Skip to main content

Focus Groups

Previously, I wrote that effective product managers actively go to the market to obtain information rather than relying on industry experience, feedback from support calls, or feedback from sales. Many executives don't seem to appreciate the value of go-to-market approaches, with one exception: focus groups.

Due to media attention to the concept of focus groups - whether in the context of product marketing or politics - much of the population is familiar with the notion. So the first idea that may pop into your head as an executive when you need market feedback is to conduct a focus group. Unfortunately, focus groups, while sometimes a useful tool, are often not a particularly effective active means of gaining an understanding your market.

The main problem with focus groups is that they don't give the facilitator the opportunity to probe deeply into the customers' situations and problems. Not all customers have the same perspective and background, so you would have to probe each customer individually to understand them. A focus group is not the appropriate setting for probing each individual's personal situation.

Focus groups are still helpful, particularly when one-on-one interviews precede them. Focus groups aid you in gaining an understanding of the surface, gut reactions of your customers. They also may yield insights about the effect of customer interaction on their propensity to buy.

Use focus groups judiciously, and don't use them to the exclusion of other techniques. More on this subject in Susan Abbott's Customer Experience Crossroads blog.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the