Recruiting Participants for Market Research [2024 Guide]

recruiting for market research concept

A critically important piece of market research is recruiting reputable, high-quality participants. But why?

The group of people recruited for focus groups, in-depth interviews, in-home usage tests, or other types of market research methods represents a much larger target audience that a company or brand is trying to reach.

To provide some guidance, this ultimate guide offers our greatest thinking about all elements of qualitative recruiting: best practices, common mistakes, step-by-step processes, real-world case studies, and more.

Article Contents 📝

  1. What is Participant Recruitment?
  2. Types of Market Research Methods That Need Participants
  3. Ways to Recruit Participants for a Research Study
  4. Process of Recruiting People for Market Research
  5. Market Research Recruiting Best Practices
  6. Mistakes to Avoid When Recruiting Participants for Research
  7. Benefits of Hiring a Qualitative Research Recruitment Agency
  8. Examples of Recruiting Participants for Research

Recruiting participants for research can be the most challenging aspect of a study. Let us help! Contact our team by completing an online contact form or send us an email at [email protected].

What is Participant Recruitment?

First things first, let’s start this ultimate guide with a basic definition.

Definition of Participant Recruitment 
Qualitative recruiting is the process of finding, screening, and scheduling suitable candidates to participate in qualitative market research studies.

Participant recruitment services typically work in conjunction with or as a part of a full-service market research firm like Drive Research.

However, because recruiting participants for market research can be the most resource-intensive part of a study, companies can work with market research companies to solely manage recruitment.

Factors that determine how easy or hard it is to find people to participate include:

  • Audience criteria (the more narrow and hard-to-reach your audience is, the harder it will be to recruit)
  • Number of participants (the more people you need to participate, the harder it will be to fulfill)
  • Type of market research (it is easier to recruit for an online focus group than it is to recruit for in-person focus groups)
  • Length of market research (the more time-intensive the market research, the fewer people will want to participate)

Each market research study is a case-by-case scenario. However, working with a qualitative recruiting company can help ease most challenges associated with finding high-quality market research participants. 

💡The Key Takeaway: Participant recruitment involves sourcing, screening, and scheduling people for market research studies such as focus groups and in-depth interviews. Many factors go into whether recruiting participants for market research will be easy or hard to achieve.

Types of Market Research That Need Participants

Every market research study depends on some type of qualitative or quantitative recruiting.

Whether it is a customer survey or a focus group, the market research industry would not exist without willing research participants. 

For the sake of this ultimate guide, we’ll focus on popular qualitative research methods that rely on participant recruitment.

For a more in-depth look, I recommend reading our blog post Common Types of Qualitative Research.

Focus Groups 💬

A focus group is when a selected group of people join in a discussion together about a brand, product, or service. 

The group is led by a trained moderator who asks pre-determined questions to encourage conversations between participants.

Without the experience of a certified moderator, you may inject bias or not obtain the feedback you need if you cannot control the room.

In most instances, the sponsor of the focus group will listen to the group discussion in a separate room. This setup is most commonly achieved with a double-way mirror at a focus group facility

Additionally, this type of qualitative market research can be completed virtually via remote focus groups.

Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Online Focus Groups.

focus group facility at Drive Research

Phone Interviews ☎️

Phone interviews focus on gathering deeper feedback than more passive online or email surveys.

It involves two-way active communication between a participant and a trained interviewer. 

The interviewer asks predetermined questions but also probes the participant for more feedback when needed. The conversation often lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Concept Testing 🔴🔵

Concept testing is a type of market research that can fall under both qualitative and quantitative categories.

In either instance it allows consumers to test different components of a brand, product, or service. 

Why does concept testing require recruiting participants? Here is a real-world example from our market research company. 

Drive Research partnered with a soda brand to conduct new product testing.

Based on targeted demographics, we recruited participants to go to a local grocery store, purchase the soda, and drink the new product.

The participants then provided their feedback through various online surveys.  

To learn full details of this qualitative recruitment project, read How to Conduct a Beverage Development Market Research Study.

In-Home Usage Tests 🏠

An in-home usage test or IHUT is a popular qualitative market research method for consumer product research.

Recruited participants are mailed a product to guessed their homes. 

Drive Research has completed several IHUT recruitment projects where consumers share their feedback on cleaning products, skincare products, food, and more.

Interested in learning more about this type of research? Read our Ultimate Guide to In-Home Usage Tests.

💡The Key Takeaway: There are many forms of qualitative research that depend on quality participants. To name a few, focus groups, concept testing, and IHUTs all need market research participants.

Ways to Recruit Participants for a Research Study

One of the most difficult parts of qualitative market research is recruiting tough-to-find participants. Whether you're looking for recruits in New York City or Mobile, Alabama, the challenge is the same.

How does our qualitative recruiting firm find participants for our qualitative market research projects?

Drive Research leverages several pools and resources to reach various types of audiences including:

  • Our in-house panel
  • Paid social media 
  • Third-Party Panels
  • Customer or Prospect Lists

Read more about each type of qualitative research recruitment method in the sections below.

