Focus Groups Spark "Aha!" Moments

By Stacy Cornay for the Times-Call
Publish Date: 06/12/2011

"Donwenowourgayapparel" is one word.

I thought that for many years. I didn't understand the word, but I sang it dutifully through many school programs. Suddenly while singing "Deck the Halls" in another Christmas concert, it hit me. "Donwenowourgayapparel" isn't one word. We are actually singing "...don we now our gay apparel...". We're putting on our party clothes! It was an "Aha!" moment.

That's how it is with "Aha!" moments. They can come any time. Recently I was bemoaning to Dad about how I'm trying to impress my son with the fact that he is responsible for his own actions or inactions. While I was talking, Dad was smiling. He was hearing his long-ago-given lectures coming out of my mouth. After a few years with a teenager of my own, I finally got what Dad had been saying. Dad's old "responsibility lecture" had meaning. Another "Aha!" moment.

"Aha" moments shape our perceptions and directions. Some provide deeper meaning and keener insight into our lives.

Some momments are funny.

Some open new doors to greater profits and expanded success.

In business, you can create "Aha!" moments. One way of doing that is to use focus groups to see yourself as others see you – warts and all.

Focus group methodology runs the gamut from video cameras and sophisticated polling to informal discussions and one-on-one exchanges. All focus groups are directed to one end – giving the sponsoring business clear, candid, unbiased feedback as to what current and potential clients/customers like or don't like about your products, how they rate you against your competitors, and how they perceive your place in the business community.

When organizing a focus group, start with the facilitator. The focus group facilitator is central to both process and outcomes. Your facilitator should be free of biases, should be adept at introducing topics without leading discussions. They shouldn't take positions, be defensive, or be argumentative. Your facilitator should not lead the focus group astray by injecting themselves into the discussions, taking issue with points made, or offering excuses.

Your facilitator should have the expertise and ability to constitute focus groups to the specific needs, interests, and goals of your business. They should know when to introduce new topics and when to move on. Above all, your facilitator should be a skilled listener. He or she should recognize "Aha!" moments, even when no one else hears them.

Information gleaned from focus groups will: confirm the validity of what you are doing, expose shortcomings or deficiencies, point to opportunities that you may be missing, help you reshape and redirect your advertising and promotion, and likely will include priceless "Aha!" moments.

For example, while you think that you're delivering one message, the focus group may perceive that you are delivering another. Why aren't you targeting Audience X? They're searching for what you're selling.

Your prices are better than your competitors' but that isn't coming across in your marketing. Why? Have you thought about adding related products or services so your customers/clients are assured of one-stop shopping? Have you considered dropping some things that aren't appealing to the public?

Nothing is so hard to see as what is right between your eyes. When properly constituted and properly conducted, focus groups can help you reach new customers and clients in more meaningful ways. They can give new direction to your marketing and communications strategies. They can help you assess where your business is and where it's going.

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Through their insights and "Aha!" moments, focus groups can uncross your eyes so you can clearly see what is right in front of you.


Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.