10 Ways to get more profit from online qual

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is Founder of Feeling Mutual, the agile online and mobile qualitative research specialists. He helps clients and agencies run global studies and offers training in the space. Tom has been a Digital Skills trainer for the Association of Qualitative Researchers (AQR) and is a regular speaker at industry conferences, including the MRS, MRMW and IleX.

Even if your clients or research colleagues love the idea of online qualitative research and buy into its advantages over face-to-face there are several things that you need to know to ensure you make the most of your project. These ten tips will help you avoid the pitfalls, and make a healthy profit from online qual.

Threats to making healthy profits…
If you haven’t used online qual before it is easy to under cost. Not only because of the psychological pressure to make online qual cheaper than face-to-face (just because it’s online). But also due to our natural tendency to underestimate the time it takes to do things. If you blindly try to replicate offline research designs and apply them online, it is easy to end up with unruly projects that have too much content to manage and analyse. Throw into the mix the direct costs from software and incentives and you run the risk of failing to maximise profit. Fear not, help is at hand…

How to make more profit…
To help researchers get over this, here are my ten ways to make online qual more profitable. They involve increasing revenue, being more efficient and reducing direct costs:

1. Charge more – So how do you get more revenue? Silly question, just charge more. This may seem obvious and easier said than done. However, too many researchers consistently under value and so under cost online qual. Simply by debunking the myth that online is cheaper or somehow more superficial than face-to-face (by having the confidence to communicate its true value) you can justify charging more and so make it more profitable.

2. Speak to fewer people, in more depth – Less can be more. If you speak to fewer people in more depth you can reduce your direct costs while also getting the detail required to meet your objectives. This is true to the spirit of qual which has long recognised that it’s more about depth of conversation than quantity.

3. Use the same participants again in follow-up groups – Consider running a follow-up project using some of the same participants (having already got their/your recruiter’s permission naturally). This means you capture the valuable ideas that may come to them after fieldwork is over and it allows you to take a more iterative approach as ideas get developed. You shouldn’t have to pay the same recruitment fee for them the second time around.

4. Use softer incentives like the desire for self-expression, pride and status – Instead of only rewarding participants financially, you can make projects more profitable if you motivate them with softer incentives. This could be as simple as making research:

  • more fun – using gaming techniques
  • more creative – by giving people more license to express themselves
  • more sociable – by creating space for personal relationships to develop
  • more meaningful – by emphasising the importance of their contribution and recognising the performance of the best participants

5. Invest in a longer-term software license (if doing enough projects) – If you run enough online qual projects in a year, you could save on the license fee if you buy a long-term license at a discount. This assumes you have the confidence and ability to sell enough online qual projects so you can get a good return on the investment.

6. Explore less expensive ways to recruit – We all know that great projects require great recruitment, which requires great recruiters! However, free-finding participants through traditional recruiter networks is not the only way to achieve this. It can be worth exploring alternative ways to find the right people (e.g. via Behavioural Recruitment™ powered by Facebook, email marketing lists or client databases). As long as they are properly screened, a lower cost of recruitment can be worthwhile.

7. Limit the scope of what you get participants to do – Even though researchers and clients may be under pressure to throw the kitchen sink into projects, you need to know when to say ‘enough is enough’. By limiting the scope of the tasks to reasonable levels (based on the incentive you’re paying them) you can reduce the amount of time you need to spend moderating and analysing.

8. Multi-task by doing your analysis while you moderate – If you can lift out key quotes as you moderate and build the story of your analysis iteratively, then you will save hours by not having to spend so much time going back over the discussions after the fieldwork is over. It is much more rigorous and dynamic and also saves you time, thereby increasing profit.

9. Get participants to rank and score their reactions to stimulus – If you’re researching participants’ reactions to stimulus you can end up with so many points of view that it’s easy to get lost in all the content. Getting people to score each concept out of ten, provides a fast way to measure how each concept performed. This saves you analysis time and increases profit.

10. Use less expensive consultants to co-moderate the discussion – Working with a less expensive researcher to keep the conversation going can release your time to ask the really important probes and do the analysis. Less consultancy expenditure means more profit (without compromising quality).

If you’re interested in getting some more inspiration on how to do this, please read my next post in this series about inspiring clients’ imagination.

If you’re interested in our Masterminds training course on the subject, please get in touch…

Get monthly email updates

Sign up to receive regular emails containing reports, event invitations and inspiration from market research experts.

You can unsubscribe at any point, for more information on how to unsubscribe, our privacy practices, and how we are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Notice.

Contact us at or call us