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Customer/Client Focus Group Interviews Recommendations?

We are currently working through our hypothesis and have been emailing potential clients for interviews. I'm not seeing a lot of responses and wondering if we should switch from doing a phone Q&A to just conducting a online survey?

What have people found successful to approve or disprove their hypothesis?

5 Replies

Roger Wu
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Roger Wu Entrepreneur
co-founder at cooperatize, native advertising platform
From my experience, everyone we've talked to always LOVES the product, idea, etc. Then when it comes time to pay, some kind of excuse always pops up. I've always found that the best way to prove your hypothesis is for your potential customers to put their money where their mouth is. Get them to pay for your product.

Your product doesn't have to be finished ... I've heard many stories of people that created elegant mockups (for physical products), sample teaser information (for information based products), or pictures of potential participants (for marketplace types) and then when the credit card went in, the product would be sold out, and the money refunded.... but at least they were willing to pay for it....
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Entrepreneur
We do a lot of user interviews through Google Hangouts. I've found that watching people use your product and being able to steer the conversation is much more valuable than a survey or asking for feedback via email. I don't know what you're doing, but if you're getting on the phone and just following a script, then an online survey may be just as useful since you could probably collect more data in the same amount of time. But, if you can spend 20 minutes with a user and let the conversation unfold in a more organic way, it can be pretty enlightening.
Chris Carruth
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Chris Carruth Advisor
VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions

Applying a traditional consumer approach, aka in-person interviews or even surveys, to businesses is lack of incentive. IMHO most survey results you see, that use commercial firms as the respondents, typically product a consolidated report that is provided for free back to the company when done. If they want the entire report they still have to pay.Consumers who participate in these types of things always receive an incentive or spif, most of the time in cash, sometimes ingift cards (but less effective).

So if you wantbusinesses to participate what is their incentive? x% of an initial engagement, free upgrade to next major release, free tech support for 6 months, etc.

What is the hook?

John Petrone
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John Petrone Entrepreneur
CTO at LaunchPad Central
A survey is not a good substitute for a live customer interview. If you are following a lean process and trying to prove/disprove a hypothesis you are much better off asking them questions live (in person best, but phone or online will do).

The reason is that a survey just tells you how they respond to a canned question. Live, even if they shoot down your hypothesis, you can engage in a conversation to see how far off you are, why it's not correct, what other problems do they have that you could solve, etc.

While you can address some of this with more opened ended survey questions you can't engage in a conversation (and a conversation is what's truly required) in a survey.

I know it's difficult to get people to speak live, but it's a key part of the process. Maybe you can try harvest people using a survey, with a final question about whether they would be willing to speak to someone live in exchange for some token benefit ($25 starbucks card for example or Amazon gift certificate). Give them some reason to engage with you -
Jason Gorham
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Jason Gorham Advisor
Corporate Executive Recruiter at Aflac
John, great idea to offer the incentive for the phone time. Chris I also like your idea about offer a incentive prior to launch to get them engaged. Thank you to everyone for your input.
Anil Gupta
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Anil Gupta Entrepreneur
Founder at Digital SalesMen
surveys can never be substitute of focus group. People are very reluctant to write, but they can speak at length. In online surveys, you can have a fixed set of question and cannot have supplementary questions (e.g. I think your product will not be successful, in such case you never know due to which reason and if I say cost is very high, you never know what cost is justified in my opinion). In face to face interactions, people speak to forge the relationship while in online respondents are unknown so don't take much pains

You must choose your focus group who are either your well wishers or who have complimentary interests. In every case you must ensure that people are speaking honestly as per their perception about your product or idea.

Sometimes the interviewer becomes so hostile to justify his view point that the person decides to speak what looks good to your ears. Rather than question - answers, you should engage them in a live conversation and try to give them feeling that you are helping by your honest feedback. For example when a person share some risks, you should share your counter measure and seek your opinion rather than just saying "Oh no, I already have a counter measure"; rather you can ask him if you can think it can be a counter measure but can you suggest me something on how to make this more effective.

Today everyone is busy, why they should give you time? There should be some reason to help you. You must have some incentives (non monetary) for participants.

The participants must be from a segments who are really willing to pay and capable to pay for your product. ITs very easy to say yes to anything unless one needs to pay. At last you ask them if as a reward for participant, I offer you X % of discount , would you like to pre-order this product?

For more information, you can write to me at [removed to protect privacy] to fix an appointment.
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