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What Should You Ask Your Focus Group?

written by: Ginny Edwards • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 6/15/2011

You have selected the members of your focus group and they are eager to get started. But to really fire up the group, you need to ask the right questions to get them talking. Here is a sample of focus group questions designed to solicit more candid comments from your participants.

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    Engaging Your Focus Group

    39041zgd26ptd3t As the project manager and facilitator of a focus group, your job is to fully engage the members to get their honest feedback. For people to be engaged they first need to feel relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings. When respondents are relaxed, they will open up and talk more. When they feel uneasy, they will retreat into their shells and you will not get the input that you need. The key to creating a positive experience for your participants is by asking questions that will awaken both their creative and critical sides.

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    Product Reviews: Is Everyone Completely Satisfied?

    Good Questions 

    Focus groups are often in concert with other product research methods to determine not only how the product could be improved but also how the product should be marketed. Here are some sample focus groups questions to obtain answers to help with these two objectives.

    1. How familiar are you with the product? (extremely, somewhat, or not familiar at all)
    2. Overall how satisfied are you with the product? (Use a numeric or satisfaction scale)
    3. What is your impression of the product? (Use a numeric or favorable scale)
    4. What specific features of the product impressed you?
    5. What features of the product disappointed you?
    6. How likely are you to purchase this product? (Use a numeric or degree of likelihood scale)
    7. How likely would you be to recommend this product to a family member or friend? (Use a numeric or degree of likelihood scale)
    8. If you would recommend this product, what would you say to convince your best friend to purchase this product?
    9. If you would not recommend this product, what would you say to convince your best friend not to buy this product?
    10. What three words would you use to describe the product?
    11. Please rate on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is extremely dissatisfied and 10 is extremely satisfied the following features:
      • Speed
      • Reliability
      • Visual Appeal
      • Ease of Use
      • Specific Features (as named by you)
    12. What, if anything, do you find frustrating or unappealing about the product?
    13. What similar products have you used during the last 6 months?
    14. Can you describe your experiences in using these similar products?
    15. Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve the product to make it more appealing?
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    Web Design: Does Everyone Know Where to Click?

    Web Design Question Many projects involve online marketing and gathering feedback on a website design or feature. Here are some sample questions to help a project manager evaluate a new website design or concept.

    1. Overall, how appealing is this webpage to you? (Use a numeric or the degree of appeal scale)
    2. Thinking of your previous response, what are some specific examples that helped you formed your opinion?
    3. How easy or difficult was it to navigate the content on the webpage?
    4. What prompted you to say that?
    5. When thinking about navigating this page, what, if anything, is confusing to you?
    6. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement. (Use an agreement scale)
      • The benefits of doing business with company are clearly presented in this webpage.
    7. Thinking of the answer to the previous question, what made you say that?
    8. Are the headlines/links easy to read and enticing for visitors to click on?
    9. How much do you agree or disagree with the statements below? (Use an agreement scale)
      • If I wanted to purchase the product, I know where to click.
      • If I wanted to contact the company, I know where to click.
      • If I wanted to see more content, I know where to click.
      • The webpage is helpful to me.
      • The webpage is relevant to me.
    10. Is there anything that you would like to add or remove from the design that you have seen?

    The order of these questions can be shifted around. For example, you could ask the group's overall impressions of the webpage last. I personally like to have the question on impressions first because with online advertising first impressions matter the most in capturing and retaining a visitor's attention.

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    Market Conditions: Do You Feel Like Splurging?

    Consumer sentiment and consumer confidence are the forerunners to the future success of many businesses. Sometimes a project manager needs to do a reality check to see if it is the right time to move forward on a business venture. These questions can help assess the general business climate as part of the project's risk analysis.

    1. How would you rate your outlook for the economy over the next six months?
    2. What most contributes to your optimistic outlook for the economy?
    3. What most contributes to your pessimistic outlook for the economy?
    4. Which of the following best describes your discretionary spending during the past six months? (Use a more or less tendency scale)
    5. Are you more or less likely to make a large purchase in the next six months? (Use a likelihood scale)

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    Hints for Developing Your Own Sample of Focus Group Questions

    Painting a Question No matter why a focus group is formed, you can help your members have a more productive session by asking questions that grab their attention and get them thinking beyond the obvious. Here are a few pointers to help you in developing your own questions to motivate participants to open up and provide more honest and complete responses.

    1. Introductions - Begin the session with a set of questions that will enable focus group members to get to know each other better. Ask them about their favorite hobbies and interests and what they enjoy the most about the activity.

    2. Fun Starter Question or Activity - Ask a fun question or incorporate a team building game to get the group's creative juices flowing. For example, ask them to think of three words to describe their favorite hobby.

    3. Format - When choosing focus group questions, be sure to include a mix of multiple choice questions to provide structure and direction and open-ended questions to allow for further exploration and discovery.

    4. Ratings scale - Select an appropriate ratings scale to measure different levels of approval. Try to select scales that have more than five variations to give respondents more flexibility. For example, this scale has 7 levels to measure the level of satisfaction: completely satisfied, very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neither satisfied nor unsatisfied, somewhat unsatisfied, very unsatisfied, and completely unsatisfied.

    5. Specificity - Avoid vague open-ended questions that simply ask "why." The word "why" has a negative connotation because it makes the respondent think their first answer was not good enough. Instead of asking "why" you should rephrase the question to ask respondents to provide some specific examples of what they liked or did not like about the item in question.

    6. Closing - Remember to thank the participants for their assistance and candor, and then ask them if there is anything that could be done to improve their experience as a member of the focus group.

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    Reference

    Author's experience as a member of several focus groups involved with evaluating new food and investment products.

    Image Credits:

    Business Woman Having a Discussion: Photostock/freedigitalphotos.com

    Questions on Chairs: Danilo Rizzuti/freedigitalphotos.com

    Painting a Question: graur razvan ionut/freedigitalphotos.com