Groups should be carefully screened to get the best people for the problem under discussion. The moderator and the sponsor should manage the choice of participants in the group. The most valuable thoughts and ideas arise when a group is fairly homogeneous. Usually, more than three groups discussing the same problem will add very little, although if there are known or suspected regional differences, for example, more than three may be necessary. It may often be advisable to form the different groups by age and sex.


1 Warm up

• Explain focus groups.

• No correct opinions - only opinions.

• Need to hear from everyone.

• Associates are watching from behind the mirror. They are very interested in the group's opinions.

• Audiotapes - so notes are not necessary.

• One person to talk at a time. No side discussions or some important comments will be missed.

• No questions to the moderator. What they know is unimportant.

• Participants not to worry if they don't know much about the topic. If there are different views in the group that is also important to know.

• No one will contact participants after the session.

2 What comes to mind when this product concept is mentioned?

• Changes you would like to see?

• How do you feel about current brands available?

• What are your likes and dislikes about them?

• How would you change them?

• Do you use more than one brand? What alternatives do you use? Why did you choose those particular brands?

• What factors are important in determining the brands you do use?

3 Present a description of the new product concept. Ask how the group feels about it

• How many of you would consider using this product?

• What do you like or dislike about it?

• Do you see any distinct advantages in this product over the brands you are currently using?

• How would you expect this product to be priced?

• Use of product, frequency of purchase, etc. need to be explored next: expand on this example.

4 Give them the opportunity for final questions and comments

5 Thank them for their cooperation

Preparation of the moderator's guide should be a joint effort of the sponsor, the agency (if one is involved) and the moderator. It should contain open, non-leading questions designed to stimulate thinking and discussion. Such questions might not be used verbally at all; rather, they may serve as a reminder to the moderator of matters the sponsor wants to be covered.

The moderator's guide should consider the types of participant in the group -their knowledge and experience. It should not show bias or reflect already formed opinions and should be developed with the counsel of those people who will have to implement the findings of the research study. All interested parties are responsible for making sure that everything pertinent is included in the guide, which should also contain suggestions on the timing of the session.

The client firm should ensure that the moderator understands the problem and the importance of the findings of each session. The moderator should be guided in preparation for the various directions in which the discussion may go. This does not mean that the moderator should prejudge how the discussion should or should not go. The moderator must know enough about the industry and the problem to recognise the unexpected and valuable points that may be aired.

Most professional research firms that offer focus group sessions will have a room dedicated for the purpose. The room will include one-way mirrors so that the client may watch and listen without being seen. It will contain chalkboards, a decent sized table, appropriate television and projection equipment and pads and pencils for taking notes.

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