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Essential Tips You Need to Run a Successful Focus Group

Business woman leading a focus group at a company.

RevBlogTranscription BlogEssential Tips You Need to Run a Successful Focus Group

Running focus groups is a powerful way to learn, firsthand, what your audience thinks about your product or service. Ideally, focus groups include individuals who are power users with a deep understanding of your business. The insights you gather help you uncover information that can be used to improve what you offer and how you operate.

But how do you run a focus group? Successful focus groups require more than getting a handful of people together and asking them questions. You have to define your goals for the meeting, attract the right participants, create relevant questions, execute your plans, and then analyze the data. You don’t want to end up with answers to the wrong questions or one-sided feedback from one or two participants.

To help you figure out how to run a focus group, we’re going to take a deep dive into three main areas on how to:

  • Prepare for your focus group
  • Run the meeting
  • Approach analyzing the data

We’re also going to explore how Rev can help you throughout the process.

Prepare for your focus group

Before you invite audience members or ask your first question, lay the foundation for a successful experience. Taking the time to plan ensures that you have a clear goal, invite the right audience members, and prepare questions that will give you useful answers.

Here’s how to prepare for your focus group.

Define the goal for the focus group

The first step for running a successful focus group is to have a clear goal or objective. Are you trying to learn more about how people use your product? Are you trying to solve a product issue? Do you want to learn more about the customer’s experience?

When deciding on the goal of your focus group, use the 4Ps of marketing as a starting point. It will help you focus on specific areas of your business to explore and learn more about—from your audience’s perspective:

  • Product: The product or service you sell
  • Price: The price points you offer your products and services at
  • Promotion: The advertising strategies you use to attract customers
  • Place: Where you sell your products—either in a brick-and-mortar store or online

Depending on the goal of your focus group, your audience and the questions you ask them will change. Let’s say you’re planning a major product overhaul; consider running multiple focus groups, each with its own goal. For example, if you have an ecommerce business and want to add or remove products from your store, learn about customer needs and pain points to figure out what appeals to them.

Use the 4Ps to help you match the areas you explore with your goals. Here’s a sample:

  • Product: If you want to know why customers like certain products, your goal should be to understand what characteristics and features your products should have and why they’re important.
  • Price: If you want to understand customers’ willingness to pay your prices, your goal should be to figure out whether customers understand the value and quality you offer.
  • Promotion: If you want to know what types of advertising your audience is most receptive to, your goal should be to find out what type of content converts people to customers.
  • Place: If you want to know whether the checkout process is confusing, your goal should be to understand what customers need in the process to make it clearer and less frustrating

Once you have your goal, it’s time to choose the right people to participate in the focus group.

Define your audience

Defining your audience early in the process helps you identify the types of people most likely to give you the information you need. Ideal participants are people who’ve used your product or service and know enough about it to provide deep insights.

It’s not enough to say you want to “target customers who have bought something in the last six months.” You have to go deeper and be specific about the types of participants who’ll give you useful information. Again, if your goal is to understand what customers need in the checkout process to make it flow better, define your audience based on the following:

  • Whether they abandoned their cart. This group will tell you why they abandoned their cart and/or which parts of the checkout process frustrated them.
  • Whether they started the checkout process but left. This group will tell you why they started the process but didn’t complete checkout. Perhaps there were surprise shipping costs, or their promotional code wasn’t deducted properly.

When you’re specific about who will participate, you’re more likely to get the information you need to improve your business.

Ask your audience to participate

When you’ve identified who you want to include in your focus group, you need a way to capture their attention and entice them to participate.

The ideal number for a focus group is 8-10 participants. However, since 85-90% show up, ask more people than you need so you meet your minimum participation requirement. When you’ve identified who you want to include in your focus group, you need a way to capture their attention and entice them to participate.

Use more than one channel to send invitations. Use SMS messages, rich media messaging, and email invites to current customers, and use social media to attract a wider audience.

[Source] The email above includes a call to action and details of what focus group participants can expect.

Of these four options, social media offers the most flexibility for inviting people. Depending on the social platforms you use, you can do the following:

  • Share a video message. Since 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, use Rev to add subtitles so people can follow along. With a 24-hour turnaround, your videos will be ready to publish on Facebook or YouTube.
  • Share a short post. Introduce the goal of the focus group and how your audience can help make a difference.
  • Post a question or poll. Follow up with a DM to people who’ve indicated they’re interested in participating.
  • Post an event invitation. Set a deadline for people to respond, and follow up to screen them.

To boost interest in your request, include an incentive, like a gift card. The incentive theory explains that incentives motivate people to complete tasks when there’s a reward at the end. Different incentives motivate different people, so find something with mass appeal.

Finally, screen everyone who signs up to participate to make sure they’re a good fit. Base your screening questions on your focus-group goals and how you’ve defined your audience.

Create questions

This is one of the most important steps when you’re figuring out how to run a focus group. Make sure the questions are designed to give you the insights you need to make changes. If your goal is to find out why more people aren’t using your new product, ask questions like:

  • “What do you like or not like about the product?”
  • “Would you change anything about the product?”
  • “What has your experience been with this product?”
  • “Would you recommend this product? Why or why not?”

Notice that all of these questions are open-ended to encourage discussion. Since some questions require some thought from participants, consider sharing the questions with your focus group beforehand. That way, they have time to think about their responses and ensure that they give you as much detail as possible. Sharing questions beforehand also helps you prepare follow-up questions to understand why participants think or feel the way they do.

