’ve ever seen “Daddy Daycare”, starring Eddie Murphy, then you know what a focus group is – sort of. And if you remember, the focus group ends up in a milky, cereal mess. 

A focus group is a facilitated conversation led by researchers to gather data and insights about a particular topic. Typically, a focus group can be from five to 20 people, not including the research team.

Where to start

First, you need to find people willing to participate in your focus group. Utilize your social media platforms to gather participants. Send out sign-up sheets and offer some kind of compensation for their time. 

You also need to consider who your target audience is and figure out how to reach them. This may mean printing recruitment materials rather than utilizing social media. 

Then you need to establish realistic goals for the focus group. 

What do you want to get out of the focus group? Creating a focus question for your research can help you determine what you want to find out in the focus group. Once you know your focus question, you can start developing the questions you’ll ask in the focus group.

Next you need to gather your participants. 

You can utilize your social media accounts to recruit people or create flyers to distribute. It may be tough to garner interest in your focus group, but keep trying.

When you create questions, make sure they are not biased and do not push your participants to answer in a certain way. It is also very important that the questions are open-ended enough so that the participants can have a meaningful conversation about them. 

Questions that can be answered with one word are generally not a good idea, but there may be a time and place where it is appropriate. 

It’s all about the details

When planning a focus group, you have to consider every detail. Some details you’ll want to think about include: 

  • Size
  • Props and visual aids
  • Incentives
  • Space
  • Note-taking

The size of the group is more important than you think. Too small and you may not get enough insights and responses. Too big and you may not be able to control the conversation, or participants may be too shy to speak out. 

You also need to think about the topic you will be discussing and what props or visual aids might be required. 

Is it a product that the participants need to use, hold or even taste? Prepare accordingly. It’s very important that your participants know what it is they are being asked about – otherwise, their responses may not be truthful, accurate or useful. 

Bringing incentives is also something to consider. Providing refreshments is always a good idea so that participants feel comfortable and are encouraged to come. 

You will also need to keep in mind the space the focus group will take place in. Consider seating arrangements — you want to be able to see all of your participants and they should be able to see you. To better facilitate a discussion, a rounded table is best so that the participants can also see each other.  

Your notes should also be very detailed. Designate a note-taker for the focus group. 

This person should not be the facilitator, and should only focus on taking detailed notes. When you can, record quotes and try to keep track of who said what. This will help you later on when you analyze the data you’ve gathered. 

After the focus group: Analyzing your data

After your focus group, review your notes. Share them with your group members and comb through the responses together. Highlight responses that stand out or provide interesting insights. 

Also, keep in mind your focus question. How does your data help answer your focus question? Do you need to do additional research, or do the responses cover what you set out to find?

Applying your findings

Finally, with your results in mind, think about how you can answer your focus question and what that means for you. Depending on the purpose of your research, whether it be for defining your audience or developing a campaign, decide what the next steps are. 

Do you need to do more research? If so, consider supplementing your focus group with surveys and one-on-one interviews to diversify the data you collect.  

Market research at 1893 Brand Studio section

If you need help conducting research, reach out to 1893 Brand Studio.

We can help you with conducting your focus group, no matter what step you are at. Creating questions, gathering participants and analyzing results are just a few of the things we can help you with. 

Beyond focus groups, we can also conduct surveys, interviews and more.  Head over to our website to learn more about the services we offer. 

Behind the Scenes: What goes into a focus group?