By: Sarah Tourville, Founder & CEO

In the age of online surveys, social media commenting campaigns, and the IoT, it can be hard to remember a time when getting to know your target audience was simpler. While marketing and purchasing decisions are boldly moving into the future, some techniques of data collection remain relevant.

Focus groups are one of these proven methods. For decades, businesses have been utilizing this practice to connect with their market.  Unlike online surveys, which do not provide an opportunity to observe interaction and reactions, facilitators can note and record participant engagement in real–time. Focus groups are not only beneficial for determining viewpoints on existing products or services. They can also be used to gauge interest in new ideas, what consumers think of your competitors, how they are influenced, and expectations for the future. Some of the reasons focus groups remain advantageous include:

Understanding the Needs of Your Buyer

Unlike an online questionnaire, focus groups allow moderators to witness, first-hand, complex behaviors and reactions. Observers can identify changes in opinions, when those changes occur and ask directly how to fix a problem. Solutions can be quickly identified and implemented.

The Value of Bringing People Together

Data can be impersonal, and focus groups permit businesses to make a real connection with their consumers. Adding a human dimension allows for a deeper understanding of opinions and viewpoints, beyond just statistics.

Gathering Proprietary Data

While online surveys may provide you with valuable facts, it will not always be original. Hosting focus groups gives leadership the opportunity to clarify results from previous data collection methods, and gather exclusive information that may have gone unnoticed. These select facts can give a business a distinct advantage over competitors that rely solely on generalized online polling.

Identify the Ultimate Influencers

Different groups will think and feel different things about a product or topic, and focus groups give businesses the opportunity to identify those that are most likely to have the authority over buying decisions. Finding a range of people to participate may be challenging at first, but as more departments are responsible for purchasing, your focus group should be representative of these key decision makers.

Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader

Focus groups encourage conversation. Allowing a participant to express themselves in a guided discussion provides a plethora of appreciated information. By understanding the decision-making that happens during the buying process, business leadership is more likely to make well-informed and strategic choices. Leadership can tailor their approach based off of this method and establish them as experts in their market.

Focus groups will continue to have benefits for your business and brand. Being equipped with valuable information is what differentiates your company from your competition. People want to work with organizations they trust and believe in, and if your leadership respects their opinions, then a loyal customer-base will follow.