Alexander Rose

good design is good business

Talk is cheap and invaluable


author philippa

Alexander Rose has recently been running focus groups for several of our clients. It’s been a great reminder to us to every now and then, to just breathe, take a step back, and actually talk to the people that really matter… the people that buy (or don’t buy) your products and services.

And yes, we do mean talk. Face to face and one on one.

Of course you can glean fascinating data about your audience through large written, online or phone surveys. We also value this information highly. It’s extremely useful for identifying patterns and  trends in consumer behaviour. However, nothing truly beats a face to face conversation with a real person.

Firstly, it’s very easy for people to answer questions in a written survey in the way that they think they should be answered (go on, admit it, we’ve all done it!). It’s much more likely that a person will give a truly up-front response when speaking face to face.

Written surveys also miss out a myriad of important responses; body language, facial expressions, recognition from other group members, tone of voice, and expression of a whole range of emotions from indifference, to passion, to uproarious laughter.

Additionally, people LOVE being asked their opinion. A well-run group is a great way for your customers to know that they are both valued and valuable to you. Sure, it’s a small group of people, however they will tell their friends about a positive experience. We often get people contacting us days after we’ve run a group to tell us ‘just one more thing’ that they’ve thought about. Now that’s the kind of customer dedication that any Brand Manager worth their salt will love.

Here are our top tips for running a successful focus group:

  1. Keep it small. 15 people max. Any more than this and there will naturally be people that don’t get their voices heard. We want to hear everyone’s opinion – not just the loudest voice.
  2. Keep it short. Identify the most important questions that you need answers to and make sure the discussion doesn’t run longer than 2 hours.
  3. Keep it open. There should be no-one present from the brand that you are discussing. Nobody wants to criticise the person who’s responsible for making a product. Receiving frank criticism is vital to maintaining a responsive brand.
  4. Keep it flexible. A well-managed tangent can give you answers to questions that you didn’t even know you had.
  5. Keep it fed. Naturally the most convenient time to run focus groups is often at the end of the working day. Providing good drinks and delicious food is greatly appreciated and keeps concentration levels up.

We’re big advocates of talking to real people to keep your brand, product or service on track and relevant to the people that really matter… your customers. A well-run focus group needn’t be expensive and the insight that you gain from talking to real people will be invaluable to your business.

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