When it comes to evaluating various approaches to market research, many researchers focus on two factors:
- How many people will we speak with?
- What’s our total cost?
In our experience, however, this starting point misses the critical question:
How much time does each participant have to share what’s really on his or her mind about your company or your topic at hand?
In other words, if the purpose of fielding a research study is to learn what your high value audience thinks about your most urgent business issues, doesn’t it make sense to maximize the amount of time each participant spends talking?
Which is why we pay close attention to a metric called Cost Per Participant Minute (CPPM). Here’s how the math works…
In a standard, eight-person, 90-minute focus group, there are nine people (eight participants plus the moderator) sharing the floor. On average, therefore, each participant is allotted 10 minutes of talk time across those 90 minutes (90 minutes divided by nine people).
The cost of a focus group of this type is at least $6,000, including recruiting, the moderator, food, facility rental, report write-up and the cost of getting you, the client, to the event. Divide 80 minutes of participant talk time (the moderator doesn’t count) into the $6,000 expense, and your CPPM in this case is $75 ($6000 ÷ 80).
Qualitative In-Depth Interviews (IDIs)
CSR’s typical in-depth interview is conducted by phone, runs 30 minutes and costs about $500, including recruiting and reporting.
The big difference here, however, is in the amount of time the participant spends talking; typically, about 25 of those 30 minutes. Dividing those 25 minutes into the $500 per session cost, and the CPPM for an in-depth interview is just $20.
And, of course, we know that participant stipends are much lower for phone than for in-person interviews!
The Key Concept to Keep in Mind
When comparing market research approaches, given that the purpose of an interview is to gain insights from someone whose opinion is important to you, it’s not the amount of time spent sitting with each participant that matters; it’s the amount of time the participant actually spends telling you what is important to him or her and why, and the costs associated with those precious minutes.