Whether you’re building a new marketing campaign or rebranding your business, a robust discovery process is an essential first step to crafting an effective communications strategy. Understanding how customers perceive your business and how they respond to messaging is crucial to ensuring your communications will be effective.

Luckily, there’s a tried and true method for gaining essential insights into your key audiences: focus groups.

Done right, focus groups can provide valuable qualitative data that will inform your communications strategy, allow customers to voice opinions they may not express directly to an organization and give clients new insights into their key segments.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to get the most from focus groups.

Keep Them Small

If you take the time to organize a focus group, it’s important that every participant has an opportunity to voice their opinion. If groups are too big, some participants may become wallflowers and not contribute valuable information. Breaking large groups into multiple sessions of 7-10 people ensures everyone can express themselves and that you get the most out of every attendee.

Start Broad

It’s important not to pigeonhole participants before you can gain insight into their thoughts on your industry. Starting with a broad approach that focuses on the industry as a whole may guide the conversation to essential information you may not have thought to ask. Once you’ve touched on the broader topic, you can dig into the key questions you want answered.

Break Script

Come prepared with questions to guide your conversation, but don’t rely on it too much. Sometimes a group tangent can flesh out valuable information about customer pain points you didn’t anticipate. Letting participants give you the information they think is important is better than sticking to a script verbatim. However, always be sure to direct the group back to the topic of focus.

Build Rapport

It’s important not to jump into discussions too quickly. Taking time to build rapport with participants will increase your chances of them opening up to you. This starts by being friendly, smiling, making eye contact, asking easy opening questions and not giving away your opinions verbally or nonverbally.

At FH, the backbone of strategic planning is our discovery process. No matter what we’re doing — whether it’s developing an award winning blog or writing a crisis communication plan— we want to make sure we know everything about an organization and its key audiences.

If you’re looking for help with your discovery process or you have tips for an effective focus group, let us know in the comments below!

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