How to Leverage Focus Groups for Deeper Market Research

Focus Groups can help uncover hypotheses that may lead to meaningful product innovations. But, as any good facilitator will acknowledge, focus groups have their limitations. They’re a great place to start and to really dig into your consumers’ needs and pain points. You can learn about your own past, present and future strategies. You may even discover information you hadn’t considered important or even relevant. But what comes after you’ve conducted your focus group? How can you take what you’ve discovered and learn even more? How can you take your focus group findings beyond the conference room?

Insights from Focus Groups Get You Started

In terms of innovation, the biggest focus group win might be examining participants’ reaction to or experience with a current product. What better place to observe that than with actual product users right in front of you? These insights help you to evaluate your current innovation and marketing strategies going forward. Are they working the way you intended? Through enough focus groups, you can answer that yes-or-no question and change tack accordingly.

The information you gather in your focus groups can set the tone for new product ideation. You can determine what key factors matter most to your consumer and begin to explore what holes you’re leaving in the marketplace. The nature of a focus group also allows the moderator to ask follow-up questions that may arise organically, leading to insights you might not have ever considered. All of this information fuels your efforts moving forward.

Sitting down for a focus group, participants enter a two-way conversation with a moderator. While these pro facilitators have their structure in place, there is still the opportunity to let participants really speak their mind and feel heard, face-to-face with your brand. It’s the ultimate connection with the consumer.

But what comes after the focus group? You’ve challenged your theories and hypotheses and come away with valuable insights into the present opinions of your consumer. How can you leverage this information to arrive at your next strategy or product idea?

Taking the Focus Group Beyond the Room

Focus groups may have a few disadvantages, but that doesn’t negate their overall importance to your market research. At the end of the day, the goal of many focus groups is to gain insights into the wants and needs of the consumer—something your new strategy or product will hopefully address. You just have to know how to fill in the cracks. Through your focus groups, you’re aware of how the consumer feels when asked. But what about when they aren’t asked? In truth, millions of consumers tell companies what they want and need every single day, totally unprovoked by your company. You just have to know where to look.

Focus groups help us in gauging the general mood of your customer. It’s a great metric to help fuel innovation and how to market these new products. However, discovering individual concerns isn’t as easy. Furthermore, you’re examining how consumers feel about a product at a single point in time. They may tell you how their opinions have evolved, but there still isn’t a clear timeline. What if there was a way to find out how consumers have interacted with a product for years and years?

Luckily, the biggest focus group of them all is at your disposal. The internet plays host to countless online conversations every day. Through social media, blogs and other channels, consumers talk openly and honestly about, well, everything. And, if you know how to find it, you can arrive at that holy grail of consumer pain points: the unarticulated need. It’s a product or service consumers have always wanted even—if they didn’t know it!

It’s consumer behavior modeling and it turns up the volume on the focus group format. CBM starts with analyzing the online conversations to find out how consumers interact with your brand and products in the real world. You can take the information you gleaned from your focus groups and compare it to the rest of your consumer base. Is what you were told consistent with the way people speak and behave? Your consumer is giving you a glimpse into their everyday lives as they unfold. Once you’ve analyzed these conversations, you begin to get a sense of the compensating behaviors consumers use by the millions to truly make the product fit their lifestyles.

Here’s a quick example from own experiences. A juice company observed many of its consumers replacing a glass of wine with their product, either to save money or for health reasons. This led to a compensating behavior of putting their cranberry juice into wine or cocktail glasses to achieve the same level of fanciness. This is turn led to the discovery of a crucial unarticulated need: a juice cocktail consumers could feel good about drinking at night.

From their own research, the juice company knew that their product was polarizing. People either liked it, or they didn’t. Instead of trying to sway the consumer who didn’t like their juice, CBM taught them how to develop a new product that would not only solve their consumers’ problems, but also not compete with their existing morning-based products.

That’s how you can leverage a focus group or other market research. You can solve that baseline question of what your brand needs to do next. Once you know that, you can turn to CBM to discover the very best way to meet your consumers’ needs. A perfect cocktail of market research and consumer behavior modeling.

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