“If saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right!”

–William Shatner

Are you facing an on-going demand for insights within a limited research budget? Many of our clients have found this to be the case in recent years, but we have proven that even with limited funds, you can still get valuable insights. For any quantitative research project there are always several options, and you don’t always need the “BMW” solution when the “Mini Cooper” version will do! At IIM, we’ve become very creative in helping our clients get the most out of their research dollars. Here are a few money-saving tips based on three key cost drivers of quantitative research:

Saving Money


The size and composition of your sample can vary greatly depending on your objectives. Make sure you consider the following when selecting your sample:

  • Laser-like focus on your sample definition can result in big savings.  A general population is the most cost effective, and often the most appropriate target for a mass market product. However, if you need data from a low incidence group of consumers (like brand buyers of a medium to small brand, or a particular cohort such as Millennials), you are better off pre-screening and/or limiting the sample to these consumers.
  • Don’t overlook internal resources. If you have a reliable internal customer list or social media list that, this can be a great low cost resource for research participants rather than using an outside panel or sample source. Additional Tip: If you do choose this route, make sure that they have agreed to be re-contacted and that they can be considered representative of the population you are trying to understand.
  • Make sure you “right-size” your study sample. Too big of a sample wastes money…too small of a sample makes it hard to read true differences. Work with your research partner to make sure that you have a readable base of the sub-groups you need without driving the sample size higher than necessary.
  • Plan ahead when you can. Your research consultant may be able to identify low incidence consumers in their panel at minimal or no cost to you. With enough notice you should have the ability to include your criteria in their profile survey and identify the consumers you need for upcoming research.

Interview length

While there is always the desire to get as much out of consumers as possible, it’s a balancing act to keep respondents engaged while getting the level of detail you need. Ask yourself these questions when looking at your survey length:

  • Would you be a “complete” as a respondent? If you wouldn’t sit through your survey in its entirety, neither will your respondents. Make sure you address your key objectives and keep the survey focused. Interview length can affect your overall cost for programming, cost per interview and your completion rate. Try to keep it to no more than 20 minutes for an online survey.
  • Are there synergies within your organization? While you do want to keep the interview length down, if a colleague has a need to get similar feedback, it can be very efficient to combine objectives and research dollars into one study. Concept screens are a great example, where the bundling of several ideas together can lead to cost efficiencies.

Study Design

Cost-effective quantitative research design doesn’t have to be like a straitjacket. There are many flexible options that will give you the results you desire. Here are two to keep in mind:

  • Omnibus Studies:For Quick Answers to Quick Questions. Many of us want a quick response to one or two questions. Omnibus studies are perfect for this type of issue, such as pulse monitoring awareness and purchase of a new product or tracking the success of an ad campaign. In our IIM Omnibus, we interview 1,000 general population consumers daily on a variety of issues.
  • Quantitative/Qualitative Hybrid: To Add Value and Context. In some cases you want more detailed information from consumers, such as why they have a certain opinion or what they like best about a product. Depending on your needs, you may find it more useful to gain both the measurement of quantitative, along with the depth of qualitative. Quant & qual can be combined in a number of different ways, depending on objectives, timing & budget.

Importantly, don’t decide to skip a research project because you are concerned about the funds needed. Make sure you have looked at all the options, from BMW to mini-van to mini-Cooper solutions. With thoughtful planning and design you can get a lot out of your research dollars without sacrificing quality!

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