Do You Really Know What Your Customer Wants?
By Gerald Sherman
I asked a prospective client what business she was in. She complained that some days she doesn’t know herself. She said her clients are so fickle that she is not sure what they want anymore. We decided to do a focus group to find out what they want and determine if we can satisfy their wants and needs. We discovered that she was not catering to her present market and did not see what was actually happening. There was a marked shift to a younger, more price conscious customer.
Knowing your audience base is essential for any business. However, we must have the tools to work with in order keep up with the changing times. Enter Focus Groups!
What is a focus group? It is a research tool that gives the company the ability to intermingle directly with its public in a controlled environment. In this setting the participants’ responses are recorded and analyzed. Look at it as another means you can use to evaluate your current services and future plans. It affords you a chance to become more attuned to what your clients are thinking by hearing and analyzing their responses to the posed questions and to each others responses.
For the purpose of the average local business the group should consist of a representative group of your company’s target market usually, 6-12 people, who are requested to participate in your focus group and answer questions posed by the moderator. The questions asked relate to how they feel about your current ads or planned ads, services you provide, your product, future products and their perception of your brand. There is usually some form of compensation for the participants, money, gifts, refreshments and sometimes just recognition in the form of a thank you letter.
The information you get can be invaluable in guiding you to make corrections or additions to your company’s plans or format. It provides you an opportunity to glean opinions, perceptions and beliefs about your product. The company is wise to conduct a focus group prior to adding a new product or service or planning any large event, advertising or public relations campaign to ensure that they will resonate with the target audience. All of this can be accomplished by a skilled moderator’s questions and an equally skillful analysis of the answers.
- In my experience conducting focus groups, I find that a successful focus group consists of the following four components:
- An audience that is carefully selected to truly represent a cross section of your customers.
- The skills of the independent moderator who is running the meeting, in stimulating audience participation.
- The suitability of the questions asked.
- The objective analysis of the information obtained.
So, as we see, organizing a focus group is not a meaningless activity, it unveils vital information a business needs in order to serve its public. It’s not expensive and the return on investment will pay great dividends.
Excerpts from the book, The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling & Management, Gerald J. Sherman & Sar S. Perlman. Fairchild Books, Division of Conde Nast publications.