FOCUS GROUP: Definition and Detailed Guide on How to Run a Focus Group Discussion

Focus groups play a useful role in market research. Researchers use them to gather qualitative data and in-depth insights on various products and services. This in turn reveals customer attitudes on these products. A focus group consists of 6 to 10 participants who come together to take part in a planned discussion, usually in the presence of a trained moderator. During the focus group discussion, the respondents will be asked a series of questions to know their thoughts on a particular subject or product. The results often influence some brands’ business decisions. In this article, we’ll learn how to run a focus group discussion. We’ll also see platforms that run paid focus groups. 

First, let’s know what a focus group is, and how it works.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a group interview that involves a small number of people who have different perspectives on a particular issue. These people are usually 6 to 10 in number, and they answer a series of predetermined questions on a subject matter. Focus group is extremely useful as it gives brands insights on what people think of them. Thus, they make necessary adjustments. 

Example of Focus Group Application

If an alcohol brand, say Budweiser, wants to launch a new product into the market, Budweiser will organize a focus group discussion. Different people will taste and analyze the product, and give their opinions. Budweiser will then use these findings to make necessary adjustments concerning the product. 

How Focus Groups Work

Focus groups can work in-person or online


An in-person focus group requires that participants meet at a specific location, where they are interviewed in person. A moderator is always present to lead the group, take notes and ask questions, and then record the results. In-person focus groups usually involve more than one session.  


An online focus group is conducted online via chat. You’ll recieve a link that lets  you access the focus group and then join the discussion from there. Sometimes, youll need to download a specific web-based software in order to join some focus groups. Most researchers often opt for online focus groups, as it helps save a lot of cost. 

How Do You Run a Focus Group?

It is important to run a focus group. However, if you don’t run it effectively, you’ll probably not get the desired results. The steps outlined below will help you run a focus group discussion effectively. Note that focus groups aim at discussion, and not necessarily individual responses.

#1. Choose your topic of discussion

Note that you won’t be able to address everything you have in mind in one short session. Therefore, you have to pinpoint the area of discussion and specify the objectives of that topic. That way, you won’t bore your participants with unnecessary questions. You can create a list of questions to help you focus on your topic of discussion.

#2. Recruit your participants

It is quite challenging to get people to show up for your focus group. First off, you won’t want ‘just anybody’ to participate in your focus group discussion. There are a few ways you can find who you’re looking for. If your topic is based on a product, you can reach out to existing customers to participate in your focus group. You can also source for participants via social media platforms. Social media advertising has options that can help you reach your target market. Furthermore, you can run billboard ads, as well as newspaper ads. Note that whatever channel you choose, you should be ready to offer incentives.

#3. Appoint a notetaker

During the course of discussion, you will find that some points need to be taken down. If the moderator is left to take down notes, the group will be disrupted. Therefore, you need to appoint a notetaker to take down important points. The notetaker is important, as he/she pays attention to details that the moderator might miss.

#4. Pilot Your Focus Group

Before you start your focus group discussion, remind participants of the purpose of the group. Outline the objectives of the group, as well as the participants’ rights. Also, emphasise the importance of timing while still reminding them that their opinions are most valuable to you. Once you’ve done this, you can start the discussion.

#5. Create a hearty atmosphere

Have everyone introduce themselves. You can start by introducing yourself first and then inviting others to do the same. In addition to that, you can ask them to share their interests to get a personal understanding of your topic of discussion could play a role in their day to day activities. You can also encourage your participants to engage with each other and with their surroundings.

#6. Ask your questions

Having made a list of your questions, you can start asking them. Try as much as possible to be in control of the session. There are chances that your participants might try to veer off the topic, but it is your duty as the moderator to signal them to stop if need be. Also, ensure that everyone makes a contribution during the course of discussion. You can occasionally throw questions to the quiet members of the group to get them actively involved. Avoid leading questions. Allow your participants to freely express what they feel on a given matter. Lastly, maintain a neutral stand throughout the focus group discussion. Avoid gestures that suggest that you agree or disagree with anybody’s opinion.

#7. Make your session as quick as possible

Remember that time is of the essence. The longer time you spend, the more fatigued your participants become, and the less likely you are to get a favorable response. At the end of the discussion, appreciate the participants for their time. Let them know they’ve been of immense help to your research. Tell them when to expect their payments, if any. Even if you didn’t get the results you need, don’t let them know. Your participants will want to go home feeling that the time spent in the focus group is worthwhile.

#8. Analyze and incorporate feedback

After your focus group, your team should compile and analyze all the ideas presented, and incorporate necessary changes.

If you like to share your opinions or suggestions on a particular product or trend, there are platforms that offer paid focus groups. Participants in these focus groups give their opinion about a targeted product, and get paid in return. You can also source for ads that offer paid focus groups online. Some of the companies that organise paid focus groups include:

  1. Survey Junkie – equivalent of $2-$75 per survey
  2. – $140 per hour
  3. User Interviews – $10-$100 per survey
  4. – $75-$150 
  5. Google Usability – $75 per hour
  6. Recruit and Field –  $100-275 per study
  7. Ipsos i-say – $50-100 per hour
  8. Experience Dynamics – $50-150 per study
  9. Springboard America – $0.5-5 per 10- minute article
  10. American Consumer Option – about $50 per survey
  11. Mindswarms – $50 per study
  12. Inspired Options $5-100 per survey
  13. Engage Studies $50-250 per survey
  14. SIS International Research

It is always free to register on these platforms. Some paid focus groups work in-person, where you have to show up at a specific location, while some work online. The main goal is to gather views and statistics to estimate trends, improve products, or develop new ones.  

Are Focus Groups Interviews?

Interviews with a large sample size of people can yield a wealth of data, and these focus group interviews are just one method of doing so. Focus group interviews can have as few as four people in them or as many as ten, but I find that the sweet spot is somewhere between four and eight people.

What is one Disadvantage of a Focus Group?

Focus groups are good, but the way they are conducted and the conclusions are drawn often lead to wrong decisions. It is not easy to organize focus group discussion, data is biased, and the cost involved is also high.

Why do Focus Groups Fail?

They fail because people can’t predict what they want and don’t understand their own motives for making decisions. Consumers have other motivations for answering and participating in the group than contributing to the end product.

When Should a Focus Group be Used?

Gathering people together to discuss a problem and try to figure out a solution is a good use for focus groups. Focus groups are a cost-effective way to get more information about the root causes of an issue or problem that was uncovered in a quantitative study.

How Long is a Normal Focus Group?

In general, a focus group session will last between 60 and 90 minutes. A focus group that goes on for longer than 90 minutes likely has too many questions or topics to discuss. It’s important that the focus group is well-suited to the people who will be taking part in it.

How many People are Usually in a Focus Group?

It should consist of about as many people as a lively seminar class (8-10 people, plus a facilitator and a note taker). People in a larger group may be less likely to elaborate on their answers in order to avoid monopolizing the conversation.


Focus groups give researchers insight on what people think about a particular product or service. Thus, they can make necessary adjustments to improve their products or terms of service. Focus groups can be paid or unpaid, and they can be run in-person or online. Also, if you want to run a focus group discussion, you should understand the necessary steps to follow to get a favorable response.

Focus Group FAQS

What is the purpose of focus group discussion?

Focus group discussion aims at obtaining data from a specially selected group of persons in order to gain an in-depth understanding of how things work.

What is an example of a focus group?

an example of a focus group is a group employees meeting to discuss the effects of the terms of service in their organizations

How long should focus groups last?

Focus groups usually last for about 60 – 90 minutes. Anything more than that means that there are too many questions or topics for discussion. in this case, another session should be scheduled.

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