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  • Vanessa Rowley-Matthew

How to Run a Structured Online Focus Group for Consumer Insights


Do you remember heading out to your local playground, seeing your friends, and collectively deciding on what to do, and if someone grimaced, you figured something was wrong, and you changed plans?


If you've ever asked a group of people questions to find out their opinions so that their views would inform the decision you chose to make, you understand the concept of a focus group.


Online focus groups are fantastic for any service business. They are a powerful tool you can use to understand what people think about your business, services, marketing, and more. However, to run a focus group efficiently, you must be clear about the top 8-10 things you want to know from online focus group participants.


With this said, you want to respect attendees' time by preparing questions ahead of time. You should also limit your meeting to about an hour.

Structuring Your Focus Group Questions


Start your questions with "how," "what," or "why" to get focus group attendees talking. Then, follow each question with a question that aims to take the initial inquiry a step deeper. You can say something as simple as, "please, tell me more."


Make sure you only ask one question at a time. Don't ask two questions in one question. A sign that you are simultaneously asking two questions would be that you've used the word "and" in your inquiry. For example, a question you shouldn't ask would be the following:

  • "What do you eat and drink when you go to an Italian restaurant?"


Instead, ask:

  • What do you eat when you go to an Italian restaurant? (AND THEN)

  • What do you drink when you go to an Italian restaurant?

You also want to be sure to ask questions about your attendees' buying motives and brand perceptions, including feedback on any brand marketing you're doing. The focus group is your opportunity to make the best use of a captive audience.


Just know that you may need to run your focus group a few times with different people. Then, when you start the hear similar answers in group sessions, you can stop.


Selecting Online Focus Group Participants

As for online focus group attendees, you should select consumers you would love to work with to reach your business goals. For example, if you are a lawyer catering to small businesses making over $250,000 in revenues, interview 10+ small business owners making this amount of money or more.


Now, if you don't know anyone, tap your family members and friends. Don't overlook them because they're close to you. I've gotten some of the best consumer insights from honest conversations with my inner circle. People in your network can also be great for your focus group.


Incentives for Focus Group Participants


For some, getting focus group participants without offering an incentive can be a real challenge. If this is the case, think about providing an incentive to those who participate in your focus group. Incentives can range from a complimentary service to a gift card.


Moderating Online Focus Groups


With your attendees secured, you have to prepare to moderate your online focus group. Make sure you formalize how you approach them and where you bring them together. An online video chat would be a great place.


Make sure you record the meeting to replay your video and analyze it later. Be sure to introduce yourself and let people know you'll be recording them and that you need to see their faces and upper body. Let them know that responses will remain anonymous and collected only for research.


Then, it's your responsibility to set the mood and expectations for your online focus group. It is also your job, during your focus group, to keep the group on topic and elicit responses.

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