Problem, Product

Focus Group

Ask a group of selected participants about their opinions and preferences

Illustration of Focus Group

See also: Contextual Inquiry, Sales Pitch

Difficulty: Intermediate

Evidence strength

Relevant metrics: Jobs to be done ranking, Ranking needs, wants, desires, pains, Quotes & stories

Validates: Desirability

How: Gather a group of potential customers in an informal setting and ask whether they would use a certain product or service and, if so, how they would use it.

Why: Even though people might say they would use your product, it isn't proof that they actually would. Focus groups can provide critical false positive answers. Instead, seek information about performed behaviors rather than said behaviors, actions rather than preferences.

This card is part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

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Before the experiment

The first thing to do when planning any kind of test or experiment, is to figure out what you want to test. To make critical assumptions explicit, fill out an experiment sheet as you prepare your test. We created a sample sheet for you to get started. Download the Experiment Sheet.

Opinions over facts

In the lean startup world, Focus Groups are often criticized for devolving into groupthink. Team dynamics in groups tend to bring forward the opinions of the most extrovert group members who dominate the discussion and in turn distort the outcome.

This is why you want to be careful what you use Focus Groups for.

Reveal consumer prefernce

You might not be able to extract facts about consumer behavior from focus groups – some claim they only reveal 5% of what goes on in our mind (95% is unconscious). However, they are great for revealing consumer preference. You need to assume consumers are not capable of accurately describing why they make decisions – only that they do.

Observe team dynamics

Focus Groups can also be used to understandthe dynamics behind group buying patterns and influences. They can be great for answering questions like how customers influence one another in a group setting. What they think and what are alternatives.

Are focus groups the right thing for you?

Consider whether you can achieve your goal easier with a Customer Discovery Interview or a Contextual Inquiry.

After the experiment

To make sure you move forward, it is a good idea to systematically record your the insights you learned and what actions or decisions follow. We created a sample Learning Sheet, that will help you capture insights in the process of turning your product ideas successful. Download the Learning Sheet.


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Idea Validation playbooks