Smaller consumer insights budgets are the new normal across many companies.  Our client partners are constantly getting pressured to do more with less - less funding and reduced headcounts. However, in this competitive environment, businesses still need to make bold strategic plans and business decisions.  Given these pressures, it has become increasingly necessary for market researchers to maximize the impact of their research dollars.

Here are a few tips gathered from more than 20 years of cross-industry experience to stretch your research budget and create maximum impact:

1) Be ruthless in deciding what research to do and what not to do


While there are real risks of making decisions based on assumptions rather than knowledge, not all decisions require market research. Assessing the risk level of research requests is critical.  Low-risk initiatives should be given limited or no resources.  Diplomatically push back if a research request is for “nice to have” rather than “need to have” learning.  Additionally, if the request is for learning that reinforces something you already know, or supports a decision that was already made, don’t do it.  For low-risk project requests that still require some consumer input, leverage:

Existing research

With turnover, consolidation within industries, and the fast-paced nature of the marketplace, much of the historic information is forgotten or misplaced. Companies likely have stores of useful information that is often underutilized. We often hear the phrase, “If X company only knew what X company already knows.”  It is likely a predecessor faced a similar situation. Spend some time in the research library or discussing the issue with colleagues who’ve been with the company a long time. Existing internal information may not provide the direct answer, but it could help inform a decision.

Secondary research

A quick internet search can provide useful information. A variety of free and paid sources are only a mouse-click away.  This includes consumer reviews of your product, trend reports, industry/market statistics, and sales data.

2) Choose a research partner, not a supplier

Partner with a research firm that knows your business and consistently delivers, not simply the low-cost supplier. Choose a research partner that provides the best total value.  The closer you collaborate with a research partner, the more enabled they are to add value.  A true partner will be able to customize the study approach and tailor the deliverables in a way that will efficiently address the objectives and deliver the results in a manner that gets traction within your organization.  This ensures you are not paying for a cookie-cutter approach that isn’t quite right, as well as standard deliverables that you may never use.

As part of choosing the right partner, be candid with your needs and budget.  Share your budget so the partner can tailor their approach to fit within the constraints.  It saves time for everyone.  Additionally, work with procurement to evaluate what the study enables you to do, not solely on the cost of the study.



3) Balance well-defined objectives with the magic of letting the research take you to new places  

We are firm believers of setting clear research objectives, action standards, and definitions of success, as well as communicating intended use of results.  It enables us, as research partners, to efficiently scope a project.  It is not only researchers who appreciate this clarity.  A creative director at a large ad agency once said to me, “Give me the freedom of a well-articulated and well-defined brief.”  However, the magic is in the margins.  Be flexible enough to let the consumer data lead you.  The consumers’ topics of interest may be broader than the initial scope, and sometimes that is okay.  Sometimes, in fact quite often, it leads to true insights.

4) Go virtual

Consider leveraging virtual technology to contain some research costs, such as travel and facility rentals.  Conducting online studies may not be right for every project but it could be a good alternative if other options are cost prohibitive.  Many qualitative approaches, even ethnographic studies, can be done online.  Multi-day “netnographies” are a cost-effective way to generate deep insights. Plus, virtual methodologies can have other benefits.  Online video focus groups and interviews can be especially effective when recruiting low-incidence respondents.  It is cheaper to find a unicorn from a recruiting pool that spans the entire nation than from a market-specific recruiting effort. 



5) Give breath to the insights so they have a life of their own

A goal for most researchers is to have their insights be leveraged by their company, to make the insights and implications sticky, so they live on within the organization.  You want your team to discuss results by the water cooler, not having a report gather dust on a shelf.

Make research actionable.

Keep the end in mind when designing a study.  Knowing what you will do with the information and how you intend to use it helps to shape the approach.  After the information is in, ensure that the insights ladder to conclusions and recommendations that your team can hold onto and run with. 

Make the output compelling.

Tell engaging stories, use analogies, guide the reader or audience (aka your team and business partners) through the beginning, middle, and end.

Generate internal buzz.

Get the team excited about the results.  We’ve encouraged our client partners to build momentum and interest in the coming insights share out by treating it like a new product launch.  Share a few teasers or send one “aha” from the project to whet the appetite of the team so they are excited to attend and hear more about it. 

Bang the drum.

Tell your internal clients what the research said. Tell them again. And tell them yet again. Ensure they understand and act on the research.

With all of the budgetary pressures, it has become increasingly necessary for market researchers to stretch their research dollar while still delivering rich insights that inspire action. We hope you find these tips to be useful and would love to know how you stretch your budget. Email Nate at with your thoughts or questions!

For more tips on conducting efficient studies, check out these other posts:



And, for great secondary information, check out our observations of leading-edge foods from Expo West 2019.