A while back, I found myself trapped in a situation that, on paper, should’ve been golden. Picture this: I’m behind a two-way mirror, eagerly watching a room full of what marketing experts like to call “target customers.” They’re debating the nuances of my app’s logo. One of them is passionately defending navy blue while another one’s adamant that sky blue is the way to go.

At that moment, I thought, “Is this what my life has become? A hostage to focus groups and the whims of randos who might not even use my product?” No, that’s a bunch of baloney. Focus groups are basically fog machines, spewing out a mist that blurs your vision instead of clearing the path. If you’re navigating the treacherous waters of entrepreneurship, startups, or even freelancing, the last thing you need is foggy advice.

Here’s the juice, folks: You can toss focus groups in the trash where they belong. There are smarter, more cost-effective, and incredibly actionable ways to get the feedback that’ll make or break your next venture. And no, I’m not peddling you some highfalutin theories; I’m offering you street-smart tactics that I’ve personally found to work like a charm.

You’re the generation that doesn’t have the time for pretense. You want the raw, unfiltered truth about how to make it big. If you’re hustling your way through the startup world, freelancing in the gig economy, or slaving away at a desk job while your side hustle simmers on the back burner, you can’t afford to dilly-dally. Cutting through the noise to get straight-up, actionable feedback is where it’s at. And that’s precisely what we’re diving into today.

If you’re a creative, an entrepreneur, or a soon-to-be business honcho between 18 and 34, sit tight. I promise by the end of this read, you’ll have a clearer path to collecting the kind of feedback that’s not just about making you feel warm and fuzzy but about pushing your dream forward.

So, fasten your seatbelts. We’re about to steer clear of the fog and head straight into the sunshine of reality.

The Problem with Focus Groups

Alright, let’s talk about why focus groups are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. First, let’s squash some clichéd assumptions. You may think that assembling a bunch of people who kinda-sorta represent your target audience gives you the golden ticket to Truth Land. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s a big, fat nope.

Here’s the lowdown. When people walk into a focus group, they’re walking into a performance. Most folks are either saying what they think you wanna hear or what they think will make them sound like the next Steve Jobs. Scripted responses are as common as selfies at a tourist hotspot. People don’t want to look dumb, so they often end up sounding like Wikipedia articles rather than real human beings.

Then we’ve got the groupthink trap. Imagine having one assertive character in the room, and suddenly everyone’s nodding like they’re at a Metallica concert. That’s not consensus; it’s a freaking echo chamber. You’re not gaining multiple perspectives; you’re hearing the same tune, just remixed a dozen times.

Here’s another kicker. You may think you’ve got diversity just because you’ve mixed genders, ages, or backgrounds. In reality, that façade of diversity often doesn’t capture the unique complexities and preferences of your real-world target audience. It’s like painting a room in various shades of beige and calling it a rainbow.

Speaking of epic fails, remember New Coke? Oh yeah, focus groups were all about it until it hit the shelves, and then—boom! An unmitigated disaster. If that doesn’t tell you that these group settings can lead you off a cliff, then I don’t know what will.

Let’s contrast that to what a feedback session could be: a roundtable discussion where different voices are not only heard but valued. It’s the difference between a room full of yes-men (and women) and a room full of thought leaders. One spits out what you wanna hear; the other throws in some hard truths that you need to hear.

To sum it up, focus groups are a gamble, and the house always wins. You’re investing time, money, and resources into a method that’s not just flawed; it’s fundamentally skewed. The results are about as reliable as a weather forecast from a groundhog. So why bother?

The Coffee Shop Strategy

You can’t underestimate the power of a good ole coffee shop when it comes to getting real, actionable feedback. Seriously, you might think I’m nuts, but hear me out. Forget the fluorescent-lit conference rooms and go where people are alive, not comatose. That’s where you find authenticity, baby!

First thing’s first: the setting. A casual setting like a coffee shop or a bar sets the tone for a laid-back, honest convo. You’re surrounded by the sounds of steaming milk, smell of fresh coffee beans, and that indie playlist that every coffee shop has. This isn’t a focus group, it’s a “focus brew,” and the brew is truth serum. People are way more likely to spill the beans (pun totally intended) when they’re relaxed and sippin’ on their favorite latte.

Now, what makes this strategy a winner is the element of randomness. By sitting down at a coffee shop, you’re basically setting yourself up to encounter a buffet of personalities. You’ll get feedback from folks you’d never find in a traditional focus group. This randomness is your ally because your product or service needs to vibe with a wide array of peeps, not just the ones who look good on a PowerPoint slide.

But alright, I get it. There’s a fine line between engaging and creepy. Nobody wants to be that weirdo accosting strangers while they’re trying to enjoy their pumpkin spice latte. To make this work without going all “stalky,” you have to be respectful. Take cues from people’s body language, and for the love of the caffeine gods, pick up the tab! If you’re asking for their time and opinions, the least you can do is treat them to their drink of choice.

A couple of quick tips before we move on. First, you gotta ask open-ended questions. None of this yes-or-no nonsense. Make ’em think. Second, be an active listener. Put down the phone, and actually listen to what they’re saying. You’re looking for insights, not just empty praise or generic criticisms. And finally, don’t be that guy or gal who does all the talking. The whole point is to listen and gather feedback, not pitch your life story.

Let’s recap. Coffee shops: not just for hipster poets and freelancers. They’re fertile grounds for authentic, no-BS feedback, and if you do it right, you’ll walk away with insights that are as fresh as the pastries in the display case.

