Almost every consumer brand from big to small can benefit from a focus group. They are great for generating ideas, spotting trends as well as testing products, messaging and branding.  Whether your organization is developing a new campaign, wanting feedback on a product or service or just trying to improve customer experience, a well-planned focus group can help you achieve your goals. Here we will help you understand what a focus group is, what the benefits are and a couple of points you should be aware of before conducting a focus group.


A focus group is a small number of people who are voluntarily brought together with a moderator to focus on a specific product, service or idea. When it comes to volunteers for the focus group it is crucial to recruit the right participants. The goal of the discussion will determine who is best qualified to participate in your focus group. For example, we hosted a focus group around cannabis brands. We found participants that have either experienced cannabis or would be likely to experience cannabis in their lifetime. Once you identify your goals and have an idea of the type of participants you want, you’ll have to decide the number of participants.

The number of participants is very important. Too many people in a focus group and you run the risk of limiting the ability for all participants to share. Too few participants and you won’t get a diverse perspective. The right number of participants will depend on the demographic and the topic you want to discuss. If you want to have a large focus group, make sure to have a strong moderator who can control the conversation but not let biasness affect the natural results. Our focus group contained eight volunteers who all had different experiences with cannabis. We made sure to have a strong moderator and the flow of conversation was natural and smooth. After deciding who you want in your focus group and how many, you can start recruiting!

There are various ways to recruit participants. One of the first question you should ask yourself is where does your intended audience spend their time? Are they on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or do they prefer phone conversations, email, direct mail? Once you determine their preferred method of communication, you’ll have a more successful time signing up participants. It’s also common practice to incentives participants to sign up, for example when we do focus group we often offer free food.  Once you have participants confirmed, don’t forget to remind them when the time comes closer!

Once in the focus group, participants will be asked a series of questions and then will be prompted to share their opinions, ideas and reactions. Questions asked in the focus group can vary but might be along the lines of the following:

  • Tell us about your experience with X?
  • What is your understanding of X?
  • What is your perception with X?
  • What is your knowledge with X?

A focus group should provide an open and interactive environment where participants are encouraged to share their experiences and opinions.


Customer expectation are a moving target. When you’ve developed a new product or campaign, focus groups will help you test it and get feedback before it goes out to the public. One of the main benefits of a focus groups is that it allows people to be more candid in their responses than if asked directly. The group setting makes participants more willing to share their insights and you’ll be able to get information straight from the horse’s mouth.  Another benefit of a focus group is that since it is in-person, you will be able to learn from participant’s actions, body language and other non-verbal communication. Focus groups are also beneficial in the fact that they can provide useful materials such as quotes for presentations or publications.


A focus group is a great tool to use but there are a few things you should consider. Focus groups can be time consuming and costly and it’s recommended that you facilitate more than one focus group which can double the time and costs. You won’t want to base an entire program on one focus group. We often facilitate multiple focus groups and then back up the data from the focus group with quantitative research.

If the time commitment is an issue, contract out! Planning, coordinating and facilitating focus groups are all services that McGrath/Power offers. You can save time and get professional help by contracting the service out. If you’d like to learn more about the services we offer or whether or not a focus group is for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Just remember moving forward, focus groups can be one of the most effective ways to learn about your target audience and get real-time market research.