The Do’s and Dont’s to Conducting a Successful Focus Group


With all start up companies, customer research is VITAL in determining exactly what your target marker wants/needs. There are many ways to conduct customer research, but one of the more  effective ways is to implement focus groups. Despite how it seems, it is actually possible for focus groups to go extremely poorly if you’re not prepared. However, not to worry, I am here to tell you just what you need to know in order to conduct a successful focus group. Click here to watch an extended video from EHow on what a focus group entails.


  • DO:  Pick a time /date and HOLD PEOPLE TO IT
    • Nothing is worse than expecting multiple people to show up to your focus group time, and many of them not show up with last minute excuses. You need to let them know that you are very serious about it and that it’s important to you. That will make them feel more committed to coming.


  • DON’T:  Pick an unrealistic time
    • 7pm on a Friday night or 6am on a Monday morning may work for you, but don’t be surprised if a lot of people are not able to make it to that time slot. Be flexible and reasonable when choosing a time and date. If it appears that many people can’t make it to the time you chose, choose a new one.


  • DO:  Choose a reasonable location
    • For our specific business, since it is sports related, we chose to do our focus groups at a local park. This was convenient because most of the athletes that we were interviewing were familiar with the area and could easily get to it. Try to pick a public place, but not somewhere too crowded where you will be interrupted. Outdoors worked for our interviews, however you need to keep the weather in mind and maybe have a back-up plan incase the weather doesn’t cooperate. Or of course, if you have your own office space you could use that.


  • DON’T:  Guide the conversation too much!
    • This is one of the most important aspects to having a valid focus group. If the conversation is guided then the feedback will not be very accurate. Try to avoid using  positive or negative adjectives and keep your questions open ended. In an article by Richard Krueger, he writes more detailed instructions on how to conduct focus groups and how to write beneficial open ended questions. Open ended questions are very important in order for the most realistic responses and for you to learn the most out of the session. You need to ensure that they can not be answered with a “yes” or “no” and allow the individual to go into more detail explaining their answer. Also, be prepared because although it may be nice to hear the answers you want to hear, you have to remember that won’t lead to realistic results.


  • DO:  Prompt a flowing conversation
    • You don’t want your group to be sitting there in awkward silence. Be sure to prepare questions BEFORE hand and if the conversation comes to a halt, try to elaborate more on your product or the question to give the people more time to think. A little bit of silence is okay to give people some time for thought, but make sure everyone is comfortable enough sharing their ideas.



  • DON’T:  Pick a group of people that are all friends 
    • This will likely result in inaccurate feedback as when the volunteers know each other, they tend to just agree with what each other say, despite their true feelings on the topic. Again, this will lead to you coming out with inaccurate results from the session.


  • DO:  Take note of what’s said!
    • It may be difficult to join in to the conversation while taking notes, so it is a good idea to try voice recording the dialogue (but make sure you get permission first!). This way when you’re done you can review the recordings and take down important notes. Or, there is always the option of appointing a moderator if you choose to take that route. A moderator is someone whose job is solely to listen and take notes of the dialogue. However, I would suggest that using a moderator is better for larger focus groups.


  • DON’T:  Disregard negative feedback!
    • All feedback is good feedback, whether it is positive or negative. Period. It’s good to learn how to properly take in constructive criticism. According to an article by Nicole Lindsay, writer for The Muse, she writes down 6 steps outline how to go about receiving said criticism. She highlights how you should not immediately act with defensiveness or anger and consider it to be more of a learning opportunity.


  • DO:  Include an incentive
    • When big businesses conduct focus groups they often pay their participants. However, in our case, since it included solely high school students from our school, we chose to go with a less expensive route and bring pizza and donuts to each meeting. It is completely up to the group on what kind of incentive to incorporate  (if using one at all), just make sure it is proportionate to what you’re asking the participants. An incentive is purposed to encourage more participation, however one must be careful that it does not persuade participants to give solely positive feedback because they believe they will get prizes.


  • DON’T:  Be lazy!
    • Conducting interviews and focus groups is essential for having a successful business. Getting your customer’s perspective is how you will be able to make conclusions on how to establish your business. The focus groups that we conducted for my business were extremely beneficial in helping our group make decisions to move forward. Also, it’s better to do them sooner than later! So get organized & get those focus groups going!