The Do’s and Don’ts of Focus Group Recruiting

Louise Principe
Jan 25, 2022


Market research mainly relies on brands gathering qualitative data and in-depth insights from potential customers to conduct their business based on informed decisions. One of the most commonly used methods to achieve this is through conducting focus group research. This process mainly focuses on communication between the chosen participants and their moderator to gain access to information relevant to the client. The data gathered from these sessions may be anything from product and service feedback to beliefs and perceptions.

But first, how do you recruit the right people for your focus group? Compared to quantitative research that uses a large sample size, focus group research only requires a handful of people. This makes it more difficult since recruiters have to go through a tedious process to narrow down their prospects significantly to find the people that fit their requirements. As challenging as it may be, for a study to be successful it is important for firms to select homogenous samples who fit their target persona categories. Here’s a quick guide on the do’s and don’ts of recruiting participants for your research.


Know your target audience and objectives

The initial step to the recruitment process is knowing who you are going to be speaking with. Find out who you want to target and why you want to reach out to them. A target audience is defined as a segment of the population that has common interests, demographics, or behavior. To gain valuable insight and build your market strategy, it is crucial to select the right people for your research.

When recruiting participants for your focus group research, have clear goals in mind that you want to achieve. Get an understanding of the reason you have gathered these specific people together. Is it so you can gather feedback about a new product? Is it to gain insight into market forecasts? Narrow down your topic so you can organize the questions that you want to ask whilst checking them off one by one as you conduct your sessions.

Determine how to reach your audience

Recruiters need to determine the best way they can reach potential study participants. You should know when and how you are going to communicate with them. Nowadays, the best ways to reach your target audience are through phone or on emails, polls, and social media. You can make also use of compelling ads to attract potential participants. When you invite people to join your focus group research, make them feel personally wanted and needed so they can be more motivated to participate. Say that they have the experience or insights that can be beneficial to others. Select a time, date, and location that are most convenient for all the respondents. Lastly, give a brief but concise explanation of what the research is about so that they can know what to expect.

Screen your participants

When screening your target audience, you can base your criteria on certain attributes. Following certain screening criteria enable recruiters to condense a population into a small sample size that embodies the characteristics of customers best suited to fill panel seats. Age, gender, education, income are only a few examples of persona segmentation. To screen the most eligible candidates for your study, you can implement these three categories in your screening process: demographics, purchase intentions, and personal interests.

  • Demographics - This refers to distinct characteristics that relate to the population and particular groups within it. Some examples of these are gender, age, ethnicity, employment, and marital status. Information like this can be easily and effectively collected through

surveys or questionnaires.

  • Purchase intentions - This can also be referred to as the buyer’s intent. It is described as the extent to which customers are willing to purchase a specific product or service. 
  • Personal interests - These are subjects that people take a fascination in or want to know more about. These make up a person’s hobbies, passions, or behavior such as music or books.

Recruit from a variety of backgrounds

When you gather people for your study, keep diversity in mind. Select people that have common attributes, but also differ from each other to a certain degree. This enables the session to have a variety of perspectives and an exchange of ideas while also bolstering conversation between the moderator and the participants. You might also find that certain ideas resonate with some participants and not others. In this case, it may help clients gain insight into how they can improve their business functions to satisfy all parties.


Giving away too much information about focus group

Being transparent with your potential participants is essential, but there should still be limitations to certain information such as the screening criteria or the date, time, and location of the research. Most likely when respondents are chosen to fill panel seats for a focus group research, there are incentives for their participation. Because of this, some people may try to manipulate their survey answers to qualify if they know what the criteria for being chosen are. Other people may also show up to the research facility expecting compensation without knowing that there is a qualification process. It is important for recruiters not to reference their criteria and to be clear that those contacted will be the only ones able to participate in the session.

Recruiting participants that are too similar or too different

Groups that are too diverse may run into the difficulty of not having any common ground, or the participants may have radically different ideas from each other. This makes it harder for them to converse since they don’t have a shared understanding of each other. Groups that are too homogenous on the other hand, pose a different set of problems. They have the disadvantage of narrowing the set of perspectives. Moderators may not be able to gather varying insights since all of the information given to follow the same theme. To remedy these problems, researchers should try to gather respondents that represent multiple viewpoints in a broadly based focus group. All of them should at least have an interest in the topic at hand and be willing to share their constructive opinions.

Recruiting only two people or too many people

Having only two participants in your focus group is comparable to having two interviews conducted concurrently. Moderators will have a hard time maintaining a lively flow of conversation. Also, since focus groups thrive on multiple people bouncing around ideas, expressing their opinions, and expanding on a topic, it will be hard to gather much knowledge with only two participants.

Meanwhile, if your group is too large It can be time-consuming to acquire thoughtful comments from several people. It will be difficult to maintain control of the discussion and record your findings if a lot of people could be talking at the same time. Other respondents may also limit the detail of their responses since they feel pressure to share airtime with others.

Recruiters should determine the sample size that is right for them. Ideally, a research group should have around 8 to 12 respondents for the moderator to acquire proper insights while still maintaining control of the session.

Not setting a reasonable budget or timeline

Even the best-laid recruitment plans can fall short if there isn’t an adequate budget or a specified timeline. The budget influences the degree of specification. Simply put, how much is the client willing to invest? A budget should mirror the cost of recruiting, conducting the focus group itself, and the volunteer time needed.

Recruiters should plan a timeline in advance that allows for any adjustments during the process. A lot of aspects have to fall into place perfectly in order for the project to go smoothly, so proper allocation of time is important.

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