Focus groups are easy: throw a handful of people in a room, ask them questions about your product, service or company, and voila!  Marketing insight.  Shouldn’t cost much at all, right?  You can certainly conduct focus groups that way, but only if you don’t really care about the validity of the research and don’t need to use it to develop your marketing. 

Focus groups can be incredibly useful when done correctly—and that means paying what they cost.  How much is that exactly, and how can one shave a bit off the average price?

First, how is “correct” defined?  At minimum, focus groups must incorporate several things including 1) randomly recruited participants who have no connection to you or your organization 2) a professional venue 3) a professional moderator and 4) an in-depth report that analyzes and interprets the group’s input.

In addition, it is almost always inadvisable to do a single focus group.  At minimum there should be two, and three or four are even better.  Often, they are skewed to represent different geographies, demographics or other factors, and the respective results are compared against each other.

According to a procurement research report available on IBIS World, the average cost of a focus group in 2014 was $7,115—which seems low given the many logistics. Here is a hypothetical (but realistic) break down of the costs of a traditional, in-person focus group with 8-10 people:

Recruiting                  $  3,000
Incentives                  $  2,000
Moderator                 $  2,000
Discussion guide      $  1,000
Report                        $  1,500
Facility Rental            $  1,200
Video recording        $     750
Food                           $     300
Travel                         $  1,000

TOTAL                        $12,750

 You can reduce the cost of focus groups in a few ways:

  1. Utilize online focus groups. They aren’t always an option, but they can save a lot of money in recruiting and on-site costs including facility rental, food, and of course travel.
  2. Do them at the same time and in the same place. Schedule them back to back in the same location for lower facility and recruitment costs.  The moderator will likely reduce his fee as well.
  3. Secure a lower cost location and video recording. You can’t do them just anywhere, but you can don’t have to use a professional focus group facility; you can do them in comfortable conference rooms (as long as they are on your premises) and use a video feed so you can watch it live.  If you have your own video resources, that will save you as well.

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