Ten Marketing Research Ideas To Help Grow Your Business


Idea #9 - Do not assume that a "larger" sample will always yield more useful results than a "smaller" sample.


One of the common misconceptions about marketing research is the belief that a larger sample of randomly selected respondents will automatically lead to more valid and useful results than a smaller sample of respondents. Those business executives who hold this view will typically reject a qualitative research technique, such as focus groups, because these types of studies normally include very small samples ranging from ten respondents (in a single focus group) to 60 respondents (from six focus groups). Simply stated, those critical of small sample studies believe that in order for any research to yield valid results, the size of the sample must be in the hundreds or even thousands. This attitude is reflected in the kinds of critical questions often directed toward the use of small sample studies, like focus groups. For example, they will ask . . . "How can we believe anything that comes from three group discussions with a total 30 people (10 respondents in each of three focus groups)?" . . . or . . . "How do we know if the people were randomly selected to be representative of the total market?"


Although these are very logical and sensible-sounding objections, they are surprisingly not even relevant to the types of questions that the focus group is designed to answer. So, when should focus groups and other small sample methods be used? A convenient rule of thumb is this: Use focus groups when faced with problems that require an understanding of "why" people think or act as they do, but use the larger sample methods when there is a need to accurately "count" or "measure" the incidence of a specific behavior or preference pattern.


For more information on the proper use of both smaller sample vs. larger sample research methods, download the following article: "A Management Overview of the Focus Group Technique.