This is a common question, and it’s akin to asking “how much does a house cost?” The answer: It depends. Our preference is to first understand how you intend to use the research, the problem you’re trying to solve, or the decision you need to make, and then work backwards to develop the best and most cost-effective methodology. However, it’s always helpful for our partners to understand the primary cost drivers when conducting quantitative research.

With this in mind, there are several key factors that influence budgets when conducting quantitative market research.  

Audience. The first, and biggest variable, is the audience – meaning the people being surveyed. The more narrowly we define an audience, the lower incidence this audience becomes relative to the total population. This scarcity increases the cost of identifying these individuals, verifying their characteristics (whether demographic or professional), maintaining relationships to ensure active participation in research, and of incentives.

Sample Size. Sample size – the number of people surveyed – is the next most influential cost driver. Simply put, the effects described above are magnified by the number of respondents required to participate in the research.

Questionnaire Length. The length of a survey is measured either in minutes or in question units. Either way, a longer survey (particularly when conducted among elite, low incidence respondents) increases costs. As you might expect, it typically requires a larger incentive. However, you may be surprised that it also dramatically increases the amount of sample required to complete the research. Longer surveys result in respondent fatigue, causing respondents to stop taking the survey. Only completed surveys should be included in the final results. Thus, a larger initial sample pool is required to service the project, exacerbating the costs of conducting the research as described under the “audience” section.

Questionnaire Topic. Complicated or sophisticated topics require more time. This increases costs in similar fashion to what is described above under “questionnaire length.” Topics with a social bias (for example those exploring illicit, embarrassing or illegal behavior) can also increase costs as such surveys often have more respondents refusing to complete the survey, thereby requiring a larger initial sample pool.

Services & Deliverables. Services & deliverables also affect cost. The lowest and least expensive form of market research consultancy is a “technical review.” This is a process whereby an analyst makes technical corrections to questions or concepts provided by the client. This approach is inexpensive, but often produces poor results that either provide little original insight, or that fail to build a compelling story. Such a process does not consider existing public opinion research, and is usually managed by inexperienced analysts. On the other side of the spectrum is “hypothesis-driven” consultancy. This is Wakefield’s preferred approach to market research. This approach relies on existing public opinion data and subject matter knowledge to develop hypotheses, which are then supported through questionnaire design. Deliverables range from data reports (least expensive) to executive summaries (mid-range) to various forms of final analysis, such as whitepapers or PowerPoint analyses (most expensive). We recommend discussing your needs in detail with your market research provider to custom design the services and deliverables the best meet your needs.

Wakefield Research specializes in helping our partners custom design research that best meets their objectives, whether it’s for internal decision-making or for earned media and public release. For help with your market research and opinion survey needs, contact Wakefield Research today.