Focus group guide for small businesses

The following guides will direct you— whether it’s needs analysis, competitive analysis, new product suggestions, marketing reviews, or getting to know your target market better. From this, you will begin to prepare how to execute a suitable focus group.

1. Choose Your Participants

One of the things you need to figure out after setting your focus group goals is how many participants you need, and how to identify and choose participants. Usually, focus groups are formed of 8 to 12 participants. This size allows the conversation manageable, while also providing sufficient variety.

You will find people to be part of your focus groups by following the following ways:

Your client list: It is best to start from there if you already have a list of customers or leads. This can save you a lot of time in searching for participants, since you are beginning with a list of people who have already transacted somehow with your company. Also, for a small fee, people who have already shown interest in your business will be more likely to help you out. But if you’re doing conversations with your focus group to tap into a new market, it’s best to try other approaches instead.

Referrals: For your focus group, you should ask friends, relatives and clients to refer the participants. Be up front with them about the target market you are looking for, and what the focus group’s aim is.

Events: You need to take benefit from the events that your target audience would possibly attend. For instance, look for conferences, seminars and other events for your business community. You can either take part as a participant in the gathering, sponsor it or collaborate with the hosts. Events have the additional benefit of simultaneously having members of your target audience in the same place.

Post Ads: You can also post ads asking people to apply for your focus group. This will give you a wider pool of candidates from which to choose. The goal would be to make sure that your chosen participants actually fall within your target market.


While a focus group should be as diverse as possible, ensure that every participant is part of your target market is important. You have to choose participants from different parts of the city, belong to different age ranges and have different backgrounds. It means you will get a variety of perspectives in the conversation.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that individuals do not reflect their age range, ethnicity, or community in different groups. Don’t presume that each participant in your focus group represents a whole community.

2. Plan the Discussion

Besides getting participants, you also need to plan for the discussion that will be taking place. Here’s what a fruitful focus group conversation looks like:

Start with a good overview: it will take a few minutes for your participants to get warm up. Use this opportunity to invite them for discussion, provide an outline of the intent of the discussion, and create some ground rules.

Has a consistent progression: A successful focus group has a solid thought train that is not disrupted regardless of the participants’ feedback. Although some participants can provide overly exhaustive feedback, the conversation is always refocused to accomplish the objective of the focus group. The usual approach is to start with a generic query and from there become more precise.

Contains open questions: While it is easier to understand multiple-choice questions, these are best left for surveys and other forms of consumer research that go further down the road. Focus groups tend to work best in an exploratory way, so your questions should also be explorative. Let’s presume you’re trying out a new dating program. Ask them, “Have you tried online dating in the past?” and follow up with “How did these approaches work for you?” instead of saying, “Would you be interested in using this dating app?” Through posing such open questions, you will find additional possibilities and perspectives that you would not have come up with had you made predictions about the choices of your participants.

Requires specific responses: Participants should also be given the opportunity to provide more complex responses such as examples, scale scores, memories and reflections. This will help you understand the more in-depth perspectives that contribute to their conclusions and opinions. For example, instead of just asking the participants what they think about your new logo designs, ask them, “What do you remember?” or ask them to rate your designs according to their preferences.

If your focus group conversation has the criteria set out above, you will have a wealth of data to help you make better business decisions.

3. Opt for Experienced Moderation

Focus groups should not be like traditional discussions between informal groups. Based on your target, you have to make sure the conversation leads you to the result you need. It is here that a moderator steps in. The moderator should make the participants comfortable enough to participate, initiate conversations and ask follow-up questions that will lead the participants to serve the discussion intent.

If you have never attended or watched a presentation of a focus group, it may be better to hire a professional to do that aspect for you. Based on research published in the Association for Information Systems Communications, here’s what makes moderation successful:


Get participant information: Getting out the genuine opinions of an individual requires skill, and a good moderator has that. We will understand the focus group’s intent and translate it to questioning lines that can elicit useful responses.

Facilitates engagement and debate: Effective moderators can encourage group discussion even from people who are typically reserved and can make them feel comfortable enough to express their opinions even without the group’s consensus. At the same time, the moderator is able to refocus the group in instances where some participants may dominate the conversation, or in some way the discussion is derailed.

No show of prejudice or bias: Another key feature of a successful moderator is that they don’t deliberately or accidentally distort the focus group’s outcomes. They remain reserved for their own ideas, and refrain from giving their views on the responses of the participants.

Given their role, your focus group’s success may be determined by moderators. That is why it is important to find someone who has expertise in conducting focus groups, particularly for companies