Whether you have been here before or this is your first time, there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to make the most of this experience.
#1: You have a dual role in this qualitative process. You are both the industry expert and the non-biased observer. Keep an open mind. Listen for themes shared rather than responses from a single participant. Watch for words, phrases, emotion, and energy coming from the group. Remember these participants are your customers.
#2: Consider what is really being said. As the observer, your view from behind the mirror must remain clear. Listen for surprises, confirmations and contradictions. Be open to different perspectives. Don’t immediately disregard a comment. You may have just uncovered a critical marketing issue.
#3: Leave your bias in the office. You’ve already left any company branded items at work, be sure to leave your bias there as well. As you observe the discussion, step back and don’t take what’s said personally. Participants are sharing their experiences and impressions. Take their feedback and use it to make changes. That’s why you are here after all.
#4: Remember the mirror is not a wall. The participants are reflective of your target market and deserve respect. Remember they can hear you behind the glass… literally. Please keep the volume down on your voices (especially laughing) and devices. Sound easily filters through the mirror and your reactions to what’s being discussed can be heard and may influence the dynamics of the group discussion.
#5: Even though you are in the dark, no day dreaming allowed. Everyone’s style is different, but taking notes is a great way to keep track of what’s being said (both positive and negative comments). No need to catch every word, just record themes and impressions. Although you have carefully reviewed the discussion guide before you arrived, do not be surprised if the moderator strays from the guide. Remember it’s just that, a guide.
#6: Keep in mind that a dominant participant isn’t always bad. Try to be non-judgmental about the respondents. “Dominant” personalities in the group have value as they are representative of the kinds of influences consumers are exposed to on a daily basis. Remember you are conducting a focus group to take advantage of “group think.”
#7: Even though it has been a long day, stick around for the debrief. This is your chance to learn what others heard, ask the moderator questions, and share your takeaways. If more groups are to come, discuss possible changes/additions to subsequent focus groups. Most importantly, this is an opportunity to get your team on the same page and start thinking about what you’ve learned.
Now that you have the necessary perspective, you can make the most of your view… from behind the mirror.
Hardwick Research has been helping clients both behind and in front of the mirror since 1994. If you would like to experience your customers’ world, we’d be happy to help you. Contact us 206-232-9400 to see how Nancy Hardwick can help you meet your goals.
Image Credit: From my room (tent) with a view. Spectacle Lake, Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State, August 2015