How Much Does a Focus Group Cost?

cost meter

How much does a focus group cost with the help of a third party? You may not like this answer, but it truly depends. 

As a form of qualitative research, focus groups can be customized to cater to most budgets, therefore it is hard to give one tried and true cost.

If you're not satisfied with our answer for the cost of a focus group, here's our market research company's take.

As a general rule, the average cost of a standard focus group project can range from $4,000 to $12,000. 

A traditional focus group project consists of 2 groups using an independent marketing research consultant for end-to-end project management.

The total cost of a focus group can be decreased or increased by asking yourself the following questions:

If you need more clarity on how to answer these questions, we can help with that too. Keep reading!

Already have all the answers? Contact our focus group facility and we will quickly respond with an estimated quote.

How many focus group attendees do you want?

Recruiting for, seating, and rewarding 4 participants in your focus group is less expensive than recruiting, seating, and rewarding 12. 

Standard sizes of groups can range from as little as 4 mini-groups to 12 large groups. Smaller groups allow you to have more 1-on-1 time talking to each participant. Keep this in mind. 

Groups of 12 or more can turn into organized chaos without a good moderator.

Our market research company also recommends over-recruiting for your focus groups. 

One of the golden rules in qualitative research is to always plan for some no-shows. 

While signing up 8 people for a group of 6 may sound like overkill, you will be happy you budgeted for some backup participants.

💡 Key Takeaway: The more participants you'd like to attend the focus group, the more project management time is involved in recruiting. More project management time = higher focus group costs.

How many focus groups do you want?

Similar to the number of participants, 2 focus groups are cheaper than 4. 4 focus groups are cheaper than 6. 

As a general rule of thumb, you never want to hold just one focus group with one set of people. 

Why? Because focus group research is qualitative, it is susceptible to group bias and influence

It would be like predicting the presidential election by asking 8 people in your local town. It is important to have people with different perspectives and backgrounds in order to gather reliable data. 

💡 Key Takeaway: Stay away from hosting a single focus group. In order for you to get the best results, multiple focus group sessions need to be held.

How long do the focus groups need to be?

Length of time also plays into focus group cost. 

Focus groups should not last less than 60 to 90 minutes. 

Why? Because it takes about 15 to 30 minutes for participants to warm up and feel comfortable in voicing their opinions to the moderator and other strangers.

You don't want to end the groups just when momentum is building. 

Too short of focus groups also present the risk of not getting your money’s worth.

The investment and effort to get a participant onsite are much higher than finding respondents for online surveys.

Nonetheless, holding a 90-minute focus group is more cost-efficient than a 2-hour group. 

It will save on​ moderator time, and report writing time (less feedback), and it will give you the flexibility to pay participants less as a thank you.

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of different focus group lengths? Read more about your options here.

💡 Key Takeaway: Our focus group company recommends hosting focus groups that are 60 to 90 minutes. It is the sweet spot for cost-effective, yet high-quality qualitative research.

How much can you afford for rewards or honorariums?

Be sure to think about the monetary value of your target participants’ time. The incentive needs to be captivating enough for them to potentially step away during work hours. 

Focus groups held during evenings or weekends also have to offer a reward worthy of driving to a location across town and participating for over an hour.

To provide a little more incite, our focus group company finds $75 to $150 payouts to be the standard for B2C focus groups. 

Whereas B2B focus groups with industry professionals can exceed amounts of $500+ for 90 minutes of their time. Most B2B rewards start at $100.

💡 Key Takeaway: Offering focus group attendees an incentive to participate will help lower recruitment costs. However, depending on your target audience, incentives can be a hefty line item on the project scope.

Can you hold the groups locally or do you want several markets?

Holding the focus groups in your local market can cut down on travel costs and possibly make recruiting easier. 

Although geographies may differ among your customers, will behavior differ as well? Or differ enough to warrant multiple geographies to test? 

Think about this before deciding to run groups on each coast. Unless you'd like a “bacation” (business vacation). 

If you have to recruit for groups out-of-market, consider using social media to find market research participants.

A Facebook ad with a link to a recruitment screener has proved extremely successful for our market research firm’s focus group projects in the past. 

