B2B Research: How to Recruit and Engage Participants

Sourcing business professionals for research requires a specialized recruitment process.

For B2B research we recommend:

  • Longer lead times
  • Short screeners
  • Focus on building relationships
  • High incentives
  • Room for flexibility

B2B research requires people who fit narrow criteria, with particular skills and career accomplishments. From a recruitment perspective, treating them as you would a general population study doesn’t work.

If you want business people to be interested in your research study, you must consider your target audience. This means recruiting in a way that works for them.

Understand Your B2B Audience:

As a recruitment firm, the most commonly sought after B2B profiles we come across are:

  • Engineers/Developers/Architects
  • C-level Executives/Business Owners/Decision makers
  • Purchasing Agents/ Supply Chain Managers/ Ad Buyers
  • Subject matter experts including Regulatory, Data governance, Legal
  • Among others…

Whether or not this is your target audience, any research involving business people takes time. Working with a research recruiter may help things move faster, but the project lead time will still be longer than a general population study.

Finally, once you start finding people for your study, the onboarding process should be easy so as not to turn people off. The fewer steps the participant has to go through the better.

Short Screeners Work Best:

B2B projects require gathering lots of data from potential participants. The best way to do this is over the phone and via a person’s resume/Linkedin profile. If you are going to use a screener, make it short enough so as not to turn people off. But most screening should be done over the phone.

As recruiters, research teams often come to us after they have tried and failed to find participants on their own. In the case of B2B, one of the first things we do is look at their screener.

So what is a reasonable screener for business? A reasonable B2B screener should:

  • Take less than 3 minutes to complete
  • Be 12 questions or less
  • Describe the study in 2 paragraphs or less
  • List how to contact the recruiter or research team for more info. Participants may have questions and readily available contact info suggests you are approachable and transparent (especially important for B2B).

We understand that 12 questions is very little. But remember, most of the screening should be done by phone. You will not get all the data you need from a short screener, but you will have a better chance of getting people through the door so you can build relationships. Building relationships allows you to talk to people, qualify them, and get them interested in your study.

Building Relationships for Results:

Most business people will not fill out a long screener, but they may be happy to help if you approach them in a way that works for them.

To engage business people, you need to earn trust and build a rapport. Focus on creating conversations. Phone screening should be a dialogue, not a questionnaire. See how you may leverage new contacts to learn about their industry and in turn, find more people for your study.

Ask people what they think and if they have ideas. Have an open mind: someone who does not qualify for your study may still put you on the right track. Ask for referrals. If someone is helpful, consider rewarding them with an incentive even if they are not invited to participate; as recruiters, we do this all the time.

Anyone who talks to you about your study is doing you a favor. Be grateful.

The purpose of your research should be clear and meaningful to your participants. Try not to ask for information that could be considered sensitive or confidential. Confidentially is especially important for B2B.

Offer High Incentives:

Offering a high incentive is essential for B2B. Even if your participant has a high paying job, a generous reward shows you value their time. People take research studies more seriously when the incentive is high. Dropouts are frustrating and best avoided with incentives on the high-end.

So how much is the right amount? This depends on the study, but consider anything less than $100 per hour too low for B2B.

We recommend using money or Amazon gift cards. Some researchers think it sounds nicer to offer charitable donations instead. We don’t recommend this – the respondent can choose to donate their incentive to charity on their own. We do suggest charitable donations if the participant says they cannot accept money, perhaps for compliance purposes. Otherwise, we pay them $ and leave it up to them.

Be Flexible:

In most cases, researchers are unable to find participants for B2B studies because their screeners are unreasonable or their incentives are too low. If after adjusting your methods it is still too hard to find people, consider widening your selection criteria. Even someone who is not a perfect match may provide valuable insight.

Be realistic with your expectations. Not everyone you host a session with will be a perfect fit. It’s only natural that some participants are more useful than others.

Since this is business, be flexible with session times and rescheduling. People are busy after all!

What do you Think?

We hope you enjoyed this content. These techniques should help you recruit B2B participants on your own if that is your goal. If you want help, consider working with a recruiter. Feel free to give me a call if you would like more info or some tips on recruiting for your next B2B project.

Joanna Beer

+1 (347) 797 1279


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