Customer Discovery vs. Focus Groups

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During the first night of the Digital Marketing (#DGM4) class at General Assembly Tuesday night, we went down a number of really great rabbit trails. I encourage such Q&A because it really adds to the class and enables us to apply learning to the students’ actual jobs today. One of those quick sessions resulted from a question after I had given a brief introduction to the concept of customer discovery.

The student asked, “What’s the difference between customer discovery and a focus group?” Great question! Below is a list of some of the differences. There are some similarities such as getting responses from numerous potential customers and asking lots of questions, but the differences are more profound.

  • Customer discovery occurs prior to any product being built; a focus group tends to seek responses to some idea or stimuli from a group of prospects.
  • Customer discovery requires speaking to as many potential customers as possible; focus groups can be fairly conclusive with just a few groups, or maybe even one.
  • Customer discovery is about finding a problem in which to insert a product; focus groups typically have the objective of a group’s reaction to an existing product or idea.
  • Customer discovery requires the entrepreneur to ask questions whose answers will surprise or even shock; focus groups are seeking specific answers or responses.
  • Customer discovery is typically done one-on-one and one at a time; focus groups – by definition – are groups of people that may tend to feed off of one another.
  • Customer discovery may take months or longer; focus groups are usually time contained.

This question was a great way to give the group a solid intro into startup world, and specifically into customer discovery. That discussion came on the heels of talking through the basics of digital marketing, which cannot even begin to start until the message is created. And the message starts with the problem you are solving (“Start with WHY”), and that problem is identified through customer discovery.

Great start to DGM4! Can’t wait to see what the next 10 weeks bring.

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