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July 25, 2012

Does YOUR Business Need a Focus Group?

As researchers, you help your clients get feedback and insight on a variety of things – concept development, advertising, product usage and so forth.

But do you do that for yourself, too?  Do you get unbiased feedback on new services you’re thinking about launching, marketing ideas or tough business decisions?

If not, here’s an idea… consider establishing an ‘Advisory Board,’ an outside third-party group that can provide input on a variety of critical decisions.

First, what is an Advisory Board?  Generally, it is a small group of people, whose opinion you value and trust, that are willing to come together to provide feedback to you and your firm on a variety of issues.  It could be friends, business associates, clients, vendors, from inside the industry, from outside the industry… whatever.  But the common denominator is that they are all willing to give of their time to help out.

In addition, an Advisory Board can be looked at as a combination of a Board of Directors and a Focus Group.

  • Like a Board of Directors… in that it’s a small group, the members rarely change, they are generally at a “higher” level in their careers and they get involved in big picture and strategic issues.  But unlike a true BOD, they have no voting rights, do not get involved in executive compensation, hiring/firing, etc.
  • Like a Focus Group… in that they are used in ways that normal focus groups are used, giving their input on a specific project or business issue… like concept development, advertising, product usage and so forth.
  • And a little like both… in that they are compensated, because their time and their wisdom is valuable.

Here are few examples of the kinds of questions where an Advisory Board might be a beneficial thing to have:

  • You run a full service shop in Chicago that has picked up a lot of work in the automotive industry.  Should you open a branch office in Detroit?
  • You are a quant shop that outsources any requests/need for qual work.  Should you bring that capability in-house?
  • You’re thinking about having an audit of your books done.  What area accounting firms should you put on the short list for consideration?
  • You’ve put together your first comprehensive marketing plan?  Want a fresh set of eyes to look at it?
  • You’re about to launch an updated website… want a little feedback from the users’ perspective before you go live?
  • You’re getting large enough in size that you need an ‘employee manual.’  Need a few folks to read through it first?

Right now, you’re probably making all of these kinds of decisions and doing this kind of ‘research’ by yourselves.  But you also know that that kind of research comes with inherent biases.  That’s why some outside perspective can be so valuable.

So, whether you’re an independent moderator or a 30-person full-service shop, having an Advisory Board to give their opinions can provide you with a competitive advantage you might not be able to gain on your own.

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