What is a Focus Group
A focus group is a collection of people who are brought in to participate in a guided discussion on a product or idea, generally before it is launched into the marketplace. Focus groups can be used for market research, product feedback, to generate new ideas, and lots more. In the context of this article we will specifically look at focus groups related to product development.
Why Use a Focus Group
Focus groups have several aspects that make them particularly useful.
First: in person. In person testing allows immediate follow up on questions and actual discussion around points that might otherwise require data interpretation.
Second: group dynamics. The group element allows different opinions to be aired in relation to a certain question. This is especially useful for generating new ideas, collaboration and discussion generally leads to better ideas.
expert hack: make sure to provide a worksheet and ask for answers to your questions before opening it up to the group. This will prevent a dominant participant drowning the other feedback
Third: cost effectiveness. Focus groups are easy to setup and relatively easy to run, making them a great option to get a lot of feedback from customers.
When to Use a Focus Group
A focus group is particularly useful in either of the scenarios below. If the scenarios below don’t apply, you should probably look to different testing methods.
- New product ideas: if you know who you want to target but aren’t quite sure what you want to build, running a focus group to get white space product ideas is a great option
- Feature prioritization: in a case where you have a product but you aren’t quite sure what is absolutely necessary to ship, a focus group is a great tool to be able to get data around what is critical and what isn’t. This can be used as a tool when trying to convince leadership what should be in a product MVP.
Example of what you wouldn’t want to use a focus group for:
- Usability: a focus group is a poor tool for conducting usability research. With usability you really want to focus on how the individual is using and experiencing the product. There will be logistical issues like having to get lots of copies of the product to hand out to each participant, and there will be issues trying to capture everything you need to. So don’t use a focus group in this situation
Some Focus Group Techniques
- Product Box: the product box is a terrific way to have your target market determine what the core elements of the product are. They actually develop it and present it back to you, which makes it great for the product and marketing team members alike.
- Prune the Product Tree: the product tree game is a great one for having the group build out the core features of the product. As different branches of the tree get bigger and bigger it will become clear to the group and to you what is core in the product and to provide holistic recommendations.