10 Rules for Focus Groups

Have an upcoming focus group?

Wondering what the rules of focus groups are?

Focus groups are a common form of qualitative research. Typically, focus groups invite 10 to 12 people to participate. Focus group often last between 1 to 2 hours. Participants are often offered an honorarium as a thank you for participating.

Here's a quick breakdown of the steps in a focus group project.

Curious about how much a focus group costs? In a previous post we dug into this topic. As a general rule, focus groups cost between $4,000 and $12,000. The cost depends on several different factors such as cost of recruiting, cost of the facility, number of focus groups, cost of honorariums, number of attendees, how long the focus group lasts, and more. Learn more about how much a focus group costs.

Use these 10 rules below to start your next focus groups off right.

10 Rules for Focus Groups

Insider's guide to the rules of focus groups!

Rule #1: Confidentiality

First off, it is important to let all focus group participants know the discussion needs to be kept confidential. Focus group participants can tell others they were part of a group discussion on a specific topic, but details and any specifics of the conversation should not be shared.

All of the information gathered is for research purposes only for the end client. Participants should not be sharing and ideas, prototypes, or other types of information shared throughout the focus group. The information shared by other participants should also be kept confidential. Particularly important for healthcare focus groups where medical conditions may be shared.

Rule #2: Purpose of the Research

It is important to share the purpose of the research with focus group participants. First, it is the ethical thing to do. Second, it will help participants understand why the focus groups are being done and why the information will be helpful to the end client. If they understand the end goal, it will be easier to form the conversation around those objectives.

Rule #3: Sponsor of the Research

Focus group moderators should also share the sponsor of the research with participants. This is another case where it is the ethical thing to do. Also, it will help participants better understand the purpose of the research.

However, this is not always possible. There have been times where the client must not be revealed for the good of the research. An example would be blind taste testing of different beverages. Revealing the sponsor of the research ahead of time may impact perceptions or opinions of the brand when testing.

Rule #4: Cell Phone Use

Focus groups are like any movie, play, or musical. The focus group moderator should remind all participants to have their phones on silent.

Not only is this important because it could derail the conversation, but also it could lead to errors and disruptions if the focus group is being recorded and/or taped.

Rule #5: Bathroom Location

Seems all too simple, but don't forget to share where the bathroom is. Participants should feel free to use the bathroom if needed during the conversation, however, the hope is they are prepared to stay seated and participate during the entire focus group. A good tip here is to ask participants as they wait in the waiting room to use the restrooms prior to the group starting.

Rule #6: When Rewards Will Be Given

To be frank, some focus group participants are mostly interested in getting their honorarium. A good qualitative recruitment firm can weed these participants out. There are always a few participants after the focus group who say, "I'd do this for free!" which is great but not always the case.

Let participants know all honorariums will be handed out promptly at the end of the focus group.

Rule #7: Recording/Taping

If the focus group is being recorded and/or taped, participants should be aware. Also, this is a good time to remind participants their names will be kept confidential. If a quote from the focus group is pulled their name will not be tied to the results.

For example instead of saying, "Amy said..." the quote would read, "A 35 year-old in Syracuse said..."

Rule #8: No Right or Wrong Answers

Remind participants there are no right or wrong answers to the questions asked by the moderator. Tell participants should let the moderation know if they agree or disagree with a topic or idea being discussed.

Participants are the experts during the focus group discussion. The goal of the focus group is to hear the thoughts an opinions from everyone.

Rule #9: Presence of Clients

If clients are present during the focus groups, this should be shared with participants. Whether clients are off to the side of the room, behind a two-way mirror, or watching through a live stream, this should be explained.

This may also be a good time to mention the moderator may check in with the clients during the group to ensure there is nothing they want to follow up on or get clarification on.

Rule #10: Say Thank You

Always say thank you at the beginning and end of the focus group. Participants took a chunk out of their day or evening to share their thoughts and opinions so it is important to thank them. This will encourage them to participate in market research again in the future. A win for everyone in the industry.

Mom and dad always said to mind your Ps and Qs right?

Contact Our New York Focus Group Company

Drive Research is a market research company in New York that specializes in focus groups. Our New York focus group company can handle all parts of the process including recruiting, re-screening, creating the moderator's guide, moderating, and reporting on the results.

Have question about how we can help your company? Need a proposal? Contact us.

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Focus Groups