How to Get the Most out of a Focus Group

The Developer and the Focus Group

We’ve all been there before. You get the invite from the marketing department to attend a focus group for one reason or another—maybe your company or client is exploring a new product category or perhaps a line extension. Nonetheless, it can be a daunting task; sitting in a dark room behind a two-way mirror or watching a big monitor in a conference room while consumers reflect on their buying habits and opinions about food and potentially, your product. So, how does a developer sit through these sessions and glean the best and most useful information?  Have no fear, we’ve got a few tips for you!

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#1 Check Your Ego at the Door

Let’s face it – as food influentials, we tend to have a lot of ourselves tied up in our work.  Walking into an environment where we have to sit and listen to others give comment on our work while maintaining our objectivity can be a challenge. So, just start the session with the right attitude. Check your ego and remember why you do what you do—to make people happy. Okay, it may be more complex than that but the point is, we live to serve. To this end, be ready to hear and be open to criticism about the product(s) you create. 

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#2 Participate! 

Don’t assume that you’re expected to be a passive participant or that the discussion guide is etched in stone.  Your marketing partner will rely on you to pay attention, ask follow up questions during the session and be ready to provide input for discussion guide changes for future groups.  Actively listen, jot down notes, form follow up questions and pass them on to the moderator. If your task is to develop new and innovative flavors and you aren’t hearing discussion about what the panel finds innovative, for instance, follow up with a question that will get you the information you need. This may mean a quick brainstorming session to give consumers something to react to.  Be ready to jump in and provide those ideas to help you in your work.

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#3 Keep Your Thoughts to Yourself

Reserve your conclusions until the end of the session(s).  As incredibly easy as it is to react to comments as they come out of participants’ mouths, it’s pretty short sighted.  Also, resist the urge to pass judgment on the panelists.  While we know our business very well, you will run into consumers who may not be as well educated about the topic at hand.  Their opinions are not invalid because of this.  In most cases, these individuals possess great insight about our food supply and how consumers interpret it. Remember, to really get the full benefit of focus groups, data needs to be gathered, distilled and translated by marketers that can decipher what you’re hearing in each session for you. So, jumping to conclusions prior to viewing the grand picture is wasted energy.  Your role during the session is to absorb, ask for clarity and seek to understand.

#4 Interpret the Data—Later 

Finally, wait for all the data to come in before you begin your work. Whether it’s quantitative or qualitative data, it needs interpretation.  All of those off-handed comments, bold statements and strong opinions need translation.  Allow your marketing team to do their work before you begin formulating ideas and coming to your own conclusions. 

#5 Let Us Help You!

The focus group can be a bummer for the product developer but it doesn’t have to be.  Keeping an open mind and a checked ego and allowing the experts to guide us can make sitting through focus groups a down right enjoyable experience.

At CuliNex, we frequently support focus groups to gather valuable insight on the products we’re developing. If you need help getting the right feedback on your products, let us know how we can help!

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