Focus groups help you get different information than you can get from a simple customer survey because of the dynamic interaction that occurs when people discuss things. In addition to verifying your own beliefs about a product, you can generate new ideas by presenting a mix of questions that provide different feedback. Focus group questions should solicit specific answers and lead to free-form discussion.


It’s important to let group members interact for several reasons. They might be more truthful with a peer than an authority figure or a company they know wants to sell them something. They might open up more in a discussion as opposed to when they are directly asked a specific question. Ask questions that start conversations, such as, “Why do you think your friends buy this product?” or “Why do you think people stop using this type of product?” Discussion questions not only get people to open up, but they also allow them to present ideas and solutions you had not considered.


Successful marketing requires having a product that solves a need in the marketplace and communicating that benefit in advertising and promotions. Ask your focus group questions related to the benefits they see in your product, benefits they wish your product offered and what other products offer them the same benefit. Follow up by asking them why they want or need this benefit to determine if you can better position your product or service.


Ask your focus group a variety of questions about your direct and indirect competitors. For example, an owner of an Italian restaurant might ask questions about other local Italian restaurants, other restaurants in general and frozen Italian foods that consumers can buy at grocery stores and prepare at home. He would ask them what they think each competitor’s benefit is; how it satisfies their needs; if they are happy with the competitor’s product, price and customer service; and how they rate his restaurant against his competitors in several categories.

Yes or No/True or False

With some questions, you might want to force your group members to make a choice. For example, if you are thinking of dropping a product feature or raising prices, you might not want a discussion about the pros and cons. You might simply want to know “Would you buy this product if it didn’t come with a warranty?” or “Would you pay $25 for this product?” Use these questions sparingly, because you can ask these same questions in an online or phone survey. These types of questions are helpful for gauging participants’ attitudes after a discussion.

Fill in the Blank

In some instances, you know you want the answer to a question, but you don’t know what that answer is or don’t want to put it in the head of a group member like a yes, no, true or false answer does. For example, instead of asking, “Would you pay $25 for this product?” ask, “How much would you pay for this product?” You might ask group members to list the most important benefit they get from a product or the main reason they don’t buy it.