Have interested parties share notes or submit a voice recording before the focus group meets. To help you review their recorded responses, transcribe their comments. Since only one person will be speaking in these recordings, use automated transcription to get your transcripts within five minutes.

In addition to asking questions, have focus-group participants complete additional tasks, such as surveys, sorting, worksheets, and more. You have their time and attention, so use it to gather as much information as possible.

Execute your plan for your focus group

By this point, you’ve laid a solid foundation to ensure that the purpose of your focus group is clear and you’re ready to receive information from participants. Now you’re ready to create a plan for the meeting. This plan helps you keep your meeting organized and on time and the participants engaged.

Decide which team members will participate

When you know which customers and audience members will participate, you need to decide who on your own team will help facilitate the meeting. In general, you’ll need the following:

  • A moderator. This person acts as the facilitator. They’ll ask questions and make sure that the conversation stays on topic. This person should be able to think quickly in the moment and ask relevant follow-up questions.
  • An observer. Working closely with the moderator, an observer makes sure all participants get to share their thoughts. It’s important to have a distribution of opinions since your focus group is a small segment of your audience. You want to be sure your data isn’t one-sided.
  • A note-taker or someone to record the session. Having a note-taker allows the conversation to flow freely so the moderator and the observer don’t have to worry about taking notes. The note-taker should be responsible for setting up the recording equipment, uploading it to a service like Rev to be transcribed or captioned, and then distributing it to the focus-group team.
  • Someone to explain next steps and wrap up. This person can call the meeting to an end, thank participants for joining, and remind them how their comments will be used. They can share contact information if participants have any questions. Also, ask participants to complete a survey about their experience. Use their comments to improve your next focus group.
  • Someone to hand out incentives at the end. Have someone hand out gift cards and other incentives as participants leave.

Test the software you’ll use before your first focus group. For example, if you’ve never used Rev before, upload a short recording to transcribe. It only costs $1 per minute, so this gives you a chance to go through the upload and turnaround process so you know what to expect.

Create an agenda for your team

Most focus groups last an hour or two, so plan what will happen, and when, so the meeting stays on track. Just like any other meeting, create an agenda, and give each item a time limit. Your agenda might look something like this:

Task Lead Time Notes
Introduction Moderator 5 minutes
Icebreaker Moderator 15 minutes
Questions and discussion Moderator and observer 45 minutes Start recording the session
Wrap-up Admin assistant 5 minutes

Planning and creating an agenda in advance will help you see where you’ve allocated too much time or where you need to add more content.

Once the focus-group participants have been welcomed, have the moderator share a brief overview of the meeting. Let participants know what to expect.

Practice with your team before your first focus group meets. Walk through who is doing what, and when. After the focus-group meeting, meet with the team again to share what you did well and what you need to change.

Process the insights from your focus group

After your focus group ends, it’s time to analyze all of the data you’ve collected. Do this as soon as possible, while the ideas discussed are still fresh in team members’ minds.

Transcribe your notes

If you use Rev to transcribe your focus-group notes, there are five ways to upload visual and audio files to the platform:

  • Direct upload from a computer
  • From Cloud storage
  • Automatically with a workflow integration with Zapier
  • API
  • With our Recorder App

The final document we send you is 99% accurate — even if you had more than one person speaking at a time and there was background noise. Share the final file with your market-research team to review and analyze.

Create a report with key findings

Once your team has the transcript of the meeting, the major takeaways that came out of the meeting have to be summarized for research and management leads to review. Depending on how long the meeting was, the final transcript will have a lot of information. To help with review, keep the goal top of mind. There will be instances where the discussion goes off track, but if your moderator and your observer did a good job, you’ll have relevant information to use.

Your report should include the following:

  • The goal of the focus group
  • Details about the participants, like demographics, experience with the product or service, etc
  • The questions you asked participants, and summarized responses or key findings
  • Specific participant comments
  • Recommendations

There’s no need to include lots of detail with each key finding. Stick to what’s most important to keep team leads interested.

Add approved ideas to your product road map

Once research and management teams have reviewed the final report, decide which recommendations will be incorporated into your product or service. Use your road map to map out when each change will be completed. That way, you can schedule updates based on business and product priorities and track progress.

[Source] In this example, items like “UX improvement” and “Shopping cart improvements” are included in the road map.

As each update is rolled out, let customers and audience members know. The reason you chose to run focus groups was to learn how to make your business more effective and efficient. You might have received feedback or complaints from customers in the past so now that you’ve made changes, let them know.

Here are a few ways to share updates with your audience:

  • Share a press release.
  • Write a blog post about the changes.
  • Post an update on social media.
  • Send an email to newsletter subscribers.
  • Release a podcast episode about the focus group experience, the results, and the changes you made.

Customers want to feel heard, so it’s a good idea to share the process with them. For future focus groups, share the feedback you get from customers who participated to encourage new people to take part. This works a little like social proof, which gets people to complete a task because other people in their network said it was a good experience.

How to run a focus group that works for you

Focus groups are a great opportunity to get firsthand insights from customers. To get the most out of the experience, plan ahead so you get the information you need, choose participants wisely, and summarize your findings. Keep improving your process until it works for your team and gets you the information you need.

To find out more about how Rev can help you prepare, run, and learn from your focus group, get in touch with us.

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