Focus Group: Website Strategy!!
Two Focus groups: Economic Development and Network Sitcom
I was invited by Carol Lopucki, State Director of the MI-SBTDC, to represent the MI-SBTDC in a focus group providing input for the eventual redesign of the MEDC website. Since the release of the MI-SBTDC Online Review Report , I have been fascinated by how websites rank, use of blogging, importance of developing content, and impact of social media. Since “playing” with a small website/blog has become a hobby for me, being part of a small group providing input for this statewide site that reaches far beyond state borders was very exciting. The site is www.michiganadvantage.org. My role was to represent the small business/entrepreneurial perspective.
First part of the focus group was looking at photos for 5 seconds and then being called upon to say how the picture made you feel or think? Found this personally to be very easy. Comments focused on whether they looked outdated or not, clean or sometimes too clean (assembly line), looked like places such as Nebraska or California but not good representation of Michigan, techy, use of models instead of real people, and on and on! Comments were conflicting at times and often funny. The exercise was a reminder of the importance of pictures and the seconds one has to make an impression online.
The audio of the focus group was taped with microphones discreetly hanging from the ceiling. There were 4 observers at the back of the room and 2 “note takers” in the front, one on a computer and the other writing notes. The instructions were to be open because if we had an opinion, it is likely that a hundred other people do as well. So I did. They assured us that our input would not be offensive to anyone who developed the current website. Believe nothing was held back by the participants. Would love to see what they do next internally with our feedback. Have a feeling there will be similar laughter about our comments as we had through parts of this process. Having built a small website, I also understand that there are aspects that always are a work in process.
The next part of the focus group was writing on post it notes about aspects of the website that we believe work and aspects that we believe don’t. These post i notes were posted on a tree posted on the wall. Positives went to the roots. Negatives were the leaves. What will drop off with the revised future website?? This part of the discussion became more serious and in-depth. I would say they “warmed” us up with the pictures. Then they took us to a deeper conversation.
My feedback focused on entrepreneurs connecting effectively to the resources that could be the most help to them. What helps me as a business consultant with the MI-SBTDC is for the entrepreneurs that need my services get to me as quickly as possible. The MI-SBTDC has a great “triage” approach to meeting the needs of the entrepreneurs. It works! And it helps me to be a beginning point instead of being the end point for a frustrated entrepreneur who has been passed around with often heightened expectations. No one else in the group had my same background, position, and small business perspective. That was why I was there. After 3 hours of input, hope we provided useful feedback that will make a difference in their strategy for a new site. They were very appreciative of the time we donated that was expressed in person and with a take away gift.
My other focus group! Las Vegas, walking though MGM with my family several years ago and being lured into a focus group for a potential sit-com! (and leaving with a $50 check for our time!) We were given little dials to turn up and down with how funny we thought the comedy and the actors were. My opinion – thought it was funny! Name of the show…The Big Bang Theory! Turns out I predicted a winner!
I have heard through marketing people that focus groups are outdated. I have a different opinion. Thank you to Carol Lopucki for this opportunity to represent the perspective of the MI-SBTDC in this focus group.
Written by Nancy Johnson, Livingston County SBTDC. For more information, contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.