How to Host a Successful Focus Group Before Community Launch

There is one simple reason I'm obsessed with focus groups: hearing directly from your people is the best ingredient in crafting a framework that serves them. And hearing from your best people is even better. Before I ever launch a community, I host a focus group to test the first set of assumptions we are making about the community. Seeing how communities evolve over time, I also encourage community managers to host one at least once a year because the definition of your best community member will evolve over time and your framework needs to evolve with them.

How to Structure Your Focus Group

I like to break each focus group into two parts: survey + interview. I’m always testing out new ways of getting feedback, so it’s an ever-evolving process and there are several factors to consider in crafting your survey: target, timing, and attention.

Target - who are you talking to?

I recommend starting with the top 20% of your customers in either spend or engagement (in whatever ways you quantify that). Be especially mindful not to only pull the top 20% in spend - take time, even if it’s manual, to find the people who are engaging with you (even if it’s just on social media).

Timing - when will they give feedback?

Consider the timing of asking for feedback. Pro tip: everyone basically leaves over summer so avoid asking for feedback June-July. Also, after your first draft for all coms, cut your word count in two. Get the point faster and your odds of them getting to the end are better.

Attention - how will you get + keep attention?

You want to be able to answer the question: WHY would someone fill out your survey? What’s in it for them? You’re looking for an intrinsic value that you can bake into the process. Avoid throwing out prizes to motivate them and try to articulate what the result of their feedback will be. Bonus points if you follow up afterwards with a personal thank you where you connect their feedback to a decision you made about the program.

⚠️ Warning: do not waste people’s time! Or else your hottest prospects for your new community will get turned off and you'll lose 'em. Keep your survey + interview as short as possible. The best way to keep attention is to ask questions that will either confirm or reject your hypothesis and get rid of filler questions that don’t give you valuable information. Be clear about how you are going to use the information and transparently share the impact of their feedback (eg. your feedback will be used to guide how we craft the onboarding experience for our new community launching in September).

Survey + Interview Template

You can get a template for the survey questions and interview questions that I use as a starting point when you sign up for the newsletter below. These templates are just a starting point and need to be thoughtfully adjusted based on your community (every community is so different!).

I recommend using Typeform for the survey for something that is slightly more fun and engaging than a standard survey. For the interview, I normally set up back-to-back 15-minute slots to interview 2-4 people at a time with Calendly. I’ve found a lot of value in having more than one person interview at a time because sometimes one person’s insights and opinions can unlock something for the other person. It also gives them a taste of what this whole community thing is all about - connecting with other people to share insights and learn together.

Photo credit: Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash.

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