Use these as a cost-effective way to generate interest and then follow up with qualified participants by phone to verify attendance.

Also consider hosting the groups in key test markets, such as Syracuse, NY. We know of an exact facility that can suit your needs 😉.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Travel is a big factor when it comes to the cost of conducting a focus group. If you’re considering multiple locations for your research, spend time evaluating if it’s worthwhile.

Back up, what's a recruitment screener?

We mentioned how we’ve seen great success with Facebook ads that feature a recruitment screener link. 

But what is a recruitment screener in market research? Exactly what it sounds like. Below we’ll discuss some key points of this tool. 

If you remember one thing about recruitment screeners, remember these two words: qualify participants

Conducting market research for a product or service doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the right pool of participants. These screeners act as a way to ensure those involved in qualitative research are suitable for the process. 

Here are a few more reasons why recruitment screeners are necessary for focus groups: 

  • Ensures participants are of the right age, gender, correct consumer status, etc. 
  • Eliminates participants who may work in a related industry (AKA, bias)
  • Ensures participants can fully understand the material 
  • Ensures participants have not been involved in market research within a certain amount of time

It’s essential your recruitment screener is short and sweet. The survey should only verify important information to qualify someone for the focus group, and not get into the questions you'll ask during the group discussion.

After potential participants answer the screener, you'll have a list of people to contact for the study.

💡 The Key Takeaway: As you can see, recruitment screeners play a vital role not just in focus groups, but in all market research methods. They serve as a way researchers can ensure the quality of participants.

Can you recruit your own customers or do you need non-customers?

This alludes to difficulty in recruiting. If you have simple screening criteria, it will be easier to get 12 participants to sign-up. 

But if you are looking for a mix of customers and non-customers it will prove more difficult to recruit those who may have no prior relationship or awareness of your company.

This will result in more hours and resources to fill the seats, along with a potentially higher focus group costs.

If you can create a list of customers from your own database for the groups, there are virtually no added costs to find these participants. 

This can keep the focus of your recruiting spend on scheduling and reminders to boost show rates.

💡 Key Takeaway: The cost of a focus group will be less expensive if a research firm is recruiting from a list of your customers. In some cases, there are higher costs associated when recruiting non-customers with specific quotas and criteria.

​Can you hold the focus groups at a free location or is a facility needed?

Depending on local availability and rules, you may be able to rent out a community library or volunteer fire hall to host the informal focus group interview, if it's B2C. 

If the focus groups are a more professional audience, you may want to rent a conference room or go directly to an approved focus group facility in your area with a one-way mirror to allow for client observation

example of a 2-way mirror at a focus group facility

In some cases where confidentiality and sponsorship aren’t important, you may be able to simply host the focus groups on-site at your office.

How's that for cutting down travel costs?

💡 Key Takeaway: If confidentiality and sponsorship are not important, hosting the focus group at your office will be the least costly option.

How do you feel about online focus groups?

If you are comfortable with research being conducted virtually, holding online focus groups is a cost-effective option to get comparable results. 

These virtual sessions look very similar to traditional in-person focus groups but occur over a video platform. 

In a post-COVID-19 world, going with an online approach here may not just be your most affordable option- it may be your only option.

So, how do online focus groups help the bottom line? 

When it comes to recruiting participants, you are no longer limited to a certain geography. Taking participant location out of the equation has real savings implications. 

On the subject of location, there is also no facility fee involved. The most you can expect to pay instead is access to a teleconferencing platform like Zoom or Skype. 

As participants, moderators, and observers join the group from the comfort of their homes, travel costs become nonexistent.

💡 Key Takeaway: In many circumstances, online focus groups are less expensive than in-person, traditional focus groups. It cuts costs on facility fees, travel, recruitment, and more.

Recommended Reading: Ultimate Guide to Online Focus Groups

​Contact Our Focus Group Company

Drive Research is a focus group firm in Upstate, NY serving clients across New York State and across the country.

As a full-service market research company, we can consult with you to manage all aspects of a focus group project from kickoff, design, recruitment, booking of facilities, moderating, recording, and reporting.

Questions about your next focus group project? Contact us through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Senior Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.

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Focus Groups