What do people think about the services or products they receive from a business? Often, those running a business get most of their information from direct feedback from comments and phone calls and other anecdotal information. These self-selected methods generally draw input from people who have strong feelings, usually negative.
My favorite, most effective and most reliable marketing research tool for learning what people think about a business or service is a focus group discussion.
I have heard this term used in many ways that are not truly focus groups, so here are some guidelines for better understanding the methodology:
Basically, 10 to 12 people participate in a 90-minute discussion about a specific topic. A professional moderator leads the conversation, following a prepared outline (“Discussion Guide”). The ground rules: all opinions and responses are valid, and only one person speaks at a time.
Focus group participants should be representative of the total population from which they are drawn.
A good moderator will attempt to encourage all participants to share and will discretely steer the discussion away from someone who begins to dominate. The goal is to empower people to feel safe about contributing their own ideas.
The result of a good focus group discussion is a surprising wealth of information that can be utilized for gaining new ideas and fresh perspectives, making planning decisions and/or developing an effective survey questionnaire for a random sample survey.