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Focus Research You Can Afford

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Market Research can be expensive. And qualitative research, in-person discussions or even remote sessions, can be extremely expensive. Even in the days when I worked for Fortune 500 brands that supposedly had "deep pockets," there was never enough budget on my brand to do everything we needed. Research is discretionary and it was always one of the first things to go when mid-year belt-tightening came around.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Even if you're a small company or a start-up, do not make the mistake of thinking market research is a luxury only for those with (allegedly) deep pockets. You cannot make good decisions about your business without understanding your customers. That means market research. The only thing more expensive than doing it, is not doing it.

And you should never short-cut good research by skipping straight to a quick survey as explained in this post.

So what's the solution? Focus research (qualitative research) that you can afford. What does that look like?

Remote Research:

  • Remote research was already gaining a huge following before Covid, because it was a big time and money saver. Instead of traveling to three cities and sitting all day listening to focus groups, you could just open up your laptop and listen to an hour or two of it at a time. The recruiting is cheaper as well. Participants don't need to drive to a facility so require less compensation and are more likely to say yes. You can find them anywhere in the country, not just within 30 minutes of the research location.

  • Covid accelerated this trend immeasurably. Many, if not most, of the big focus group facilities around the country have closed or are struggling. That's sort of a shame. There is still nothing quite like those eight people around a table and all of the interesting interplay that is possible there. But in general, this has made focus research far more affordable for everyone.

  • There is another advantage to remote research for products that have a narrow target group. Let's say you make a nutritional supplement for horses. There are lots of horse owners in the country, but they make up 1% of the population. So how do you find them, or find enough of them to fill a room in a given location? It's a challenge. It's even harder if you make a medical treatment for a rare disease. Remote helps with this because you can find the locations on the internet where that tribe gathers and just reach out to them. You can bring them all "together" online instead of in person.

In-Person Research:

  • As mentioned above, there is still something about being face to face that matters. We're human after all. We didn't evolve over these millions of years by texting each other. So when it makes sense, doing your research this way still has added value.

  • If it's all you can afford, and you have a local marketplace (or a product category everyone uses like coffee or cell phone apps), why not recruit people locally using social media, your email lists, etc. to come meet up at a local restaurant or public space? It's easier than it sounds. You pay them a little for their time of course, but you would be amazed at how much people enjoy these experiences. When was the last time someone asked your opinion about something and hung on your every word? I've done lots of these type of events over the years. It's scrappy and affordable and miles better than doing nothing.


  • Using your own email lists or social media to recruit is a great way to go. But when that doesn't make sense for the research objectives, or the team just doesn't have time to do it, there are excellent resources available to help you recruit a qualified and objective target group.

  • We have developed a network of very reliable free-lancers that can affordably fill a research quota for you. We do not add a mark-up to these services.

So don't skip the qualitative. Just find a solution that fits for you. Contact us today and find out how.


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