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8 Questions For Optimizing Your Market Research Budget

bigstockphoto_dollars_reflected_in_question__4792435Market Research budgets everywhere are being assessed for potential savings. In some cases, the options for reducing the market research budget are obvious; cutting a program that was underused, or maybe reducing frequency on a tracker. In other cases, the choices are not so evident.

Do you need a little help identifying places where potential savings may exist in your market research budget? If so, here are some great questions to ask:

1.    Are you sufficiently leveraging existing research? Whether primary or secondary, there is certainly a lot of research out there. Some of us in the primary research world do have a bias towards doing research from scratch.  But existing research sometimes exists that will answer the questions at hand—if we look for it.  It is worth a perusal through research aggregation sites like, and You might also check with your trade associations.
2.    Is it time to ask existing research suppliers to get creative? What can they do to help you manage your budget? On one hand, if they come up with some great ideas, you might be a little annoyed that they didn’t share them sooner. But sometimes just asking gives them the motivation.
3.    Which departments are paying for which research? I have one client who was able to push a huge project from the central market research budget to the product development team’s budget—since that was the only internal client for the particular study.
4.    Have you started to incorporate social media into your market research strategy? Either as a means of collecting data, collaborating on analysis, or sharing results?
5.    Should you be rethinking your mix of quant versus qual research? Sometimes savings comes from rethinking the overall mix of quantitative versus qualitative research. For example, a client who has traditionally preferred quant has been having increasing issues with sample quality. Her projects often include hard-to-find populations, driving costs up immensely.  We are rethinking her choice of methodologies for certain projects so that we can both reign in her budget and be more realistic about how best to reach hard-to-find respondents.
6.    Would different payment terms help you better manage your budget? For example, your agencies may be open to delaying some invoices so you can stretch into your next quarter.
7.    How satisfied are your internal clients with existing research programs? Are there some programs with which they are not satisfied? Or feel are simply no longer relevant? If so, you now have a list of places that may be worth cutting.
8.    Do you have a complete view of what research is being done, formal or rogue, throughout the organization? Could some be consolidated? Or could fees with a specific agency be negotiated based on volume/minimum commitments?

If your answers to 7 and 8 are “I don’t know,” it may be worthwhile to conduct a Market Research audit.  What is a Market Research audit? A MR audit is an objective process for A) identifying all of an organization’s Market Research resources and activities so that B) they can be assessed for effectiveness and alignment with organizational needs. They often pinpoint areas of over-and under-spending, and are used to craft guidelines for future MR investments.

Blatant plug: if you want to do an audit but need a little help, see the Research Rockstar workshop offering (The Market Research Audit Workshop, a 2-hour on-site session).

And as always, please add a comment or question here, or call our Blog Requests line (508.691.6004). Thanks!


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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1 thought on “8 Questions For Optimizing Your Market Research Budget”

  1. I had a great question about this today: “We don’t have an actual Market Research budget. But we are doing our overall marketing budget plan. I don’t even know where to begin! Any suggestion?”

    Yes! I suggest you offer 3 “packages” for your management team to consider: Low, Mid, High. Low might include a budget to purchase some secondary research and maybe have a MR freelancer help with some qualitative research. High might include a Brand Awareness or Customer Sat study (whatever you think your company needs, and you can ask a couple of agencies for ballpark pricing). Giving a few options with $ amounts will help set expectations and increase the chance that at least some budget will be allocated. (Good luck, L.K.!)

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