The concept of a focus group is not new. In fact, the first focus groups were conducted during World War I, probably well before anyone reading this was born. They were conducted by our nation's military to gauge the soldiers' opinions on the war, the tactics being implemented, and the goals that were set. These opinions were listened to closely and became the foundation of changes to military policies and procedures. Simple concept, huh? Ask the people who you rely on what is important to them, listen to what they tell you, and then change the things that you are doing that are not in line with what is important to them.
Focus groups evolved into something that has been accepted in the product industry as a norm. Prior to spending any money promoting a new product, corporations get groups of potential users together, ask them to try it and note their opinions. You can bet that if 13 out of 15 mothers don't like a baby product, it will not see the light of day. This is just smart business. It is what large, product-driven companies do to stay on top of what is important to current and future consumers.
Focus groups work. They always will work. When will it go out of style to know what is important to the people who are doing business with you? When will it go out of style to know what is important to your prospective clients? The problem with service-based industries is that we don't have a product. We don't sell a tangible widget for which consumers can give us advice. Does that make the feedback of consumers any less valuable? Why is it not commonplace to implement focus groups as a regular part of a relationship-driven business?
People love to be compensated and respected for their time. People love to give their opinions. Most importantly, people love to know that they have engaged in something meaningful and that their opinions are used to make things better.