How to Recruit B2B Participants for Market Research

pinstripe and suit

Every business, from startups to Fortune 50 organizations, deserves intelligent, relatable, and thorough market research to help them make decisions. Unfortunately, not all market research is cut from the same cloth.

Customer surveys? Easy. Trying to recruit B2B professionals for 90-minute interviews? Challenging.

Running a short survey with your customers or sending out an employee survey is simple. 

However, if you came across this post because you’re struggling to… 

  • Recruit B2B participants for market research
  • Are not sure where to start to target your B2B audience
  • Exploring a new B2B project

...then you are in the right place.

In this article, our market research company is going to share a ton of helpful information for you as you consider embarking on a study. 

Challenges of B2B Market Research Recruiting

B2B market research is a whole different animal in this space.

It is one of the most challenging yet rewarding types of market research to conduct. That’s because insights gained in B2B research can help with all things operations, marketing, and strategy.

While all market research comes with challenges, here are some of the specific items related to sourcing, qualifying, screening, and scheduling B2B participants for market research. 

1. Ability to locate niche audiences

Many panels and market research recruitment firms exist that can help you find easier consumer audiences.

For instance, it’s easier to find parents with children aged 5-18, those who have bought ketchup in the past 12 months, or those who have purchased a vehicle in the past 3 years.

However, those who assist with niche B2B audiences are much more difficult to locate. 

Whether you are looking for C-level professionals working in tech, HR directors who hire in the manufacturing industry, or accounts receivable analysts who have subscribed to a new SaaS software in the past 3 months, nothing is easy about B2B recruiting.

Very simply, the incidence rate (IR) of finding these B2B professionals is very low. Pick any profession or business role, and it’s very likely only 1 out of every 100 people may fit that criterion, but likely much less. 

Where do you start? 

Who can help? 

Is this project even feasible? 

Our qualitative recruiting company can help. Get in touch with us today!

2. Vetting participants properly

Because these types of studies that involve B2B participants are so niche, it becomes a spot that is ripe with fraud in the industry.

When a B2B market research recruitment company dangles a $300+ reward in front of participants for a 60-minute virtual interview, it can often make participants embellish their decision-making prowess, title or role, and other responsibilities.

⚠️ Beware.

It becomes absolutely essential to vet participants to ensure they are who they say they are. 

Dennis Greene Meme We Are Who We Thought They Were

How to overcome this: Ensure you find a market research partner who is running through a rigorous quality check process through their recruit. This might include…

  • Verifications of LinkedIn profiles and company emails
  • Including in-survey red herrings
  • Checking time to complete
  • Checking for consistency across responses
  • Reviewing open-ended responses that only someone with the unique knowledge and experience in the role could speak to

In short, make sure to avoid imposters in B2B recruiting. Nothing is worse than joining a virtual interview with what you’re expecting to be a C-level decision-maker, and it turns out to be something different.

Vetting participants through a rigorous, tried, and tested process is absolutely necessary.

Sounds crazy, but we had so many brands tell us these horror stories before making the switch to a more qualified market research recruitment company.

3. Finding affordable ways to recruit B2B participants

As opposed to a general consumer recruit, B2B recruitment is more expensive.

This is driven by the niche limited audience of business professionals and higher incentives. As a result, these factors can often push a B2B project for brands outside of their budget ranges. 

Our B2B market research firm touches on many different ways to recruit professionals later in this article, some more affordable than others.

But for now, I’ll add that those who complete recruits on behalf of organizations learn a lot about what works, what doesn’t, how to streamline efforts, how to accurately target participants, proper incentives, etc. 

Therefore, recruitment firms like Drive Research can be a great starting point to leverage their experience and intellectual knowledge to get your study completed. 

4. Getting them to opt-in and commit time for you

Everyone is busy these days. Getting B2B participants to carve out 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 2 hours for your interview or focus group is challenging. 

But that’s why our industry exists. Market research firms find ways to source participants and get them to share their time, feedback, and insights.

This is even more true when it comes to finding B2B professionals. 

Think about trying to get 60 minutes of time from a C-level IT decision-maker in tech for your research interview. 

Or working to get a Director of Marketing to spend 2 hours with you and 4 other participants as part of a focus group at 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. 

It’s a challenge.

A market research firm can walk you through recruitment best practices such as the pros and cons of…

  • Different methodologies
  • The timing of session(s) that are best fit for B2B participants
  • Enticing rewards
  • How to approach your study

5. Finding trustworthy partners with a plan

This is a point I have been echoing throughout these challenges. Market research is a super niche service, and trying to recruit business professionals in-house through your grassroots outreach will be extremely challenging. 

