Focus Groups - behind the scenes

A market research focus group is a type of qualitative research, focused on analysing people's preferences and thoughts. Quantitative methods, such as sales figures and customer surveys, assume a fixed and measurable reality, and analyse data through numerical comparisons. On the other hand, qualitative methods seek an understanding of human behaviour and, when executed correctly, give actionable insight into conscious and unconscious motivations behind a consumer's reasoning. Click Here to read more about the benefits of face to face research.

Focus groups can provide businesses with invaluable information regardless of what phase or stage the business is at. From generating new ideas to marketing them, focus groups provide the knowledge considered crucial for success. Below we outline the four essential components (moderators, recruiters, respondents and research venues) required for all focus groups, along with an estimated price-range for each element to help you better understand the steps taken to run an effective and valuable project.


The moderator plays a key role in ensuring the project's success. They facilitate the research from start to finish, and their approaches can have significant impacts on the results. In collaboration with the client, moderators initially examine the challenges or opportunities the research should explore and thus design a discussion guide for the groups. They help determine other key factors, such as the demographic and number of participants in each session as well the number of overall sessions required for an optimal outcome.

The moderator oversees the discussion within each session and ensures conversation stays focused and research objectives are covered. To gain further insight, moderators use advanced projection techniques to delve deeper into the respondents' subconscious attitudes and instinctive choices.

Upon the completion of the sessions, the moderator provides the client with a report which analyses the research's findings. The report provides recommendations relevant to the project's goals, aiding the implementation of the new marketing plan and assisting the business' development.

On average the moderator's e fee (planning, data collection and report presentation) is generally $4000-$6000 per session.

Participant / Respondent Recruiter

Another integral part of the project is finding the right respondents. Screening potential recruits and selecting target members of the client demographic are key components that may affect the quality of the focus group and consequently the research. Recruiting companies do just that. They have vast databases of potential participants that are contacted and put through the screening questionnaire designed by the moderator and client. Once the right respondents for the project are found, the recruiting company then informs them of anything they may need to know before attending the session, and sends them instructions on the individual's session details (such as the time and address of the venue).

The fee charged by recruiters depends on the difficulty of the recruit. The thinner the slice of the population the client looks for, the higher the cost but on average recruitment companies charge $100-$150 per respondent. For one group of 8 respondents, that adds up to $800-$1200.

Respondents / Participants

Participants (also known as respondents) are at the core of qualitative research. It is their valuable insights and opinions that make focus groups a powerful tool in a researcher's artillery. They shed light on critical information which can help accelerate a business's growth significantly information that is beyond the reach of almost all other research methods. For more information on why face-to-face research is so valuable, read our article Here.

Participants need to be remunerated for their disbursements, time and effort to attend the focus groups. Therefore, it is important to determine the appropriate incentive to ensure that respondents show up and are encouraged to engage. The industry standard for a 1-2-hour session is $100-$120 per respondent, or $800-$960 for a group of 8.

The Venue

The final component that brings the research all together is the venue. This is where the magic truly happens. A professional, neutral space is critical for blinded studies reducing bias and minimising distractions.

One key element of the venue is high-quality audio and video recording capabilities. It is essential all sessions are recorded for later viewing and further analysis. This allows the moderator and the company representatives, watching from behind a one-way mirror, to actively listen and fully understand the proceedings unfolding in front of them, instead of having to worry about note taking. The option of streaming the sessions online is also a game changer, as it allows large numbers of observers to watch the research remotely, in real time.

Choosing the right venue can directly impact the project. Central and accessible locations (such as our SOUTH Melbourne Facility) can significantly increase the chances of respondents showing up. Another key feature is the atmosphere. If a respondent feels uneasy, they will hold back their opinions and share substantially less than a comfortable respondent would. A relaxed and friendly environment (such as our Coburg Facility) ensures everyone feels included and motivated to engage.

The industry standard for a 1-2-hour session for a venue including the mentioned features is about $460-$550 per session.

Overall, a project consisting of 3 sessions of around 8 respondents, would cost around $25000. Please keep in mind all prices mentioned are estimates and the actual cost of a project may vary considerably.

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