Focus Groups: Part 4 – Recruiting Participants

9 mins read

This article is part 4 of 6 in our series on focus groups, and includes 3 steps for recruiting participants.

Focus groups are considered one of the most common and effective market research methods. By interacting with a targeted small group of people, you can gather data with in-depth insights on things such as products and services, concepts, perceptions, and beliefs. These insights reveal the opinions and attitudes of the customer-base. As focus groups require an accurate representation from the client-base, it is important to recruit participants from a targeted audience of people. In Part 4 of this series, we will explain 3 steps for recruiting the participants of a focus group!

Check out the previous 3 parts in this series for information on what a focus group is, the value they offer, and how to prepare for the focus group and recruitment process!

Step 4.1 – Approach Possible Participants

Once you have decided how you are going to find the participants for the focus group in Step 3.3 from Part 3 of this series, you are ready to begin the recruitment process! As we recommend location recruiting for the best results, the first step of recruiting possible participants for the focus group involves approaching people and explaining to them what you are looking to accomplish. It is important to be friendly and casual when approaching possible participants, and not going into a full sales pitch. People are more likely to offer their help if they feel their opinion is significant and can offer some value. We have included an example of what could be said when approaching a possible participant below. We understand that some may prefer to stick to digital forms of communication, so these examples can also be adapted for written communication.

“Hello, I’m wondering if you have a few moments. My name is John, and I am representing a research company. We’re doing market research for a product here in Saskatoon by running a focus group and are looking for individuals like yourself to give us valuable feedback to see if we are on the right track. We are offering cash as a thank you for your help, and you will also be entered to win a prize! Would you be willing to get involved?”

Step 4.2 – Screen Participants

Once the person you are communicating with has shown interest in the focus group, the next step is to ask prepared questions in order to make sure they are in the target audience that was decided for the focus group. These are called screening questions. The target audience has specific characteristics, demographics, and product experience required to be considered qualified for the focus group, as explained in Part 1 of this series. Before asking the screening questions, thank the possible participant for their interest in helping out for the research, then say you need to ask a few questions to ensure they qualify for the focus group research.

Screening questions have 2 somewhat polarized goals:

    1. Obtain specific information about the possible participants
    2. Avoid revealing specific information about the study

The reason it is recommended to avoid giving specific information about the study until the participant is confirmed to be in the target audience is that they may be tempted to exaggerate or skew their responses in order to participate. The best way to obtain the above 2 goals is to ask open-ended questions that do not hint towards a “right” or “wrong” answer, as well as use multiple choice questions with numerous options for answers. For example, if you are doing research for an online game the question could be “What activities do you do online?” with numerous activities to choose from such as shopping, gaming, social media and chatting, rather than asking “Do you play online games?” If they selected gaming as one of the options, this would mean they qualify to move on to the next question of the survey.

It is recommended to design a question for each of the specific target audience criteria such as age group, location, job/position, products they use or how often they use a service. Remember, the data received from running the focus group reflects the quality of the information given by the participants, which depends on the participants that were qualified by the screening questions. These questions can be done in a template, or created online through websites that offer paid survey creation options such as SurveyMonkey or Typeform. Order the questions so that the first few can easily let you know if they are qualified or not. For example, if the research was being conducted on alcohol, the first question could be “Are you 19 or older?” If they aren’t, you would automatically know they are not a fit and would thank them for their time and move on to the next person.

See the end of this article for a downloadable template of a Screening Questionnaire.

Step 4.3 – Confirm Participation

Once the participant has been qualified from the screening questions, make sure they sign the Sign-Up Form and give them the Invite Card – both of these were introduced in Part 3 of this series, and have downloadable templates available. Once you have completed those steps, it is good to let the participant know that they will be receiving confirmation of their participation in the focus group. The most common ways to confirm participation are phone calls or e-mails. We recommend e-mails for confirmation as this puts everything in writing including the details of the focus group.

See the end of this article for a downloadable template for a Confirmation of Participation E-mail.

Focused Participants for a Focused Group

The 3 steps explained in this article will help in recruiting focused participants for a focused group. Approaching the possible participants to confirm their interest, asking pre-set screening questions to qualify them for the group, then confirming their participation together creates the foundation for a successful focus group. A great reminder: the quality of the information depends on the quality of the participants recruited! Following these steps will bring you one step closer to collecting valuable qualitative data from qualified participants that are within the specified target audience.

Stay tuned for the next exciting step in this series – running the focus group!

Download the Focus Groups Part 4 – Resource & Templates.

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Visit our Resource Library for all available downloads.

If you require assistance with any of the guides, forms or templates, please contact a BIG representative.

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