Share all your objectives: Provide your moderator with as much background information and details regarding your goals as possible. The only way the moderator will be able to design a thorough discussion guide is if she fully understands what you want to learn. As the research goals are being discussed, don’t be surprised if your moderator also asks for your impression of how focus group participants might respond to a question. The only way the focus group moderator will know to probe further on a seemingly random comment or unexpected question or response is if she fully understands the background and issues.
Optimize the stimulus: Provide enough examples for participants to get a good look at the stimulus. Make sure it is as close to how it would be used or seen as possible. Provide samples to the moderator early in the planning process so she can develop appropriate questions for the discussion guide. Also consider if any stimuli can be presented in a pre-exercise involving actual usage of the product or tracking of behaviors. The pre-exercise can be done days or weeks before the focus group.
Provide input to the moderator: When asked for your input on the discussion guide or the participant requirements, give your responses in a timely manner. Usually more minor or subtle changes to the guide can be accommodated even the day before the groups. When you are reviewing a draft of the discussion guide, don’t be afraid to tell the moderator what topics are important or unimportant. You will typically have a few drafts to review and the moderator expects changes.
Come to the focus groups: There really is no substitute for being in the back room and observing a focus group. You can watch non-verbal cues for insight into what people really feel. If necessary, you can send notes into the moderator with requests for additional probing or questions. You can be part of a debrief session between/following the groups that allows for your team to discuss what was learned during the groups.
Hardwick Research has been conducting market research in the Seattle, WA area for over 20 years. If you are interested in working with us or receiving a proposal, please call 206-232-9400 or email us through our Contact page.