The key to running a successful business is staying in touch with the wants and needs of the consumer in your targeted industry. This information is golden because it allows you to measure what they’re thinking, their buying behaviors, likes and dislikes, and recommendations – all of which benefit you in enhancing your offerings.

So, how do you gather all of this valuable information? You strategically organize a focus group! (A focus group is representative group of people questioned together about their opinions on political issues, consumer products, etc.)

You’ll have the opportunity to engage face-to-face, in an intimate setting, and gain the necessary tools to solve problems and generate new ideas. To get started, we’ve put together four ways to develop and take your focus group to the next level:

  1. Give incentives for attending. Who doesn’t love food and freebies? It’s super important NOT to tell the participants what brand the focus group is centered around because you want to encourage honesty, so you need to give them awesome reasons to show up. Studies show that when we feed our brains, we are more efficient and improve mental alertness, which means you need FOOD. Order up some delicious hors d’oeuvres and add some wine selections to the menu. You also want to give participants something to take away as a “Thank You” for their insight, which is ultimately invaluable. Brand swag and gift bags are always great ideas.
  1. Engage the group. Encourage participation by asking interesting, open-ended questions to everyone in the room. Listen and respond to show the participants you are interested in their thoughts and opinions. Don’t be afraid to allow a natural, free-flow of conversation – as long as you bring the group back to focus and encourage sharing with the group. Make certain that if a member needs to “tune out” to explore an idea, allow them the freedom to do this.
  1. Review expectations in the beginning. It is important to first share the purpose of the focus group, allow time for introductions, and then dive into asking questions. Most people have never been to a focus group, or are unclear of exactly what it is, so it is common for them to be little nervous to participate and share their candid opinions. Once there is a clear understanding of the agenda and goal, they will be better prepared to answer questions.
  1. Be playful and fun. Playfulness opens the door to out-of-the-box thinking. Find a fun way to break the ice. Choose a moderation high energy and entertaining conversation in a group setting. Steer away from boring questions and being too serious in the moment. People love authenticity; when they see you’re being your happy, interested self, they’re more inclined to share what’s on their minds.

Focus groups are an excellent way to give your bottom-line a boost. Plan to organize one once or twice a year, based on the needs of the business. You may have different needs over time, so regularly use this opportunity to excel in a new way. As long as you have a concrete plan in mind and properly prepare, your focus group will give you the deeper understanding you need to enhance your brand, top to bottom. Happy planning!