Posted By Leah Baker

Focus groups are useful research tools that enable you to talk in-depth with your members or consumers. But please keep in mind that they reflect the views of  very few people, usually six to ten persons per group, and you should be cautious about generalizing from the results. Here are some tips.


Relaxed Setting – Focus groups are often conducted in a cold, impersonal facility with that all-intrusive mirror. We prefer to conduct them in a relaxed setting and often use a place such as the Residence Inn where you have an attractive living room and kitchen setting. Light refreshments and beverages are served.


Incentives – These are important to help recruit participants and also to thank them. Incentives do not need to be expensive and we have used a variety of them including a check or a bottle of wine. We once did a focus group of nurses some of whom worked for the Federal government and they said rules prohibited them from taking any gifts so we made donations to charity.


Good Moderator – Go for the best. You need a moderator who knows the topic or takes the time to learn about it, and knows how to keep one person from dominating the group. Here is a good tip if that happens: if the moderator stands behind person who is talking too much, that person soon stops talking because they have a hard time stretching their neck to see the moderator.


Pictographs – Depending on the topic, it helps to have pictures or drawings. We have done focus groups for builders and architects to help them design new homes. When the drawings were shown to the group, some surprises emerged. For example, the architects planned attractive, secluded entrances but participants said “great place to get mugged!” As a result, the entrances were later modified. Drawings can also help with the design of magazines, Web sites, ads, and even with the design of Expo’s.


Silent Intercom – We developed this so clients can watch the group (without that intrusive mirror). They sit in a room away from the focus group, usually in the adjacent hotel room. The tv in their room is hooked up to the focus-group-room camera enabling the clients to watch and hear the group. Meanwhile, there is a host or hostess in the focus group room who operates the camera and wears an ear bud where they can hear comments from the clients in the next room. For example, the client may say “I would like to hear more from Mr. Smith.” The host hears this and makes a suggestion to the Moderator who then follows through.


For more info call 703-772-5263

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Leah Baker
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