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Research is a crucial component of any successful business decision. One of its most popular and effective forms is focus groups, where people are brought together to discuss and provide feedback on a product, service or idea. Usually, it’s conducted after people have interacted with the product for some time.
My company tried applying this research method in a bit different format. By dividing the data collection into two parts, one just after another, we made the process faster and more accurate than ever before. Here’s a guide on how to level up your focus group if you’re limited in time.
How to organize focus groups differently
The main difference in our type of focus group was collecting data on your customers’ opinions on the service or product almost simultaneously while interacting with it. We asked our participants twice: briefly while they were getting our services and more lengthy as soon as they were finished. Here’s how to build this type of focus group.
1. Gather a representative sample: Inviting people who closely match your target audience is essential. For example, you can select participants who have already registered for your service and have some familiarity with our product. In our case, we randomly invited people who enrolled in our free webinar. Of course, you should offer compensation for their participation.
2. Don’t set any limits: Explain that people shouldn’t treat your study as something they should change their behavior for. In particular, they are free to drop out if they don’t like something or get bored.
3. Collect feedback while they are getting your service: You can chat using the most popular messaging app among clients to collect feedback in real-time. We asked questions regularly so that participants could share what they liked and didn’t like as the webinar was taking place.
4. Arrange a follow-up call: After the webinar, we arranged a group call that was just like the usual focus group to get additional feedback and more detailed information. During this, give a brief intro and encourage participants to take turns telling you about themselves. Then ask questions on matters that are most significant for you, like:
- Did you finish taking the service?
- What were the good parts?
- What were the inconveniences you experienced?
Benefits of “real-time” focus groups
As mentioned above, our goal was to make more data-driven decisions about the webinar funnel. We were looking for some little insights that might not be obvious at all, which people will soon forget about but are crucial in decision-making.
There are several benefits to changing your approach to focus groups. Here are the key ones:
- Unfiltered feedback: When participants provide feedback in real-time, their thoughts and feelings are not distorted by time or memory, resulting in unfiltered feedback. For example, we learned that people were really annoyed when the speaker’s icon covered a piece of presentation. It’s not surprising that it can be unpleasant, but we were astonished to know that it could be a reason for people to leave the webinar!
- Realistic representation: It was important for us to allow the participants to drop out or lose interest in the webinar, just as they would in real life, providing a more realistic representation of the process.
- Simultaneous information acquisition: By providing a platform for real-time feedback, we can understand the perspectives of different participants while gaining insights into cultural and social differences.
- Quick implementation of changes: Consequently, you can plan improvements on your product significantly after just one round of data collection.
While real-time decision-making during focus groups has many benefits, it is not without its challenges. The main problem one would face is typical for any kind of focus group: this format is not for newbies. To gain valuable insights, it is essential to have a skilled moderator who can keep the discussion on track and ensure that all participants are heard.
Moreover, there is a risk of people who talk too much – those who form opinions for other participants or do not let them express themselves. In this case, the moderator should encourage others to speak during their turn and know how to interrupt and even silence that person politely. Of course, all the participants must have a stable Internet connection. It can be hard to reassure, and technical difficulties can disrupt the process.
Moreover, it would be a mistake to think that focus groups are less expensive than other qualitative interviews. To recruit the participants, you will likely have to pay each of them the same honors as for other interviews, so you will spend several times more for one hour and probably learn less from each participant. Apart from them, you will need to hire a research team if you don’t have one, which would cost you extra. However, if your goal is to get the most information from several people simultaneously, you’re unlikely to find a better solution.
Real-time decision-making during focus groups is a revolutionary research method that can provide quick, unfiltered feedback and a realistic representation of the decision-making process. By following our step-by-step guide, you can organize your own real-time focus group and take advantage of the many benefits this method offers. While there are challenges to consider, the rewards are well worth the effort.