How to overcome this: Lean on the experts.

When you work on hundreds of projects and thousands of bids every year, you learn a thing or two. This includes best practices and things to avoid. Dipping into this knowledge can make or break your B2B recruitment project. 

Some market research firms will not only manage the recruitment for you but can also help design a proper recruitment screener, moderate the sessions, and create an impactful report to help you with strategy.

Recommended Reading: Why B2B Market Research is Different

B2B Market Research Recruiting Methods

B2B market research is crucial for understanding the needs, preferences, and behavior of businesses in a specific industry.

However recruiting the right professionals for your B2B survey, focus group, or other methodologies is even more essential to gather accurate and valuable insights. 

Here are some effective methods for recruiting participants in B2B market research:

1. Recruiting platforms with API integrations

Perhaps one of the newest and best ways to recruit B2B professionals is platforms with API integrations. 

B2B recruiting companies like Drive Research leverage sophisticated platforms that scrape sites like LinkedIn, set up API integrations with associations and databases of business professionals, and much more.

The great thing about this approach is it ensures contacts, titles, and information are the most up-to-date and can actually pull in profiling data from social media sites to allow firms like ours to dive deeper into a prospective recruit’s background and responsibilities.

Better yet, this vital information and access can be leveraged to avoid fraud. 👏

Many also scrape the contact information to verify profiles and company emails, furthering the quality of the recruits obtained through this approach. It streamlines the entire formerly manual process without any of the drawbacks. 

Using this process through Drive Research allows clients that leverage our team to recruit tough-to-find vetted B2B participants quickly (sometimes within 24-48 hours) and inexpensively compared to traditional companies.

2. Leveraging traditional market research panels to collect PII

Another area where organizations can recruit B2B participants for market research is through vetted panels. 

Panels are made up of business professionals who opt into market research and are willing to participate in studies.

It’s about 50 times more effective than buying a general contact list and sending cold emails or placing cold calls, which is often very expensive and offers little to no return.

Recommended Reading: Challenges of Cold Calling Market Research Recruitment

3. Launch paid social media ads

Another option is to use paid advertising outreach on sites like LinkedIn.

This approach uses all of the social media marketing tactics typically reserved to sell products or services and uses the same techniques to recruit people for a research study. Plus from our experience, sourcing research participants through social media is better than a panel.

Depending on your B2B audience (e.g., small business owners), Facebook could also be a nice fit here by running ads targeted to specific titles/roles. 

Example B2B market research Facebook ad

Here you run an ad and choose form type(s) of business, geographies, titles/roles, experience, etc., and invite them to take a qualifying screener for your study (typically redirecting the ad to a landing page of sorts).

Then you collect their PII and follow up with them to schedule dates and times for the sessions.

There are a ton of best practices that a research team uses when marketing their studies through paid ads (language, guidelines, etc.) to ensure your ad spend achieves the highest possible engagement.

I recommend reading our Guide to Using Social Media to Find Research Participants for more information.

4. Grassroots searches on social platforms

A more time-intensive task is using social media platforms organically to build a list of contacts for outreach.

This might involve scouring LinkedIn and sending connection requests or InMail with more information about your research study. Or it might involve finding profiles and visiting the company website linked to build out a contact list.

Either way, it takes a lot of time and effort. 🕰️

Also, it’s important to note sites like LinkedIn do place caps on the number of new connections you can make as well as InMail, so you may have to look at upgrading your account there if this is the path you want to take.

5. Buying a phone/email list and doing cold outreach

As stated above, this is not recommended. The list itself is one of the cheapest ways to get thousands of contacts instantly, but don’t let the price tag fool you.

You will receive little to no clicks, engagements, or sign-ups through a cold purchased list email.

Similarly, you can use the list for cold phone outreach but will have similar poor conversions.

You may also run the risk of your phone (or email) being added to SPAM/JUNK lists which have even larger ramifications on your business operations.

Recommended Reading: Stop Wasting Money on Purchased Email Customer Lists - Do This Instead

6. Building your own panel

This takes time but is an effective route if you plan on running more research down the road with B2B professionals.

As you build your lists and gather participants for one study, have them opt into future studies with your organization if they meet your quality standards. 

Reaching back out to past participants who already know you and have experience with you is a surefire way to build on your success in B2B market research recruiting. This is why market research companies have a leg up with pre-built panels ready for use.

