I recently spent a Saturday binge listening to podcasts on iTunes, and came across a presentation featuring Bethenny Frankel. She said, "everyone today has a brand," in a humorous tone. With the host laughing uncontrollably, it became quite clear that there was a bit of truth to her joke. 

Although Frankel has created a multi-million dollar brand as the founder of Skinny Girl, it was more than a "stroke of luck." Frankel was on a quest to fill a void in the market by creating low-calorie margarita's that targeted women, without compromising taste. She strategically tapped into the right target market and focus group to launch one of the most successful spirit brands, with multiple, successful brand extensions.

Connecting your vision to the right audience, while filling a need or void in the market requires a strategic connection with your target market. However, hopeful and ambitious entrepreneurs, who would like to have the Bethenny Frankel level of success, skip the most important step in the process -- creating focus group. 

I understand that you have a great idea and believe you are about to disrupt the market with your product or service, however, there is a high price to pay for high-performing leaders who ignore the importance of connecting with their ideal audience prior to launching. More importantly, it is important to see if all of the brand extensions and upsells connect with your target market as well. 

I participated in my first focus group in 2010 after experiencing a plateau in client acquisition in my private consultancy. The 11 person group, led by a leading brand expert, immediately provided valuable feedback about the top two reasons my team reached a level of stagnation that was difficult to forecast without their unbiased insight. We made immediate changes and sales doubled within a year. 

Before you debate it, here are three questions you must ask yourself as a founder before taking your product to market. 

Why a focus group?

Your friends, family and followers are not your customers. They cannot help you leverage profitable, sustainable opportunities and partnerships that will grow your company. 

A focus group is a collective of opinions from your ideal target market, who will provide valuable insights about your products and services, while allowing you to understand how the brand mission for your company connects with their needs. 

During the process of creating and building a multi-million dollar brand, you must create a focus group for all of your brand and product extensions to learn about necessity, utility and ways to create upsells that work.

When should you host a focus group?

At the moment you are ready to take your idea to market. Do not miss this step! It will become especially important if you decide to onboard investors, VC's and/or co-founders. The feedback is invaluable to ensure that you will launch directly to your intended customer and avoid the "one size fits all" model of ambitious creatives and entrepreneurs. 

How can you create a focus group?

Remember, these are the unbiased opinions of your end-user. As much as you may want to ask your tribe on social media for their input, it will not work. It is time for you to partner with a qualitative research and marketing company to moderate your group and collect all of the data about your product/services.

Once you make the necessary improvements, the research group will reconnect with the prospects for further follow up. You want a focus group to provide feedback about the business model itself, pricing, utility, as well as the brand. Avoid generic questions such as, "would you buy this product?" Be very specific about the objective(s) of the incubator.