It’s a widely held attitude that focus groups are for “hearing from the consumer” and the “results” of the groups determine how to proceed with marketing.
Well, sort of.
Actually the marketing team itself has the responsibility of doing the marketing. They’re the ones who decide how to move forward, not the consumer. Conversations with customers should help marketers by providing insight. They may reveal opportunities, but only if the marketer brings something to the party.
Yep, marketers have to figure out how to use what’s being said. It’s the intersection of the customer’s world and the potential for the brand that is the real heart of the value of focus groups. It’s time to think of focus groups a new way.
How to use focus groups as thought starters
- Move them up in the marketing process. Don’t wait until the ads are created or the concepts written. Use human conversations to spark ideas. Use focus groups as a resource to inspire you. They are beginning points, not end points.
- Structure them to feature human beings. It seems like a no-brainer but often the time is so filled with getting responses to specific questions you barely get a feel for the people around the table. So feature the people. Put them at ease, draw them out and get a sense of them as humans, not just buyers.
- Use focus groups to learn how to communicate with them. Listen to the way your customers talk: the verbiage they use, the logic they employ. If you’re on the marketing side you’re probably using corporate-speak that isn’t at all the way people think and talk about the category.
- Use them to understand what the brand truly is. It is from them you will understand how all the brands in the category are perceived in terms of style and belief systems. You can get insight into how to set your brand apart on a level that can bring loyalty over time.
- Be open to what you might hear and keep your mind agile. One comment could ignite something. Let what they say float into your mind with an awareness of your brand and possibilities. Recognize the marketing team calls the shots, not the customer.
Let me know what you think.
Marketing Research Consultant