How to Recruit Business Professionals for B2B Research

Recruiting business professionals for B2B research involves a strategic approach to identify, approach, and engage potential participants.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how our team works with clients to do it effectively:

b2b market research recruitment process - drive research

Step 1. Kickoff work session

Your dedicated project manager will walk through all of the project needs, answer any questions, and touch on the critical highlights and next steps.

Step 2. Timeline/workplan

Post-kickoff, the project manager will highlight the dates and deliverables, including screener sign-off, recruitment launch, when the session(s) occur, and when everything will wrap.

Step 3. Screener development

The project manager can either use a pre-designed screener from your team or create the screener custom based on your notes from the kickoff meeting.

Many times it is easier for the B2B recruitment company to draft this screener to include all of the quality checks, best practices, and question-wording necessary to set you up for success.

Step 4. Screener programming and testing

Once the screener has final approval, the project manager will program the screener into software that can be leveraged for mass outreach to a pool of potential participants.

Step 5. Outreach to collect pre-qualified candidates

Once tested and final, the screener is live and shared with hundreds, if not thousands of participants, depending on your target audience.

Step 6. Review for appropriate quotas, mixes, fit

As qualified candidates respond via the screener, the project manager will review the cases to understand fits and mixes based on your desired quotas.

Step 7. Vetting the participants

This may include rescreening phone calls, checking LinkedIn or social profiles, visiting company websites and directories, etc.

Step 8. Select participants we want on our platform

From there, the project manager will make selections on who to schedule and/or relay some participants back to your team for sign-off so he/she can begin scheduling.

Step 9. Prepare windows of availability for the interviews, focus groups, etc.

The project manager will work with your team (if you are facilitating or moderating) to find out days/windows of availability for interviews or what date/time you want to host the session(s).

Then, the participant accepts the request and books a date and time. From there, invites go out to the qualified participants for the session, and they confirm the time slot.

Step 10. Create a link that can be used by the moderator and the participant for the session

As part of the invite, the description includes a virtual link (e.g., Zoom, Teams, etc.) if you are hosting the sessions virtually. In-person sessions would typically include an address, directions, and any other logistics or parking details for the participants.

Step 11. Automate the reminder process leading up to the session

Leading up to the session, the participant receives multiple reminders, so the session can remain top of mind.

Additionally, our team offers live coverage. If a participant is running late, having tech issues, or isn't on the call at their scheduled time, all a client needs to do is ping our dedicated PM who will reach out to the participant in an attempt to troubleshoot.

This avoids the need to sit in a Zoom for ~20 minutes waiting to see if a participant shows or losing valuable time trying to troubleshoot tech issues.

Step 12. Feedback is provided, and we continue or make tweaks

As the sessions happen, the client has the ability to make adjustments or reassess the process after the first few interviews or focus groups. It may be possible to make some changes or adjustments going forward to further improve the process.

Step 13. Pay incentives for the participants

Finally, the B2B recruitment company pays the participant the agreed-upon reward for their time and feedback

Tips for Recruiting B2B Participants

1. Think about screening criteria, roles, and titles 

In a fluid B2B space with companies of many shapes and sizes, job responsibilities can arguably be more important to nail in a recruit than job role or title.

For example, if you are targeting those who manage accounts payable at businesses that have at least 5 employees, you may think that you should screen for AP clerks or billing titles.

That may be true for companies with 100+ employees, but there is a very good chance a company with 5, 10, or 15 employees has the owner or CEO managing those tasks.

If you screen based on title, in this case, you are limiting yourselves and could make your quota to find candidates at organizations with less than 50 employees very challenging.

2. Be flexible

Creating quotas and screening criteria that push the audiences you are targeting into the 1:1000 or 1:10000 range can create a project that simply may not be feasible. Consider your must-have recruitment criteria and balance that with your nice-to-have criteria.

3. Choose the best methodology for your audience

The type of market research methodology you choose should align with the specific research objectives.

For example, if the goal is to understand in-depth customer pain points, qualitative methods like interviews or focus groups may be more appropriate. 

Going one step further, our market research recruiting company would recommend choosing in-depth interviews over focus groups. 

Interviews offer more flexibility for busy participants to schedule their sessions during different times versus trying to get 4-6+ C-level participants to find a common time.

Individualized interviews also offer more flexibility with rescheduling if something comes up, which happens with busy business professionals.

It is a nice benefit to ensure you hear from enough participants versus putting all of your eggs in one or two baskets with a larger focus group.

