How Much Does a Focus Group Cost?

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How much does a focus group cost with the help of a third party? 

The cost of a focus group depends on several factors, but as a general rule, the average cost of a standard focus group project can range from $4,000 to $12,000. 

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.

Factors that impact the cost of focus groups include:

  • Number of participants
  • Number of focus groups
  • Length of the focus groups
  • Incentives
  • Location of the focus groups

In this blog post, our focus group company explains how each of these factors can increase or decrease the cost of in-person or online focus groups.

Ready for a quote? Contact our focus group company by completing an online form or by emailing [email protected].

Are focus groups cost-effective?

In some cases, focus groups can be a cost-effective way to gather information from a specific target audience.

Compared to other forms of market research such as surveys or interviews, focus groups can provide a more in-depth understanding of consumer opinions, attitudes, and behaviors.

However, focus groups may not always be the most cost-effective research method.

They typically require a significant investment of time and resources to plan, recruit participants, conduct the sessions, and analyze the data.

There are certainly ways to lower the cost of focus groups, many of which we discuss below. Though, perhaps the best way to cut costs is by conducting online focus groups rather than in-person discussions.

This is due to a few factors...

  • Location. Since the research is conducted online, nowhere is off-limits. This means companies don’t have to pay for focus groups in multiple locations. 
  • No facility fees. Going off this last point, online focus groups cut down on costs because companies don’t need to cover hosting a focus group in an actual facility. 

Our focus group company dives deeper into online focus groups and their benefits over in-person discussions in the video below.

Factors that impact how much a focus group costs

By understanding the costs and benefits associated with this research method, you can make an informed decision about whether or not a focus group is a right approach for your project.

Below are eight factors that determine the cost of a focus group with a third party.

1. Number of participants

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. Trust us–keeping the focus in one place is a must-have quality in a moderator.

Additionally, our market research company also recommends over-recruiting for focus group research. 

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.

2. Number of focus groups

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 effect 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.

3. Length of focus groups

Length of time also plays into focus group cost. Focus groups should be 60 to 90 minutes long. 

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. It's all part of the focus group lifecycle.

focus group lifecycle

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.

💡 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.

Recommended Reading: What is the Best Length for a Focus Group?

4. Focus group incentives

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 recommends different rewards for different audiences:

  • B2C audiences. For B2C focus groups, Drive Research finds $75 to $150 payouts to be the standard.
  • B2B audiences. Whereas B2B market research is different. Focus groups with industry professionals can exceed amounts of $500+ for 90 minutes of their time. Most B2B rewards start at $100.

There are other factors that can go into focus group incentives, however these are general figures to help when budgeting the cost of focus groups.

💡 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.

5. Number of locations

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. Ask yourself, 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 focus 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 for researchers can ensure the quality of participants.

6. Access to sample lists

This alludes to the difficulty of 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 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.

7. Focus group location

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. 

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.

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

The client observation room at Drive Research

8. In-person vs. 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. 

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, which factors into focus group cost

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.

Final Thoughts

As discussed in this article, how much a focus group costs depends on several factors, including the number of participants, the duration of the session, the location, and incentives.

It's important to carefully consider these factors when budgeting for a focus group to ensure that you get the most out of your investment.

While focus groups can be a powerful tool for gaining insights into your target audience, they are not always necessary or feasible for every research project.

If focus group costs are out of your budget, our market research company can help recommend other methodologies such as online surveys or in-depth interviews. These are often great alternatives to focus groups and are efficient depending on your research objectives.

​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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