Our In-House Panel 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♂️

The Drive Research panel has been built up through participants from past market research studies with our company. These participants are from a variety of geographies across the country. 

The people in our panel are participants from previous studies on fun topics, serious topics, specific industries, specific types of products or services, and even those who haven't participated in market research yet but want to.

Let's just say the variety of topics and subject matters provides our market research firm access to a number of diverse profiles and participants for future market research.

This provides our clients with a pool of willing and ready-to-go participants for their qualitative market research projects and recruits.

Additionally, our in-house panel allows our team to recruit quality and reliable participants in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Recommended Reading: Benefits of Using a Third-Party Panel

Paid Social Media 📱

With paid social media ads you have the ability to target participants on Facebook (and other platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn) by a wide variety of demographics, behaviors, and interests.

Facebook collects a mountain of data and information on its users to...? You guessed it. Sell it to advertisers for targeting.

Or in our case, selling it to qualitative market research recruitment firms to find participants for projects.

Either way, it's an excellent source to use for market research recruiting. In fact, this method often sources research participants better than a panel depending on the type of qualitative study. 

For an in-depth look at how Drive Research utilizes paid social media, read [Ultimate Guide] How to Use Social Media to Find Research Participants.

Or watch our short video below!

Make sure you find a firm that knows what they are doing. It's the best chance to achieve the highest engagement that gets you the ROI you deserve. 

Don't work with a market research recruitment firm that just throws up a dull post that will get you half of the qualified participants you could have gotten from a professional.

Here is how the process works when partnering with our team for social media recruitment.

social media recruiting process with drive research

Third-Party Panels 🖧

There are thousands of third-party market research panels across the country. Our team has partnered with various panel companies on recruitment projects.

We know first-hand what companies provide high-quality participants, what companies provide competitive pricing, and what companies have a wide range of demographics.

Having access to these participants allows our team to recruit large groups of people more quickly and easily.

Whether you are looking for a general population of consumers or niche, difficult-to-reach audiences, chances are our team can find them via third-party panels.

Customer or Prospect Lists 📧

Lastly, our market research company often works with organizations that have a CRM of past, current, and potential customers that they’d like our team to recruit from.

Doing so can make qualitative research less expensive being that there is already a qualified list of people to schedule.

Whether it is a customer focus group or prospect in-depth interviews, a pre-built list can be a big advantage when qualitative recruiting.

💡The Key Takeaway: When recruiting participants for market research there are several different sampling methods. For example, our market research company utilizes our in-house panel, third-party panels, and paid social media ads.

Process of Recruiting People for Market Research

Step #1. Contact a Qualitative Recruiting Firm 👋

First things first, you have to contact a market company like Drive Research to learn more about their services and recruitment process.

When reaching out to different agencies it’s helpful to include key information about your project.

Include recruiting criteria and objectives such as:

  • The type of qualitative research (focus groups, phone surveys, in-depth interviews, etc.).
  • The number of participants you’d like recruited.
  • The length of the market research study.
  • The timeline for when you need participants recruited.
  • The incidence rate or percentage of the sample that would qualify for the study from the general population. 
  • Estimated project budget.

It’s okay if you don’t have every detail sorted out just yet. The best recruitment firms will offer their expert recommendations for what is possible.

Step #2. Make it Official with a Signed Proposal ✍️

After choosing your choice of vendor, it’s time to sign on the dotted line.

The qualitative market research company will compose a quick document outlining important details of the recruitment project. 

Oftentimes, Drive Research includes the details discussed in initial conversations with our clients including the timeline, recruitment approach, costs, and more.

Have a bigger project in mind and need to create a market research request for a proposal? We have the perfect RFP template for you. 

market research rfp template

Step #3. Attend a Qualitative Recruit Kickoff Meeting 🏈

With every market research project, our team hosts a kickoff meeting with project stakeholders.

Doing so assures both parties are on the same page regarding targeting criteria, processes, and responsibilities.

Many times conversations in a kickoff meeting help develop the online recruitment screener. This leads me to the next step…

Step #4. Design a Recruitment Screener Survey 🎨

A screener survey is one of the most important steps in recruiting qualified participants for qualitative research.

It is an online questionnaire used to source participants quickly and cost-effectively. 

For example, say Burger King wants to conduct a focus group to understand why some consumers choose McDonald's over their fast food restaurant. 

Burger King hosts two focus groups: 

  • Focus Group A: Burger King loyalists 
  • Focus Group B: McDonald's loyalists 

The market research partner designs a recruitment screener survey to filter for participants that only eat at one of the fast-food restaurants, the targeted age range, and other qualifying criteria. 

Based on the criteria set forth by the client, Drive Research writes, designs, and programs the recruitment screener before collecting a sample of participants. 

Interested in learning more about screener surveys? Read our blog post What is a Recruitment Screener?

Step #5. Collect a Sample of Qualified Participants ☑️

Once the recruitment screener is programmed and tested by our team of market research professionals, we are ready to launch.

