Two of the most important tasks facing the small business owner is understanding the market and gauging consumer and public reaction. Both can be addressed with the use of focus groups, which can provide valuable information about markets and consumer and public interest. If you’re organizing a focus group, develop concise objectives to ensure that the data you collect from the process is useful.

Focus Group Basics

Focus groups are used to collect data, generate ideas and receive input from specific target groups or populations. Group participants usually are selected because they are part of a particular demographic group or because they possess specific characteristics or traits. This representative group can provide marketers and researchers with important information about the perception of a product or an issue. The group members’ input also can be helpful in identifying and solving problems.

Getting Started

Business writer Joanna L. Krotz suggests that focus groups consist of eight to 10 participants, that a skilled moderator facilitate the discussion and that the sessions last 90 to 120 minutes. When it comes to developing your objectives for the group, Krotz suggests that organizers and facilitators spend time creating a concise list of open-ended discussion questions that invite comments from participants.

Developing a Research Question

What do I really want to know? What can I learn from the focus group? These are two important issues when it comes to developing your research question or research problem. Once you’ve determined your research question, you can develop the various topics associated with that question. suggests that one way to develop topics is by determining the three to five most important questions the research needs to answer. These questions help guide you during topics selection.

Defining Research Objectives

Once you select the topics your focus group will discuss, you can define your research objectives. offers a simple three-step approach to defining objectives. First, write a sentence that explains what must be done. If you are gauging interest in a new product your business is developing, your sentence might read: "Get the reaction of consumers who are most likely to use the product." Second, write a sentence about the information you hope to obtain. For example, "Find out if consumers believe there is a need for the product." Third, write a sentence about how you will use the information: "The company will work with a product development team to improve product handling and functions as well as marketing strategies." Your objectives should be specific and ordered by importance. When you have defined your objectives, it is a good idea to discuss them with the facilitator before the focus group convenes.