Editor’s note: Cara Woodland is global voice of the customer manager at Columbus McKinnon Corporation, a Buffalo, N.Y., manufacturer of material handling products.   

Business-to-business research recruiting has always been difficult. Most outside B2B recruiting vendors focus on senior-level executives, purchase decision-makers, information technology or the medical field. For someone like myself whose end-users primarily work in manufacturing plants, on oil rigs, in nuclear power plants or underground mines around the world, finding them and conducting research can seem to be a nearly impossible task. I’ve had to create my own path. In this article, I will share resources for connecting with hard-to-reach B2B audiences.

Your internal sales team, distributors, suppliers and employees can be excellent resources when recruiting. Internal sales teams can provide you with direct access to your target market. They can point you to purchase decision-makers and potential end-users in your field, as they are likely in contact with those you are looking to gain insight from. This may be as simple as using your customer relationship management database or as complicated as getting buy-in and time from your sales team to provide viable contacts and set up meetings. Give a succinct outline of the research goals and the type of person you are looking to connect with to help reduce resistance from both your sales team and the contacts they may provide.

If you are looking for another way to utilize internal resources, ask the question: Are my company’s employees using our products? If so, use them as research respondents. Employees are sometimes the easiest and cheapest untapped resource. The use of employees for research does increase the bias introduced into the research and should be avoided for some studies such as branding, but they can be a useful resource when on a tight budget and a directional understandi...