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A focus group is a small number of people whom companies inquire opinions and comments from regarding a product or service. Focus group design represents the method or process by which a company sets up this feedback process. A few key elements of focus group design include defining the purpose of the group, establishing a time line, and identifying the participants. These elements are necessary to ensure the company receives the information and feedback they are looking for. Once these three items are complete, the company needs to develop questions, create a script, and choose an individual to lead the meeting.
All focus groups need to have a purpose; it is not good enough to say, “Let’s go get some customer feedback.” A much clearer objective, for example, would be input on the quality of a specific product compared to a leading competitor’s. Comments on how a company can make a service more customer friendly are another common objective here. Companies can also have multiple objectives for a single focus group. The biggest issue in the focus group design is to ensure the company has enough time during the meeting to complete all of its objectives.
A time line helps a company create a workable plan for creating and managing the focus group. Owners and executives should organize a single time line with multiple dates for completing certain tasks. The focus group design time line should start several weeks ahead of the actual meeting. Input from other managers may be necessary to develop a realistic time frame for gathering and processing data. In some cases, a follow-up questionnaire may help ensure the participants provide all comments related to the meeting's objectives.
The participants who attend may be the most important part of the entire focus group design process. Companies should first look at their customer demographics to determine which set of individuals would be the best participants. For example, certain goods or services may have a specific customer focus. Therefore, it is logical to find customers who fit this initial profile. A company should aim for six to 12 individuals as this should provide enough commentary.
Focus groups and focus group design are learning processes. The first group may be somewhat difficult to control or be too restrictive. Either way, the company should look to learn all about its focus group process both during and after it is over. The notes taken from the focus group process then allow the company to create more effective groups in the future.