How to Maximize Your Results at a Focus Group Facility

Focus Groups have proven to be an extremely effective means of market research for testing new ideas or evaluating services. They are in-depth by nature and can give market research clients specific information about the way end users think and their decision process in evaluating a product or idea. Thus, it is imperative that proper planning is done to ensure the appropriate atmosphere to best facilitate conversation and maximize findings. The following is a set of helpful guidelines that will aid the process of creating effective focus groups.

  1. Identify the Ideal Focus Group Participant As Soon As Possible! Focus groups are typically composed of a homogenous group of individuals with similar interests or demographic characteristics that make it easier for the group to have a more productive conversation. Therefore, the earlier you define the target audience, the more time the host facility has to recruit the respondents. Typically, focus group facilities require a detailed screener at least two weeks in advance of hosting a group. This allows the facility ample time to recruit, follow-up with respondents, and secure the best possible participants.
  2. Be Actively Involved in the Recruitment Process. Most host facilities have good intentions when recruiting for your session. A productive discussion relies heavily on having the right people in the room. Host facilities should provide daily profile updates of potential participants. Daily reviews by the focus group moderator and/or client will help to ensure that group composition consists of the target respondents as defined by the client. Facilities rely on your feedback to make sure they have a successful recruit.

  3. Notify the Focus Group Facility of Any Changes Immediately! If the parameters or objectives of the project have changed in any way since the beginning of the process, inform the facility immediately. Any changes to the respondent screener must be acted on as soon as possible. If given ample time, the recruiter can cancel certain participants and recruit new ones that are a better fit for the discussion.
  4. Provide Details of Any Specific Requirements a Week in Advance. The facility should be notified, in advance, if the focus group moderator will need any special equipment such as a DVD player, lap top computers, or tables. If the moderator is planning to demonstrate a number of prototypes or products, which need to be kept out of the participants' view until introduced, inform the facility so that together you may come up with the best possible floor layout. Make sure any specific details that will affect the flow of the discussion group are properly communicated, well in advance, so that there are no surprises on the day of the groups.
  5. Determine Participant and Client Refreshments. Most focus group facilities will have an itemized menu from which both participant and client refreshments can be ordered. It is customary that participants are served a box lunch, deli tray, or snack depending on the time of the day of the group. If clients will be attending the session, be sure to get their food preferences. For example, most sites offer a vegetarian option if notified in advance.
  6. Re-screen Potential Focus Group Participants Upon Arrival. Because the quality of the discussion depends heavily on the quality of the respondents, re-screening recruits prior to the start of the session helps provide quality assurance. Also, focus group facilities tend to recruit extra participants to help guarantee the desired show rate. Re-screening individuals will help you determine which ones you would like dismissed from the discussion. Be alert to individuals who show up with characteristics that may hinder or disrupt the discussion i.e. a respondent who has a bad cough or appears unusually rowdy. In these situations, you are better off instructing the host to dismiss the respondent.
  7. Agree on Compensation Procedures. Because focus group participation is voluntary, respondents are reimbursed for their time and sometimes their travel expenses. Work out how you would like participants to be reimbursed. Typically, this is handled solely by the facility, but certain clients or circumstances require this task to be handled by the client. If this is a requirement, work out the details on how you want the process to be carried out in advance of the groups.
  8. Keep Track of What is Said. Most focus group facilities provide a range of capturing data from focus groups. They include video and/or audio recording. Make sure you inform the facility which method you prefer. Also, let them know in advance if you would like duplicate copies sent to a specific client or a transcription service, or if you would like to use the facility's transcription service. Inform them of the date you need the transcriptions beforehand.

In the end, smoothly run focus groups provide an atmosphere that is conducive for the participants to engage in a productive discussion. Teaming with a professional focus group facility will best ensure the desired results for the participants, moderator and the client. Focus group analysis is a qualitative approach that can provide unique insights when successfully conducted.

Research Inc. is an Atlanta, Georgia full service market research firm offering a wide variety of research services, including focus group moderation, telephone interviewing, online surveys, and website usability studies.

Related: market research, Atlanta focus group research, professional focus group moderators.