Testing Your Positioning
The last test you should do before you start to develop your marketing and sales materials and launch your business is to conduct an informal focus group. Focus groups are a type of qualitative market research. They're used by many companies to get feedback from customers. They're unscientific, but they're good for providing feedback on your concept.
To run an informal focus group, invite eight to ten of the people who filled out surveys over to your home or another private location. Make sure to invite an equal number of men and women, and avoid intimidating or extremely outspoken people. Put out some simple snacks and drinks and have a friend who does not have strong opinions about your business moderate the discussion. The discussion should be taped; videotape is best. You should excuse yourself and leave the house and come back in an hour.
The moderator should show a printed copy of your business concept to each member of the focus group and then ask the group what they think of the concept. The moderator should ask non-leading questions and be careful not to influence the group's answer. The moderator should ask, “How do you feel about Jane's concept?” and let the group speak, one by one. She shouldn't say, “You don't like the concept, do you?” Also, if there's someone in the group who has a strong opinion, the moderator should make sure that that person doesn't dominate the discussion or bully the others in the group into agreeing with him. Include the following questions:
Do you like this presented concept? Why or why not? Please be specific.
Would you be likely to hire this type of caterer? Why or why not?
What would you change, if anything, about this concept?
When would you be likely to hire Jane if she launched this business concept?
Who in this area operates a business similar to Jane's?
The moderator should collect the hard copies of the concept and then ask each person to write down the name of the business and the type of catering it offers.
The moderator should summarize the feelings of the group for you in a three-page summary with a conclusion. You should sit with the moderator and watch the focus group tape and read the summary report. Try not to take any criticism of the concept personally.
If the group loves your concept, that's great. If they have suggestions, evaluate them fairly and adjust your concept. If the group didn't think your concept would work, listen to the criticism and reassess. If the group 't remember the name of the business or accurately describe the key components of the concept, think about another name and tweak your concept.
Focus groups are directional only, and they can be wrong. More often than not, however, you can glean important information from the group's comments if you listen to their suggestions carefully.
If the group thought you needed major changes to your concept, do some more research and bounce the concept off of some industry professionals. Have another focus group with different people and see if the feedback is better.