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Why is B2B Recruitment So Hard? Here’s How to Do It Right.
B2B recruitment is difficult, but not impossible. Depending on your context and challenges, certain strategies provide better results than others.
We all know that performing thorough user research makes your business better. Even so, every investigator knows the process is far from easy, as thousands of tiny decisions go into every research project.
For any research initiative, recruitment is a key ingredient with its own universe of decision-making. Recruiting is critical to the success and value of any investigation.
For any type of B2B user or market research, recruiting study participants is like pulling teeth. For starters, the B2B candidate pool is very tiny compared to B2C. Also, depending on the context, the challenges can vary. For example, how you recruit product managers or marketers isn’t the same as how you engage high-income executives.
Despite the difficulty, there are ways to successfully recruit B2B study participants. Let’s unpack where B2B recruitment problems come from and learn how to get around the obstacles effectively.
Recruiting “Standard” Populations
While there’s nothing standard about any B2B study participant, specific challenges arise when you want to connect with high-income individuals. Undoubtedly, there is some overlap between lower versus higher-earning groups. Still, it helps to separate the two groups for the sake of understanding.
First, let’s examine challenges associated with nearly any B2B recruitment campaign. Later, we’ll take a closer look at overcoming obstacles associated with high-end B2B participation.
Problem 1: Limited Number of Candidates
Just because they aren’t executives doesn’t mean they’re common or plentiful. For example, it’s likely that relatively few developers will meet your recruitment criteria, even less if they are customers only. If they have valuable knowledge or opinions, they’re busy people. Their full schedules make it difficult for these prospects to commit to an interview or questionnaire.
Widen your recruitment criteria
Is there any room for compromise on recruitment criteria? Having less stringent requirements lets you cast a wider net. And being a bit more flexible will enable you to reach the sample size without any adverse effects on study quality.
If you can’t find enough participants to meet your B2B recruitment profile, proxies can help fill the gap. Let’s say you want to interview marketers in the tourism industry. Consider widening your search to include marketers in related fields, such as accommodations, food and beverage, recreation, transportation and travel. Within the same industry, you can also interview employees in product management, sales or customer satisfaction, not just marketing.
Problem 2: Hard-to-Access Candidates
Frequently, B2B candidates are your own customers. However, customer success teams are highly protective of their recruits. The last thing they want to do is bother a hard-won client unnecessarily.
Also, the person in charge of the CRM (account managers, etc.) has a say in how customers are recruited for interviews. You’ll need to get past these gatekeepers to reach your interview candidates.
Reach out early
From the moment you start planning a research project that involves your customers, reach out to your colleagues who serve in these key roles early on in the process. Explain the reasons behind your research and do your best to get them on board. If you do, they might even help with your recruitment efforts.
Make it easy for everyone by crafting warm intro email templates that invite customers to participate. Another approach is to post in-browser or in-app recruitment messages.
Make it worth their while
Some highly engaged customers will be thrilled to provide direct feedback about a product or service. They can be enticed by the idea that their feedback will influence future development or features. Another effective strategy is to offer early access to new features and beta tests for those who participate in interviews.
Meanwhile, others need a bit more of an incentive, such as rewards or discounts, in exchange for their contribution. Keep in mind that some companies prohibit their employees from receiving gifts or cash incentives.
Problem 3: Slow Sample Growth
Perhaps you have a large enough pool of potential candidates. Still, getting people to participate is a slow process. The majority of people will turn down your request for an interview. This makes it difficult to ramp up a study quickly.
This means you recruit simultaneously through different channels such as user testing tools, customer success managers, ads, forums, sponsored LinkedIn Inmail campaigns or direct Inmail messages.
These service providers enable you to tap into high-quality, verified business professionals who are willing to provide their insights. You can select candidates by title, industry, skills and more. This is one of the fastest methods to cut research time from months down to days.
Problem 4: Limited Interview Time
Everybody is busy these days. Maybe your study requires a one-hour interview. Still, you’re more likely to get signups if you make the session shorter (30 minutes).
Be flexible with time
You may find that 45 minutes is the sweet spot between getting recruits to sign up and allowing enough time for your study. Also, try setting up two 30-minute interviews simultaneously with different questions. That way you get an hour’s worth of interviews at 30 minutes per recruit.
Consider having interview spots early in the morning and after business hours to accommodate busy schedules and time zone differences.
Hint: Include Calendly links to make signups even easier.
Recruiting High-Income B2B Study Participants
The challenges outlined above apply to nearly any B2B market research project. However, when you need to interview high-income individuals, the context changes significantly.
High earners have different motives and require different incentives to participate. While the scenarios might seem similar, other nuances arise when recruiting high-income participants.
High-Income Recruiting Problem 1: Difficult to Access
The problem here isn’t gatekeepers. Rather, getting the contact information for a high-income candidate is never easy. Even if you somehow find their email, the chance that they will answer a cold email is very small. If your average professional-level candidate is wary of answering cold emails or calls, you can be sure high earners are even more guarded.
Word of mouth
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, word of mouth was most effective for a luxury brand study they performed. They started by asking coworkers, friends and family if they knew anyone who might fit the interview profile.
For each contact they got (even if they did not participate in the study), the researcher asked the contact if they knew someone else who fit the criteria. That’s how they grew their list.
InMail campaigns and direct InMail messages might be your only way to contact those with high incomes. The advantage of sponsored InMail is that you can reach hundreds of people per campaign. Still, you need a good hook to get them to notice (see incentives below).
High-Income Recruiting Problem 2: Lack of Trust
No matter what you do, high-income earners are leery of you asking them for money or giving them a sales pitch. It’s important that you put them at ease from the beginning.
Try asking a contact or someone who already participated to introduce you via email. If you send the email, mention your contact’s name in the very first line, e.g., “Jessica thought you might be interested in this study.”
Be clear about your objectives
Again, mention up front that you aren’t asking for money or selling anything. Also, it’s best to avoid asking participants how much they earn.
High-Income Recruiting Problem 3: Too Busy
High-income earners are usually very busy, whether it’s with work, philanthropy or enjoying the fruits of their labor. Their full schedules make it hard for them to find time for a B2B research study session.
If you have to extend your hours for standard research groups, you will have to be even more accommodating for high earners. Extended hours, weekends and plenty of rescheduling are typical when managing high-income interview participants’ schedules. Videoconferencing is a great tool that makes it easier for them to say yes.
High-Income B2B Recruiting Problem 4: Ineffective Incentives
What incentives can you offer high-income B2B study candidates? Even if you can pay, money might not do the trick. And if you offer payments, you may be looking at $200-$500 or more per interview for executive-level participants.
Make it more meaningful
Consider linking participation in your study to a higher cause. For example, instead of paying someone, tell them you will make a donation on their behalf to a specific charity. Remember, this offer should be clearly visible up front.
When recruiting, let them know they can participate and donate their time just by sharing their knowledge and opinion. Another angle is to offer a certain amount in cash, but double the amount if they donate the interview incentive to a worthy cause.
If you’ve decided to offer cash incentives, cut to the chase. Go with a service that specializes in helping researchers find people with specific profiles, including high-income earners, executives and business owners.
B2B market research is difficult, but not impossible. Depending on your context and challenges, certain strategies provide better results than others.
Still have questions about connecting with high-quality B2B research participants quickly? Learn more here.
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