Help! What Determines How Much My Research Will Cost?

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“How much will this cost?” is an age-old question in marketing research. The answer typically isn’t simple because depending on what you want to learn and who you want to learn it from, pricing can vary from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. When working with a professional market research team, both researchers and clients should communicate expectations and understand any constraints that might be involved ahead of time – this will help ensure clear expectations and accurate pricing. With that in mind, below are a few questions that should be considered when planning your research project.

Who is your target audience?

Are you looking for recent purchasers of a product or service? Or are you looking for people who perform a specific activity or have a particular attribute? Clearly defining the target trait(s) and having some understanding of the incidence of these people in the general population (i.e. how hard are they to find) will play a part in determining the appropriate methodology for the study, which influences the cost. The more exclusive the characteristic, the more it will cost to find your target audience.

Many databases exist to help locate the right audience. Your options range from giant online panel providers that cater to a more quantitative method (high number of participants, who usually take a shorter survey), to qualitative companies (low number of participants, who are usually engaged in a longer discussion). Each of these options have their own benefits and cost implications.

What kind of concept are you showing your audience?

Are you presenting your audience with a concept that can be explained with text or images only?  Do you need an audience to weigh in on visual design, user-interface, or hands-on experiences?  Answering these questions will allow a determination of the correct study methodology … which dramatically impacts cost. For instance:

  • If your concept is an abstract idea that will come to realization in a local market, conducting a few focus groups with 8-10 participants might be appropriate.
  • If the concept can be communicated via text or images and has a more geographically diverse market, maybe several hundred or several thousand people can be interviewed via an online survey. This may be a more low-cost option, depending on how large the incentives are.
  • If your concept is more hands-on/user-interface oriented, maybe a central location test (CLT) is needed. A CLT invites participants to a location to evaluate stimulus in person, which is typically a more costly option.

What and where is the target audience?

Is the target a user of local services? If so, you might choose to conduct a handful of cost-effective focus groups. Are you targeting recent purchasers of a nationally available product? You may choose to conduct a nationally representative online study. Project scope will play a major factor in selecting the appropriate methodology which will greatly impact project pricing. However, the scope (national versus local, for example) isn’t always the deciding factor in costs. Again, the more exclusive the target audience and larger the sample size the higher the project price.

 When do you need results?

If extremely quick turnaround of results is a major factor, study methodologies become more limited and the project price will typically increase. A good strategy to reduce project costs is planning at least a several week window for results delivery. Depending on project scope, longer lead times enable researchers to utilize methodologies and sampling that may take longer than those required for quick turnaround.

Why are you doing this research, and what level of detail do you need?

What do you want to learn, and what do you intend to do with the data?  Are you looking for proof of concept?  Is it how many products you can expect to sell in a specific range of prices?  Answering these kinds of questions will help determine the correct study methodology, determine the level of survey detail, and impact the appropriate number of participants, all of which dramatically impact project cost.

If your project is a simple satisfaction survey, you may only need to engage a participant for less than 5 minutes in a survey. If you are looking for design guidance, proof of concept testing, or other more detailed feedback, you may need to speak to participants for up to several hours. Since one of the factors that influences respondent incentives is the amount of time spent on your study, the longer you speak to participants the greater the cost will be.

How many people do you need to speak to?

Typically, the larger the sample size the greater the cost. In order to make preference decisions, you should have statistically significant results. This means that a larger group is needed to rule out random selection. However, in certain cases, you may not need to speak to many respondents. For example:

  • Ideation sessions on potential services, features, etc.
  • Design iteration
  • Proof of concept testing
  • Product innovation

These cases often call for qualitative research where the benefit is to have a smaller number of respondents engaged in a discussion who can bounce ideas off of one another, and potentially create new avenues and topics to explore.

How do I complete my research project? 

This may the easiest question to answer. Contact The Stevenson Company to discuss the best way to implement your project. If you’re not sure how to be certain we’re the right choice for you, you can also check out our ultimate guide to selecting a research partner. Feel free to ask us your questions, we’re ready to consult with you today!