Monday, December 26, 2016

When to Use a Focus Group and What to Take Away

We are retooling and re-launching the Malo and Mallori children’s book project. Input from orthodontists indicated that most children aren’t nervous about their Early Evaluations and the monster as someone to soothe the fear wasn't working. So I decided to change it to an adventure. The lesson in this project is to figure out what’s needed NOT what you THINK is needed. A fail point in any business endeavor is to not understand what your audience wants vs. what you presume they want. Sometimes you have to test the waters.

When it comes to books, I highly recommend you put your book out to a focus group before you release it. Your focus group should be comprised of unbiased volunteers who will read your book and provide honest feedback. The problem I see is that many authors will have friends and family read their early versions. Friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings. It’s not likely you’re going to get the kind of constructive feedback you need. I always suggest you use something like social media where your connections may not be personally close to you. I often take volunteers off Facebook. After all, the purpose of a focus group is not to give you pats on the back. It’s to help you get the best possible product on the market.

I remember watching an episode of Silicon Valley on HBO and they did a focus group. The inventor of the service couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t understand the users’ feedback. What did he do? He jumped in and had to explain it to them. What was interesting and an underlining point, he couldn’t understand their points-of-view! He was looking at the product through his own lens of knowledge, and that is where you get into trouble. You have to be open enough that when a common theme comes up in the critique of your book, you put your ego aside and HEAR it. Otherwise, it’s all been a waste of time and simply an exercise in stroking your ego.

One time I did a focus group evaluation of our award-winning book Second Bloom. What came out of it was invaluable information, but I do remember one thing. One person didn’t like the book’s title. ONE person – and based off that we ended up having a debate about the title. Here is the nugget: one comment doesn’t make the group’s view. So, you also have to weigh everything in perspective. Unless you have a common comment, it should be given only as much consideration as required. In other words, don’t spend hours mulling over one, single comment as true.

Here are some tips for finishing your book and having your ducks in a row:

1.    Do a focus group, but don’t use anyone close to you. Social media is great for finding participants.
2.    Ask for early testimonials for the back cover during the focus group phase. Scrambling to get testimonials when the book is nearly on press will delay your book’s release.
3.    Add book reviewer comments on the second press run.

All right Friend-Os! Another year is upon us. How can I help you meet your goals for 2017! Call me at 916-300-8012 or respond to this email. Start your New Year off right! We can have your project finished and successful in a matter of months!!!

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