Tim Kerr our expert Qualitative Research Director reveals some of the lessons he’s learnt when recruiting respondents to B2B Qualitative research projects.
The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux, East Sussex is a great place to visit, not least because they have an exhibit on site that makes water flow uphill. The seemingly impossible is made to look effortlessly easy, but somebody must have worked pretty hard behind the scenes to pull off this neat little trick. B2B respondent recruitment for qualitative studies can feel like an even greater challenge than getting liquid to flow uphill.
Finding the right people to hear from is hard enough; getting them to allow you into their over-stuffed schedules is even tougher. And let’s not even talk about the constant re-scheduling and no-showing that can cause the most level-headed of ‘qually’ interviewers to tear their hair out. There is no neat little trick that guarantees successful recruitment every time, but there are moves you can make that will take away some of the pain.
A flexible mindset
We’re naturally drawn to tried-and-tested structures and processes. But the reality of B2B qualitative recruitment is that last month’s free-flowing uphill waterfall is this month’s stagnant pond. Being able and willing to change things up and try new approaches can save a lot of heartache.
There’s more than one specialist recruiter out there
One recruiter’s nightmare brief could be another’s dream ticket. It costs nothing to pick up the phone and talk things through with two or three organisations. The time spent up front on these calls could be repaid tenfold later with a slick and quick recruitment process. If the sample looks like a tough one, it probably will be. In which case, finding a recruiter who can genuinely deliver is worth the time and effort.
Bring the client’s account managers into the game
A good account manager will have strong working relationships with people who either fit the recruitment criteria themselves or will be willing to refer onto someone else in the organisation who does. The trick here is to recognise when the account management relationships aren’t as good as suggested. An up-to-date and well-populated CRM system is suggestive of relationships that are strong enough to yield recruitment results. A management team that’s dragging its feet in providing contact data probably doesn’t have the level of relationship that will deliver willing participants.
A well-crafted LinkedIn InMail campaign can lead to a steady trickle of appropriate candidates who exist outside the client’s relationship universe. Using InMail alongside account managers and a specialist recruiter can create a decent stream of prospects.
Offer respondents something meaningful
Early access to the study’s summary findings will attract those with an active professional interest in the subject at hand, which means they’re more likely to crowbar some time into their diary. Cash incentives can work well for more junior people, whereas a charitable donation tends to sway the harder-nosed (and better paid) senior executives, particularly in these times of purpose-driven business. It’s always worth considering what the audience will go for and if a screener survey is part of the selection process, it’s worth developing two or three incentive options for them to choose from.
Qualitative recruitment will never be simple and straightforward, but it doesn’t have to feel like pushing fresh water lake to the top of the mountain.