Blog Posts
September 15, 2023

Why B2B participant recruitment is so hard & how to master it

If you’ve spent any time recruiting participants for research, you may already know there’s a stark difference between recruiting general consumer participants versus business users. While everyone might be a consumer, not everyone is a user, and there are distinctions in how you might engage each population for research.

Let’s first acknowledge there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and recruitment can happen in a variety of ways. You might build the capability in-house or outsource to a 3rd party and however you go about it, the approach will be nuanced. With a few thoughtful considerations, your success rate and return on investment are more likely to increase.

In this piece we’ll address some common pitfalls and surface some solutions to help you achieve true B2B recruitment enlightenment.

Common challenges & how to overcome them

B2B recruitment is challenging, but it’s not an impossible feat. By building a solid understanding of what makes it unique, you’ll be well equipped to form a recruitment strategy and engage business users for your studies.

1. Decision makers may not be end users

Your company already has a relationship with its customers. It’s a worthwhile activity to dig deeper to understand who’s interacting with customers, which customers, and why. Sales and Marketing departments primarily interact with decision makers, who in many cases are not end users. 

By building your presence and engaging your users where they are, you’re more likely to reach your targets. Try other internal channels that interact with product users, like Support and Social teams.

2. Business is business

In your B2B company, the customer relationship is driven by business transactions. As a result, motivations for customers to participate in research are built on professional foundations, not personal ones. Of course this varies from user to user, but it’s in your best interest to make a strong case for why your participants should get involved as they might not be altruistically inspired. Take a moment to consider showcasing some compelling benefits that would take your research invite to the top of their priority list.

3. Too few customers

It may be you’re in an emerging business and there just aren’t that many users available yet. If you’re working on a new product line or service that’s just getting off the ground, you’ll likely have a limited pool of users to draw upon. But, with some creativity, setting early  expectations, and planning around these limitations can result in a successful project.

4. Know when to outsource

Partnering with a third party can be a successful way to reach audiences you don’t have a pulse on. However, when it comes to engaging a B2B population, a company is likely better positioned to reach its own customer base than an external resource. 

Most companies keep record of their active, inactive, and churned customers and this information isn’t typically publicly available. Usage information is also maintained and an external resource will certainly not have access to that data unless special provisions are made. Privacy laws prohibit sharing identifiable information without a person’s prior consent, so transferring this internal knowledge externally for the purposes of solicitation is an extraordinary and unlikely endeavor.

5. Participants leave their company

People change jobs. They switch careers. They get promoted and don’t use your product in the same way, or worse, they don’t use it at all. When past participants move on, access is disrupted and new panelists need to be recruited. It's a normal phenomenon with participant management, which is why panel refreshes and diversification are a critical element. Always be recruiting.

Building a recruitment strategy & tracking impact

When forming a plan of any kind, it’s advised to commit to goals, actions, timelines, and track results. Whether you’re recruiting using a marketing newsletter, or piggybacking on a new product release announcement, it’s important to understand how your time is spent. Outcomes should also be noted so educated decisions can be made about where to invest in the future. 

Understanding the ROI of recruitment methods becomes immensely helpful as you build a B2B panel over time. Cyclical patterns may emerge, where certain times yield a better recruitment response than others. For example, recruiting US-based accountants during their busy tax season is advised against. Ultimately, it’s helpful to have confidence you’re using the right methods at the right time to yield good results. 

A recruitment strategy and impact statement can also be used as a communication tool to quickly bring interested colleagues and invested sponsors up to speed with where you’ve been and where you’re going. 

It's a rolling stone

This work is like a rolling stone. Recruitment might happen in quick bursts but it may also be a slow roll. Building a program around nuanced participants takes thoughtful contemplation and a measured approach, particularly if you’re recruiting at a high volume. 

With a few new tactics in your back pocket, you’re well on your way to building the B2B panel of your dreams.


Noel Lamb has been glued to Research Operations for nearly 15 years, most recently building up teams and infrastructure at Xero, Robinhood, and Salesforce. She first fell in love with Research after teaching the Design process to peers at T-Mobile, and the proximity to customers felt natural after earning a degree in Hospitality Business Management. Noel is based in Boise, Idaho and spends her free time splashing around in lakes and homesteading. She’s currently building a backyard chicken coop and looks forward to growing her brood early next year.

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