Recommended Reading: Qualitative Battle - In-Depth Interviews vs. Focus Groups

4. Prepare a budget

It is extremely useful to understand how much you have budgeted for the recruitment portion of your project.

By understanding the budget, the B2B recruitment agency can work with you to give you the best value for the amount.

Whether it’s broadening screening criteria, adjusting the timeline, or changing the methodology, there are ways to custom-build a recruit to fit nearly any budget.

However, B2B recruiting can be expensive, so as a general rule of thumb, recruits can range from $3,000+ depending on your audience, number of participants, and requirements.

Having this before you begin reaching out for help will save you a ton of work, in the end, comparing bids with different fees, bells and whistles, and potentially different approaches.

The budget helps create an apples-to-apples comparison.

5. Timing is everything (in more ways the one)

How quickly do you need to recruit B2B professionals? Later this week, next week, or are you planning to run these the first 2 weeks of next month?

Your turnaround time requested can often drive the cost (expedited vs. normal process).

Sometimes with challenging audiences, you are at the mercy of the availability of the participants. So recruiting in a few days may be ideal for you, but you may need weeks to recruit the audience.

Also, there are certainly some timing guidelines and rules of thumb to follow (e.g., do not try to interview accountants in March and April), do not try to hold a focus group with benefits administrators during open enrollment, and so on.

6. Find a trusted partner

Even if you want to complete the project in-house, I would encourage you to reach out and gather information and intel from potential firms who do this type of service all the time.

At the very least, they may be able to provide some guidance or know-how to help you in your journey.

7. Be prepared to pay significant incentives

Securing a C-level executive at a Fortune 500 company will be expensive. In order to get that person to participate in a 60-minute interview, it needs to be worth it for them.

It is good to have this expectation going in because if you miss the mark on the incentive, you could be shooting yourself in the foot out of the gate.

Trying to get an executive at that status or a physician with 30+ years of experience treating specific medical conditions for that amount of time and offering $100 is not feasible. Their time is much more valuable, and they know it. 

Paying a fair incentive in B2B recruiting has a much larger impact on the success of the project and makes the recruitment process go more smoothly. Plus, you acquire more top-of-funnel participants to choose from/be selective with, and it limits the project management costs.

As a general rule, plan on incentivizing $2+ per minute of their time.

8. Keep it personalized and short

Don’t overdo it with the project specifics, details, and needs in your outreach. Instead, try to create a short yet engaging bullet point list of the ask while being specifically vague.

It's also important not to tip your hat in terms of what qualifies or disqualifies participants, and don’t write paragraphs of information in the intro or your participants won’t make it past page 1 of the invite or screener.

This all goes back to engaging a very busy audience.

9. Referrals sound nice but rarely work and are not scalable

It is difficult enough to find a very niche B2B professional in this space. So, it may make sense to think they can refer others in the industry or peers to this study to help out.

But, over the years, we have found this to be very challenging.

Especially if the professional is doing this research for the first time, they likely want to vet out the process and ensure they are paid before looping in others before they put their reputation on the line.

They often take time to go through the grapevine, which doesn’t often work with project timelines and rarely generates a lot of participants.

Hiring a B2B Market Research Recruiting Company

If you need help with finding a B2B audience for your market research study, it can be helpful to reach out to firms that specialize in this type of service.

The best companies will work on understanding your needs and eventually put together a custom plan for you through a discovery session.

Out of the gate, it is helpful to share as much information as possible, including:

  • The topic of the research and what you are trying to accomplish
  • Targeted geography for the participants - countries, states, regions, etc.
  • Your target audience, including titles/roles, responsibilities, type(s) of organizations, industries, etc.
  • What type of research you are planning to conduct (e.g., focus groups, interviews, etc.)
  • How long each of those sessions will last, or the total time commitment from the participant
  • Assumed incidence rate (IR) or qualification rate of the audience.
    • For example, if you are targeting HR managers and directors who offer HDHPs as part of their benefits package and you know that only 40% of companies offer HDHP plans, you can assume that the qualification rate for the audience would be 40%.
  • How many participants are you looking to include in your research

Always remember the B2B recruitment company can work with you on these items and help guide you down the right path from their experience.

Contact Our B2B Market Research Company

Drive Research is a B2B recruitment company located in New York. We work with brands across the country and across the world to assist with their B2B recruitment needs including sourcing, recruiting, scheduling, and moderating. Have an upcoming project where you could use support or have a question? Reach out.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner and President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.


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