How to refine B2B recruitment

Editor’s note: Benjamin Wiedmaier is the senior content marketing manager at User Interviews. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “The 6 Cs of Better B2B Research Recruitment.” 

It should be easy to target, recruit and conduct research with customers and non-customers. However, we understand that recruitment can be challenging, especially when you’re tasked with doing it yourself (as opposed to relying on recruiting partners, which isn’t a guarantee of success). 

Recruiting participants who are “professionals” – lab managers, engineers, physicians, supply chain techs, executives – can be particularly tricky. The need to respect customer relationships, privacy concerns and time can sometimes make B2B recruitment feel nearly impossible. But this shouldn’t stop you from conducting user research. Products built for specialists or enterprise use cases require primary research. Hunches just don’t cut it. 

Luckily, there are best practices to improve your B2B recruitment process and this article will outline six that are especially important for people tasked with sourcing individuals themselves (as opposed to outsourcing to consultants or expensive agencies).

Use these best practices to create stronger relationships with your participants, boosting not only completion rates but also the quality of responses themselves. You’ll capture rich, product-shaping data and foster goodwill among the folks your business needs to thrive. 

The 6 Cs of better B2B recruitment

  1. Clarity: The participant knows what is expected to successfully complete the project.
  2. Compensation: The project offers a fair compensation type and amount for the task/s.
  3. Consideration: The research design offers reasonable participation flexibility. 
  4. Coordination: The participant is sent predictable and clear updates throughout the project.
  5. Closure: The participant is told how the collected data will be used in the product.
  6. Community: The participants are given an opportunity to connect with one another. 

Read on to learn more about each C and how to apply them to your next B2B recruitment.

1. Clarity

All participants, but especially professionals, need clarity around your research ask. 

Missing elements such as project details, session expectations or time commitments are a red flag for professionals weighing whether to apply to a study. Consider how precious their time is and how critical it is to inject confidence (and even excitement) into the prospect of their participation. The project specs are your chance to create a compelling first impression.

If you use continuous approaches to research – which we strongly recommend – you are likely to engage with these folks again.  

Clarity also applies to you. Why are you recruiting these people in the first place? Do not try to stuff 10,000 activities, questions or tasks into a single study. Start with a business need (and the decision it will inform), generate a research goal and translate that into a succinct research plan. Otherwise, both your time and the participants’ will be misused.

2. Compensation

It’s vital to equitably compensate everyone for their research participation. B2B audiences, as you may know, often require a higher hourly compensation to justify their time and energy.

Alternatively, some B2B participants are uniquely committed to the research topic, especially if your study focuses on tools they use every day to get work done – and they may be swayed by the opportunity to try a new version of this tool. Looping them into beta versions is a subtle way to reward their credibility and expertise, which can be more motivating than financial incentives in some instances. For decision makers specifically, offering a discounted contract extension could also be appealing.

Whatever you choose, make sure it is equitable to the specifics of the task or session. Offering the right amount and kind creates a feeling of goodwill and partnership in a group who uniquely value it.

3. Consideration

Offering flexibility to B2B participants is a key component to increasing their likelihood of attending the session or completing the task. Does your recruitment method offer pre-screening targeting or filtering? Which screener questions are required? Could the study be unmoderated to offer more autonomy and flexibility to participants? Could your session activities be weaved into participants’ regular work tasks (e.g., having them test a feature during a workflow they already execute)?

Of course, this “C” doesn’t mean that research best practices should be jettisoned to accommodate. Instead, take a moment to dig into your research repository, personal/thinking models or other available information about how this audience works and engages with your product. You might find feedback from a quarterly business report or previous project that hints at an approach, format or design that had strong show and completion rates. More simply, this could suggest terms or phrases to leverage (or avoid) when asking about specific product experiences.

Doing some homework and demonstrating that in your study design should show B2B audiences you took the time and that you are genuinely curious about how they use theirs.

4. Coordination

This “C” follows closely behind “consideration.” Your pre-research (activities like conversations with account, sales or customer success team or briefs from stakeholders requesting data or insights) will likely reveal how your B2B audiences like to engage with your company and product.

Do they prefer mobile studies? Is their company inbox sacred (and therefore off-limits to invite e-mails)? Are they comfortable with regular updates or do they prefer a single, larger message with the complete study details? Have you built in buffer time in case their work schedule goes off the rails and they have to push things back?

Taking a moment to create a communications plan to address some (or all) of these questions will go a long way toward boosting completion rates (and make for happier participants/customers, too).

5. Closure

To this point, most of the C’s have been about fostering a stronger participant relationship by respecting their time. This respect should extend after you’ve completed your analysis and share out/recommendation, too! When participants describe why they choose to participate in UX research, they often share the delight in seeing their feedback affect change in the products they use and rely on every day. 

This is especially important for B2B participants, who might not have the freedom to change platforms as readily as a consumer. Small improvements go a long way and sharing those improvements with your participants is critical to closing the loop. It also helps move from an extractive model of user research to a more reciprocal and relational model. This follow up promotes goodwill, both for your brand more broadly and your research practice specifically. 

In short, communicate learnings with B2B participants. Tell them how what they shared shaped your recommendations and how those recommendations translated into product developments. Even if your message is “It’s on the roadmap…” the follow up matters and will help create a cycle whereby professionals are more likely to participate next time.

6. Community

The final C is less about strategy and more of a desired outcome of the previous five. If participants’ time and expertise are respected, are made to feel part of the process and given clearly defined research projects, you are liable to have satisfied customers and prospects on the other end.

Creating panels of participants is a research best practice for two reasons: 

  1. It offers an easy way to tap into hard-to-find and important personas more frequently.
  2. You may find that B2B participants are seeking a community of practice organized around their industry, role or skill set.

Remote, distributed workplaces have left many folks feeling isolated and disconnected from networks that used to make work energizing. If you can create the conditions for connection among your various B2B participant groups – via a Slack community, Google Group or social media – you’ll be curating a community of individuals who you can tap into again and again…while filling a need. Win-win.