Tag Archives: groups

Focus Groups for your Business Idea

27 Jul

What are focus groups?

A Focus Group is a market research tool which involves a group of people, usually between 6 and 12, who have been selected to participate in a pre-planned group discussion, and/or Q&A session, to gauge opinion on a product or service. Using a focus group to research your products or service before you start your business, can help you to identify ways to sell or advertise to your target group. It’s also a valuable tool when introducing a new product or service, or to find out how your product or service is being perceived.

What are the benefits of organising a Focus Group?

Focus groups can help you to gather a broader range of information than surveys because they allow people to voice their opinions in their own words and add meaning to their answers. They can also generate ideas for improving or adapting your product/service which you may not have considered.

How do I set up a focus group?

1. Decide on what type of people you want in your group: age, income, gender, employment?

2. Advertise your focus group in a way that’s going to attract the people you want. You could use Facebook, for example, go to community centres or mother and child groups, have a stall in a market and invite people who come to look at your product, put up a poster or invite people you know personally.

3. Arrange a venue for your focus group. It should be somewhere easily accessible, private and quiet enough to talk.

4. Ensure the meeting space is well prepared beforehand i.e. layout, equipment, parking spaces etc.

5. Prepare an introduction which explains the purpose of thee focus group and how it will work

What questions do I ask the group?

goodWork out what information you need. Create a set of questions which will give you this information. Ensure that these are easy to understand and will give you the answers you need. Get someone who does not know what you are doing to look at your introduction and questions to see if you get the right sort of answers.
For example:

  •  Would you use this product?
  • Would you buy this product for yourself?
  • Would you buy this product as a gift?
  • How much would you pay for this product?
  • Would you pay x amount for this product?
  • How would you improve this product?
  • What is your opinion on the packaging of this product?
  • Does the packaging make you want to buy the product?
  • What do you think of the colours used in the packaging?
  • Where would you go to buy this product?
  • Do you have any other ideas about this product?

Online Focus Groups

Running an online focus group eliminates the need for travel, refreshments, and finding a venue. Other advantages could include people feeling more able to speak out as they are anonymous to the rest of the group and can sit in the comfort of their own home.

Disadvantages include not being able to see the body language of the participants, which provides another method of seeing how a product is received.


  • Don’t make it last too long – participants could lose focus or get bored

  • If possible, arrange refreshments

  • Don’t make the group too big – you don’t want anyone to feel left out, or unable to voice their opinions


Supporting the wider community

26 Mar

In our work with Opportunity Plus, we have come across some truly fantastic community centres and groups, and we want to share some of the great work that is happening out there.

Does your community group need some support? 

Here are some of the things that we can do for you:

  • Create a Facebook page for your community and teach you how to use it
  • Offer free face painting at fundraising and other events
  • Feature you on our blog.
  • Get in touch to see how we could help your centre.


Balloons work with bereaved children in the Exeter area to help them through the grieving and healing process.  They have volunteering opportunities available and offer full training.  Find out more at www.balloonscharity.co.uk

The Hub Yeovil

The Hub Yeovil is a community centre working with disabled people.  They run a range of microenterprises to teach members valuable life and enterprise skills.  www.thehubyeovil.co.uk

Healthy Babies UK

Healthy Babies UK provide training to healthcare professionals, children’s centre staff, nursery workers and mothers to support the health, development, and wellbeing of babies and young children.  www.healthy-babies-uk.org

The Money Advice Service

If you have any questions about money – investments, debt, budgeting – then the Money Advice Service can help.  Call them on 0300 500 5000 for free advice and support.


The Education and Training Level 3 course has replaced the old Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Sector qualification, and enables you to teach anything that you are qualified or experienced in to adults (16+).  Information, Advice and Guidance is another useful qualification for the community sector.  Call us or email info@opsw.co.uk for more information.

What community centres do you use?  Why not visit your local centre to find out more about what they do and get involved!  Check out www.do-it.org or your local CVS office to find out if there are any volunteering opportunities near you.

A New Approach to Marketing

25 Feb

Arabella runs the Natural Nursery, selling cloth nappies, slings and other baby items.  The Natural Nursery originally had premises in Bristol, but since moving to Exeter and having another baby, Arabella has decided to use alternative methods to market her products and reach her customers.

