Developing a new product, driving through a dynamic marketing campaign, or simply seeking confirmation of a direction taken? At some point it is a great idea to set the statistics aside and sit down with your consumers and actively listen to what they are saying. Truth is we believe it should be the starting point of every strategy.

At Spark, we grab every possible opportunity to get out from behind the desk and get out there to talk to people. Focus group research companies like ours realise the true value of tapping into raw, unfiltered opinion as a rich vein of insight with the potential to produce some startling and sometimes unexpected results.

Our aim as always is to generate market research that helps our clients create and develop brilliant brands.

focus group outcomes

Focus Groups? Why bother?

Focus groups have occasionally been known to deliver a light bulb moment that changes the face of a marketing campaign. We have been fortunate enough to have been there for many of these moments – and it feels good! In general, though, we are looking for genuine perspective and insight that works alongside other data collection to produce insight that answers our clients’ objectives, both business and research. Instead of anticipating or guessing what people are thinking, we want to know what they are thinking, and to be able to report that back to our clients.

The focus group with all of its techniques and carefully managed flow helps us generate the qualitative data that we then use to inform a robust analysis session back at base. And this is where the magic happens. It’s a simple law – put the good stuff in and you’ll get the good stuff out and vice versa (but not at Spark!).

Preparing for an Effective Focus Group

Meeting to understand objectives and plans

Planning the Session

At Spark we work with our clients from the outset to make sure we truly understand their objectives and goals. The aim is to prepare a guide for the session. A focus group is quite rightly a fluid market research technique designed to bring out diversity and free thought. A plan is much too rigid a concept. A guide will anticipate and produce questions and prompts for a variety of scenarios designed to keep the conversation productive and flowing freely. We have lots of evidence (Awards, pats on the back, lovely cards and emails) that clients and participants alike enjoy our focus group sessions. We don’t do talking shops, we push participant’s hard but in a way that they know they are contributing and making a difference, because they are.

Recruiting the Right Participants

Recruiting the Right Participants

A key component of recruiting the right participants for a focus group is to find people that are engaged with the topic. What you do not need is a disinterested group of paid participants that are going to sit and give you the answers they think you want, collect payment and get out of there at the earliest possible opportunity. Watch out for groups of middle-aged men on a Wednesday evening when there is football on the tv!


An effective consumer focus group will normally consist of between 5 and 10 people carefully recruited because they have an interest in and preferably some knowledge of the topic. Strangely enough, many companies that conduct focus groups settle on 8 participants. We typically recruit a homogenous group of participants but sometimes we will intentionally do the opposite and create conflict groups. We are led by the research objectives and as our client you will always be fully aware of the plan of action.

Finding out what consumers really need
qualitative research

Appointing a Moderator

Moderating a focus group is a particular skill and the choice of moderator can either make or break a focus group. This is why we invest a lot of time, energy, and training into making sure our focus group moderators are the best in the business.


With diverse opinions, heated discussion, and dominant characters attempting to take charge, it is no wonder that moderators are sometimes called mediators. And this is all good and desirable because groupthink and consensus are unlikely to make for the most productive session. Sometimes we might even use dual moderators to run a focus group. An expert moderator is worth their weight in gold.

focus group meeting room

Choosing a Suitable Venue

Modern technology grants us the ability to conduct a focus group online if the circumstances dictate. Results can be excellent but there is nothing like the extra dynamism that comes when a group of people meets together.


The venue needs to be comfortable and welcoming. Toilets, tea and coffee facilities, ease of access, and parking facilities are all important factors to consider. Of course, we have conducted focus groups with Millennials in a night club; with parents in creches and stay at home Mums in Supermarkets. It can be great to have live stimulus nearby for reference.

Conducting the Focus Group

With the preparation in place, the venue chosen, and the start time set, it is now time to conduct the session. The aim is to gain valuable insight, opinions, and perspectives that will answer our clients research objectives.

Except in the most sensitive of scenarios, recording the session is almost essential. It might be that for the purposes of anonymity, the recording is audio-only, but the preferred option is to video record and capture the subtle nuances of facial expression and body language. It goes without saying that the participants will have been asked for and given their consent to being recorded.

At Spark, we like to encourage the participation of our clients when the session is running. We can make it possible for client representatives to observe live from another room or even watch a live stream, and as the session flows, use text or messaging to communicate points of interest or a direction for questioning direct to our moderator.


Work That Works

Research shouldn’t be boring. We believe that fun breeds creativity, which in turn, delivers better results. And that’s why collaboration is core to Spark projects. We work in partnership with our clients, creating the insight which turns customer understanding into strategy.