When a business decides to launch a new product, it must invest millions of dollars in order to bring the product to the market. These dollars are spent primarily on research and development (R&D) and there is no guarantee that these dollars will ever be recouped. If the product is a complete flop, it will lose millions of dollars and cripple the company’s finances. For this reason, many companies use focus groups to determine how consumers feel about a specific product before producing and releasing it. Companies that bring together a group must hire a facilitator to lead the group’s discussion. This article takes a look at how group think works and what role a group facilitator plays.
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a set of consumers who match the target demographic are asked their opinions and attitudes to a specific idea, product, or service. The group facilitator asks participants a wide range of questions and participants are able to interact with other group members. Ideally a focus group will sustain a conversation and all participants will feel that they can speak freely. This free exchange of ideas allows the company to get the most honest reaction to a proposed product, service, or marketing campaign.
There are three phases of focus group planning that a group facilitator will have to complete. He or she will complete work before, during, and after the focus group. This professional will actually start working right after the company decides it is time to hire a facilitator. The group leader will help plan the event by identifying objectives for the discussion, determining a location and group of participants based on the objectives and the target market, and finally he or she will develop a script. This script will include an opening section that explains how the event will work, a section with open-ended questions that spur conversation, and a closing section that thanks the participants.
Once planning is completed, the group facilitator will conduct the focus group. He or she should record the session either with a voice recording or a video, with participants made aware that they will be recorded. The facilitator will follow his or her script during the session, but an experienced professional will know when to ask spontaneous questions. He or she will also focus on getting full answers, keeping the discussion on-track at all times, and making sure that every participant is given the chance to speak. The group facilitator will also keep an eye on time so that all questions are addressed.
When a business decides to hire a facilitator, it will also have help dealing with the results of the focus group. The group facilitator will use his or her notes and the recording of the session to create a written summary. This summary can then be analyzed to determine whether a product or service is ready for the market, or if a marketing campaign needs to be retooled before the product or service is released.
Companies that hire a facilitator to lead their focus groups will minimize the occurrence of costly product or service flops.