Small Business Marketing

Running an Effective Focus Group

Written by Amy Bax for Gaebler Ventures

Having outside information on a new project can be a valuable resource when trying to cater to a certain audience. Learn how focus groups can achieve this, and what to watch out for with focus groups.

When establishing a new business or marketing a new product, you and your team have most likely been on the same wavelength for awhile.

Running an Effective Focus Group

It can be hard to break away from groupthink. A lack of creative, diverse thinking can lead to rash business decisions. Focus groups are a good way to avoid this. They are a form of analysis where people can voice attitudes or feelings toward certain projects, services or products. Running a focus group allows you the chance to possibly predict how your target market will react.

How to Set up a Focus Group

  • You need to know your target market and identify participants within this market. Screening potential individuals to ensure accurate candidacy is a good idea.
  • A moderator for the focus group should be assigned. They are there not to run the conversation, but to help it move along. Having a list of goals or topics to discuss can be a helpful tool for a focused conversation.
  • A good moderator will pull new open-ended questions from the information communicated and keep the discussion flowing. It is helpful if they are someone from outside of the project, whether it is a person from a different department of the company, or a hired professional. This way no biased opinions or results will occur.
  • Finding a good location is also key. Choose something with easy access that will encourage individuals to come. In addition, group members should feel comfortable in their setting; it makes sharing and contributing thoughts easier.

Tips to Remember

Even though the structure is to be an informal discussion, it can never hurt to plan in advance. Location, needed equipment, and any compensation should be considered well in advance for the meeting. Most small focus groups will have anywhere between five and 12 participants.

Contact the potential group members before the session to confirm there is still interest to participate. A phone confirmation does not ensure their participation; if you desire to have a certain number individuals present, it does not hurt to have more candidates than required.

Recording the session will help your team remember key points. A moderator, or any invited observers, will not be able to record every detail. Using a tape or video recorder will also provide insight on tone of voice or facial expressions.

Holding more than one session will increase the success of achieving your goal of understanding your market and what they desire from your product or service. Repeated ideas or criticisms will begin to surface, which makes the information more reliable and accurate.

Listen to the results of the group. If there are negative findings, it does not mean you need to scrap the project. It gives you a chance to improve the project, or keeps you from losing money and time in the long run.

Amy Bax is interested in providing innovative informational resources to entrepreneurs. She is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

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