How to Choose a City for Your Market Research Project

Focus Groups, Market Research


One of the most critical elements to ensuring market research project success is to make sure you have the right respondents. Whether your project is qualitative or quantitative, if the participants do not have the information you need – or can’t express it – you’ve lost not only a battle, but the war. In addition to clearly specifying the characteristics and specifics about your qualified respondents, the location of your research is also important.

Here are eight tips for choosing the right city for your research project:

1. FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE! First of all, choose cities where your respondents live. If you need to speak to gardeners with slug problems, you might consider cities in Oregon and Washington. If you are looking for condo and apartment dwellers, look to urban areas. This will save you time and recruiting costs, as well as make your respondents much more representative of the norm.

2. CONSIDER REGIONAL DIFFERENCES. If you want to talk to air conditioning purchasers, you will look for cities in hot climates. However, think about the different demands on air conditioning between the high-humidity south and the arid southwest and choose wisely.

3. FACILITY FEATURES AND CAPABILITIES. All focus group facilities are not created equal, so you have to know what you need – and what will not work for you. Some facilities have big rooms; some have smaller rooms. Some have a lot of technology and some very little. If you need a test kitchen with certain equipment, you may not have a large selection of facilities. Some have better client space. Some are great at recruiting. Over the course of a career, market researchers see many locations. So get the skinny from the facility itself and then ask around for recommendations.

4. TIME YOUR GROUPS FOR SUCCESS. Timing of your groups is important, so take into consideration the possibility of inclement weather or other environmental
events, as well as local festivities that might impact recruiting as well as client
convenience. Avoid possible bad weather in the winter by switching to cities in
milder climates.

5. CONSIDER SMALLER MARKETS. Smaller cities may be just as effective for your
group as larger cities and may be simpler and easier to manage. Additionally,
depending on your category, respondents in smaller cities may be more typical in
their purchasing decisions and less likely to be “professional respondents.” Smaller
cities might be less popular for fewer dining and entertainment options,
as well as being a little more limited for travel optons, but they provide an excellent option for many projects.

6. THE POWER OF THE FAMILY. Facilities run by the same company in several cities can be easier to work with than independent facilities in each city. These facilities have similar processes and excellent communications between their teams in different cities, so you’ll get the benefit of their collaboration. You will not have to
coordinate all of the different facilities – they will do it for you. This saves you much
time and effort and increases the probability of a successful project.

7. FUN THINGS TO DO IN THOSE CITIES. Man does not live by bread alone, and most clients enjoy a break from the focus group facility once in a while, too. So dining and entertainment options near the facility may be important in your choice.

8. OTHER MISCELLANEOUS REQUIREMENTS. Of course, there will be factors outside of your control that can also influence the cities you select for your market research project. Travel time and cost, personal preferences, proximity to headquarters locations or manufacturing plants, being at a conference for recruiting respondents – all can become important in choosing a research project location. However, choose the set of possible locations first based on what will deliver the optimal information – and then evaluate the cities against any additional criteria.

If recruiting the best respondents is a critical success factor for research, choosing the optimal location is an important factor in successful recruiting. Don’t just default to a favorite facility because it is easy – intentionally and thoughtfully choose your research locations to meet your project goals and objectives. After all, it is not about the location, it is getting the insights you need to make your business successful that actually matters.