“Over the 8 years I have been running my business, the Natural Nursery, I have seen huge changes in the market and it has been very important to adapt to reflect these.  I have seen lots of small businesses set up, for example selling baby slings or cloth nappies, and, unfortunately, close down a few years or even months later as they have not been able to make a go of it financially.

Times are increasingly tough for everyone but it needn’t be all doom and gloom – there are lots of ways you can help to ensure that your business is one of the success stories.  At the moment, The Natural Nursery does not have a fulltime high street presence in Exeter, so I am always looking for new ways to make sure the local families know of us and what we can offer.  Advertising is very expensive and, I find, very hit and miss, so here are some of my favourite ways to market my cloth nappies and sling business to the local families.

1. Pop up Shop.  I love meeting people face to face but at the moment can’t commit to running a shop full time again due to family commitments. The pop up shop has been really popular with customers and allows me to commit to a few days at a time.  I found a local business that has some spare space and negotiated with them to rent a shop unit in one of local shopping arcades for 3 days a month.  We agreed a daily rate, I had some posters made up and marketed the days via Facebook, Twitter, baby forums etc.  Customers love the idea – it means they can come in and browse through my range at their leisure, they can ask all the questions that they want and many people, dads especially, feel more comfortable in a shop environment.

2. Table at local toddler groups etc. This is another lovely way to meet people and allows your local market to put a face to your name.  It is important not to be too focused on SELLING – people are there to chat, meet their friends, play with their children, not to buy something, so be prepared to introduce yourself and your business, say a few quick words and have information that they can take away with them.  If you show the group leaders and parents that you are happy to offer them information and advice if needed, and don’t go into a high pressure sales pitch, you will find that you build strong relationships, so that you will be invited back again and again and will be the first port of call when they DO want to buy.

3. Table in a local shop. In a similar vein to visiting local toddler groups, making contact with a shop that has a similar target market to yours can pay big dividends.  I regularly visit shops to provide demos of nappies and slings to their customers and it is a win win situation.  The customers have access to free, detailed advice, the shop owner has more people through the door who may buy something else while they are there and you have access to more potential customers.  There are lots of ways you can do this, a one off event, a regular session, you may simply do a demo or actually take stock with you to sell.  If the latter, it may be a nice gesture to pay some commission to the shop owner – after all you are using their space for free and they will have hefty rents and rates to pay.

4. Leave stock in shops on a sale or return basis.  This works really well with shops that you visit to do demos in – customers can listen to everything you have to say, knowing there is no pressure to buy there and then, and can return at their leisure to have another look and buy if they want.  Again, I like to offer some form of commission to the shop owner as you are using space that they could put other stock into.

5. Organise a special event. Get together with a group of other likeminded businesses where you all want to attract the same type of customers and hold a big event.  This could be a baby fair, a local street market, a bring and buy sale, a sponsored bake or dance.  Anything that you will enjoy organising, that you think your target market will want to participate in and will be FUN, would work.  With clever budgeting, it shouldn’t cost much more than the price of hiring a local Scout Hut or community hall, and that would be shared between the group of you.  Use Facebook, Twitter, posters in local shops and cafes and each other’s existing network to market the event, drop the local press a line about it (if you tell them in advance they may publicise the event for you and then you can also send them a short story of the event itself with some photos, so you could be in the paper twice).  On the day, make sure you circulate to make lots of contacts and remember it is not all about how much you sell on the day, the friends and extended network you create will pay dividends in the long run.

Remember, building a successful business is a long process, so don’t be too focussed on the sale today; look to creating a flourishing network of contacts that know you to be THE expert in your area and they will soon be recommending you to all their friends and clients.”


Arabella has been running the Natural Nursery for over 8 years, selling a range of cloth nappies and baby slings.

Arabella is available for demos of slings and nappies at various locations in Exeter, including the new baby shop, Lilibets on Fore Street, Heavitree, Exeter, on Wednesday afternoons.

Full details of these and other events arranged by Arabella can be found on www.exeterbabyactivities.co.uk

You can also find the Natural Nursery on Facebook.