Talk to Your Existing Customers

Let’s dive into a goldmine most entrepreneurs overlook: existing customers. Yep, I’m talking about those beautiful souls who’ve already bought into what you’re selling. You might think, “Well, they already like me, what more is there to know?” And that, my friend, is where you’re oh-so-wrong.

We get it, everyone’s always on the lookout for ‘fresh blood.’ New customers bring that honeymoon-phase excitement. But your existing customers? They’re the ones who can give you the kind of insights that turn a good business into a great one. Why? Because they get your vibe. They understand what you’re about, and they know where you shine and where you don’t. They’ve seen behind the curtain, and guess what? They still stuck around.

So why do we often overlook these loyal patrons? A big reason is complacency. You think, “Hey, I’ve got these guys in my pocket, so why make an effort?” But that’s exactly the mentality that’ll make your business plateau faster than a fad diet. These folks can offer pointers for retention, not just acquisition. They can tell you what keeps them coming back or what almost drove them away. This is the feedback of your dreams, people!

Okay, you’re pumped, ready to reach out to your existing customers. So how do you do it without sounding like you’re just trying to upsell them? Here’s the secret sauce: Be real. No one likes sales-y crap. Don’t butter them up, and don’t over-promise. Just ask for their opinion like you’d ask for directions—straightforward and respectful.

Let’s talk golden rules. No BS. If you ask for feedback, make sure you’re ready to act on it. Existing customers will sniff out insincerity faster than they can click ‘unsubscribe.’ Next, no over-promising. If someone suggests an awesome new feature, don’t instantly promise it’ll be in the next update unless you’re absolutely sure. Otherwise, you’re setting up for disappointment, and disappointment is the fastest route to a bad review.

Alright, let’s sum this up. Your existing customers are like a treasure trove of actionable insights. They’re not just numbers in your analytics dashboard; they’re your community. They’re the folks who can take your business from a one-hit-wonder to a timeless classic. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start some real conversations.

Cold Outreach: Slide into Those LinkedIn DMs

So, you’ve maxed out your coffee shop strategy and picked the brains of your loyal customer base. Now, it’s time to take your hustle to the digital streets—LinkedIn, baby! Now, don’t roll your eyes. I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t LinkedIn just a place for corporate peacocks to strut their stuff?” Well, yes and no.

Why does cold outreach on LinkedIn work? You’re cherry-picking your adventurers here, folks. You can tailor your hunt for feedback to exactly the kind of people who give a damn about your industry, your product, or your service. Plus, there’s a certain level of anonymity online that gives people the courage to speak raw truths they wouldn’t say to your face.

But let’s not be spammy, okay? Nobody likes a spammer. You know those generic messages you get that scream, “I didn’t bother to read your profile”? Yeah, don’t be that person. Personalize, personalize, personalize! It doesn’t take a genius to read a profile for two minutes and find something relatable to kickstart a conversation. And hey, why not throw in a little carrot to make it worth their time? “Would you be willing to give 30 minutes of your time for feedback? I’ll throw in a $50 Amazon gift card!” Now you’re talking their language.

Still, with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man. Cold outreach can be time-consuming. Every personalized message takes time to craft, and you’ll need to sort through a pile of potential contacts. Plus, not everyone’s gonna be as jazzed about your product as you are. Rejection management is real in the world of cold outreach. And let’s be clear, if someone says no or doesn’t respond, don’t pester. It’s not you; it’s definitely them.

Optimize, optimize, optimize! I can’t stress this enough. Cold outreach is like dating; you’ll get a lot of nos before you get that life-changing yes. So, make sure you’re tracking your efforts. Keep tabs on response rates, engagement, and the quality of feedback you’re getting. Over time, you’ll get a sixth sense for who’s a good fit for your request and who’s just going to waste your time.

Here’s the bottom line. LinkedIn cold outreach is a tool, not a magic wand. It’s a means to an end, and that end is valuable, actionable feedback that can supercharge your next move. The digital world is your oyster, and LinkedIn is just one way to crack it open.


Before you go rushing off to implement these techniques, let’s hit the brakes and reiterate a few essentials. These are the commandments you’re gonna want to tattoo on your arm—or, you know, maybe just jot down somewhere.

First up: Common Mistakes to Avoid. Listen, nobody’s perfect, but a few things can really muddy the waters when you’re on a feedback crusade. Over-explaining your product or idea is like putting ketchup on a taco—totally unnecessary and kinda ruins the whole experience. Let your concept breathe; give people a chance to digest it. Another no-no? Interrupting the feedback flow. The person you’re talking to is not an NPC in a video game; they’re a live, breathing fountain of information. Don’t cut them off.

Contrasting Ideas. Ah, yes, the art of juxtaposition. In feedback sessions, you can either be a talker or a listener. Spoiler alert: aim to be the latter. The goal here isn’t to sell; it’s to understand. You’re collecting raw, unfiltered information that’s as authentic as a food truck taco—don’t pollute it with your own biases or preconceived notions.

Here’s where we wrap it up, kids. The world of entrepreneurship and design is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a rollercoaster of highs, lows, and unexpected loops. The fuel for this crazy ride? Feedback. But not just any feedback—valuable, honest, actionable feedback. The kind you’re not going to get from a room full of people saying what you want to hear just to get their paycheck and bolt.

And there you have it, my friends. The roadmap to ditching focus groups and adopting strategies that actually work.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.