Qualitative Research
Resources & Guides

Focus Group Research Costs Explained

Jeff Hecker

We get a lot of questions about how focus group costs are derived.  Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be much on the Internet on this subject.  So here below is our guide to focus group costs.  If you want to get a ballpark sense for how much different research configurations cost, check out our Focus Group Cost Calculator!.  And if you’re ready for a customized quote for your project, contact us today!

What is involved in a typical focus group research project?

  • The moderator and the client discuss the project and agree on project purpose and scope (number of groups, participants, locations).
  • Moderator gathers costs and writes a proposal
  • The moderator locates and books appropriate focus group research facilities.
  • A “screener” questionnaire is developed (to help find the right respondents) and recruiting begins
  • The moderator works with the client on a Discussion Guide document for the research
  • Research is conducted
  • Recordings of groups are transcribed
  • Moderator analyzes the research findings and prepares a report
  • Report is delivered

How much do the components of focus group research typically cost?

Broadly speaking, focus group costs can be divided into three areas: recruiting costs, facility costs, and moderator costs.

Recruiting Costs

The following are typical costs associated with recruiting for focus group research:

  • Screener Development – this can range from $250 to $750, depending on the complexity of the screener (bear in mind, multiple revisions may be required, and this can be quite time-consuming).
  • Recruiting Fees – these range according to the difficulty of the recruit.  If you are recruiting a group full of Average Joes, you might pay as little as $100/respondent.  If, however, you are recruiting a thin slice of the population – a group of people with a rare disease for example – the cost per participant could be as high as $300.  On average, recruiting fees tend to be about $150/head.  On top of this, recruiters will often charge a project management fee of about $150/city.
  • Respondent Incentives – like recruiting fees, these also vary depending on your recruitment target, and on the length of the group you are running.  Incentives can range from $100 on the low side to more than $300 on the high side (when, say, you are recruiting physicians or lawyers, or are conducting research that involves a bigger time commitment from respondents).

Facility Costs

The following are typical costs associated with facility rental for focus group research:

  • Room rental & reception hostess – On average, the cost to rent a focus group facility can range from $450-$600 per group.  Rates tend to be higher in the U.S. than in Canada.  Rooms that are customized for certain kinds of specialized research (test kitchens for example) often come at a premium.
  • Respondent Food & Refreshments – It’s customary to offer respondents soft drinks and – for groups longer than 90 minutes – sandwiches.  Facilities charges range between $100 and $250 / group for food and refreshments.
  • DVDs – all focus group facilities have equipment to make DVD recordings of the research sessions, but there is broad variation in how much facilities charge for this service.  Some facilities include this service as part of your rental fee, while others may charge up to $250 per group for recording and DVD creation.
  • Live Streaming – If you have colleagues who can’t attend the research in person but wish to watch live via a secure Internet video stream, nearly every facility has the capability to support this – usually through the market leader FocusVision.  Cost for this service tends to be about $1800/day.
  • Transcripts – While having group discussions transcribed costs some money, it ends up saving money overall because of the amount of time it saves the moderator in the analysis phase.  Transcription costs tend to be roughly $60/hr of audio.
  • Analysis & Report Preparation – Moderators tend to charge a flat fee for analysis and reporting, which varies according to the number of groups being analyzed.  Fees can range from
  • Travel Costs.
  • Food costs for client meals during research: typically $20-$40 per person, plus drinks.

Moderator Costs

  • Discussion Moderation – Moderators bring specialized skills and training to the management of group discussions.  Charges for moderation can range from $750 – $1500 / group.
  • Planning and Meeting Time – typically is charged on a flat fee basis, varying significantly depending on the nature of the project.
  • Analysis, Report Preparation and Delivery – For a full report, moderators may charge between $5k and $15k, depending on the number of groups being analyzed.  Clients who do not need a full report sometimes request a “topline” – a short summary of findings, which is typically a fraction of the cost of a full report (but may only deliver a fraction of the value…).

Adding it all up

As you can see, there are a lot of influencing factors here.  But typical projects with a full report and without live streaming tend to run about $5k/group.  Interested in getting a ballpark sense of how your project might be priced?  Check out our Focus Group Ballpark Cost Estimator.  And if you’re ready for a customized quote for your focus group research project, contact us today!