Depending on the target audience and type of market research, our team will field surveys through third-party panels or paid social media ads. 

As survey responses start to come in, our team begins to build an auto-generated list of qualified candidates to follow up with by phone. 

This approach allows us to prioritize follow-up calls on the BEST participants. We do not employ the first-come first-fill approach that many traditional recruitment agencies employ.

Here is a client testimonial that speaks to how our market research recruiting company is different from other agencies.

AWS Customer Testimonial for Drive Research

Step #6. Make Follow-Up Phone Calls 📞

After a decent pool of potential participants has been formed from the survey, the recruitment team starts calling those who met the major qualifiers in the online screener. 

On these phone calls, the qualitative research recruiters are looking for two key components from the participants.

  1. First, the interviewer will verify that the participant meets any additional qualifying criteria that were not asked in the initial screener.
  2. Second, the interviewer must make sure the respondent is an overall good fit for qualitative research.

Typically, this is done by asking open-ended questions and looking for well-thought-out and articulate answers.

It is easier to make this call over the phone rather than just relying on answers provided online. People have a harder time being dishonest once a relationship has been established.

By picking up the phone and calling potential participants, our qualitative market research company recommends taking this time to share with participants what they can expect for the group discussion and answer any questions.

The Benefit to You
This also helps with establishing an initial relationship with the focus group participants, which ultimately builds trust, accountability, and a higher show rate on the day of the qualitative research.

Step #7. Schedule Participants for the Qualitative Study 📆

If the recruitment team believes someone would make a great fit for the study based on their responses to the screener and phone call, they are then scheduled for the study.

Recruited participants receive a calendar invitation for the day and time of the study as well as other important information such as the address of the focus group facility.

This audience must respond “Yes” to the calendar invitation before they are recognized as a fully recruited participant. 

Step #8. Send Various Reminder Messages 📤

Our communication with participants doesn’t end there. Drive Research has a track record of achieving perfect show rates for qualitative market research studies.

This is largely part of the various communication touchpoints we establish before the day of the study.

Our qualitative research recruiting agency recommends the following steps:

  • Scheduling reminder phone calls the week before the study
  • Sending a reminder text a few days before the study
  • Sending an additional reminder text on the day of the study

With each outreach, our recruiters are building stronger relationships with participants. Doing so validates the integrity of the market research.

Additionally, participants feel bad bailing on a focus group or phone interview last minute after confirming their availability countless times.

step-by-step recruitment process

Step #9. Complete the Qualitative Study 🎉

Drive Research is a full-service market research company. This means we extend various services far past just recruiting participants for qualitative research. 

If needed, our team offers various services such as designing a moderator’s guide, moderator or interviewers, facility rental, recordings, reporting, and more.

Whether you just need help finding qualified participants or you need end-to-end project management, 

Drive Research can help. We will be as involved in the market research project as you would like us to be.

💡The Key Takeaway: The steps involved in recruiting participants for market research include a kickoff meeting, designing the recruitment screener, collecting a sample of qualified people, making follow-up phone calls to confirm eligibility, and scheduling participants.

Market Research Recruiting Best Practices

Who better to share insider tips on how to find quality participants for a market research project than a qualitative and quantitative recruitment firm? 

Watch a short video where we explain common recruitment practices by Drive Research. 

Or keep scrolling, to read our expert recommendations.

Tip #1. Use a Screener Survey 📊

Our market research firm, which specializes in qualitative and quantitative recruitment, uses screener surveys as an initial criteria check when finding research participants. 

Oftentimes, we are presented with clients who have certain criteria or demographics of people who must match their target audience and customer personas.

Remind me. What is a screener survey?

A screener survey is a series of qualifying questions to determine if the respondent matches specific criteria to further participate in a qualitative or quantitative research study.

Popular forms of criteria for which Drive Research screens for is in relation to age, gender, zip code, income, and other key demographics. 

However, potential participants for a research study can also be targeted by more specific criteria such as cell phone provider, preference of music, number of children, and so on.

The Benefit to You
By using a screener survey when recruiting for your qualitative research study, you are able to pre-recruit a large sample of potentially qualified people.
This saves time, money, and resources from dialing through hundreds of phone numbers to find who you’re looking for.

Tip #2: Keep the Screener Short and Sweet 🍬

A recruitment screener should be short and straight to the point.

Remember the screener is not the time nor place to collect every bit of information that you need to know about the participant.

When developing an initial online screener, it is important to keep the respondent experience top of mind by keeping it short and simple. 

Make it quick. Make it easy.

A respondent does not want to spend their time completing a long survey to possibly qualify for a focus group. 

Instead, ask a few, but more carefully thought-out questions that cover major qualifying or disqualifying factors.

As a result, you’ll have a higher completion rate and more possible qualified participants to follow up with.

If needed, our team can always follow up on the phone screener to collect more information on the non-critical questions.

Tip #3. Create a Sense of Urgency 💨

Regardless if you are recruiting for a market research study that is a month for now, or one week away it is best to create a sense of urgency with your qualitative recruitment tactics.

Use phrases such as, “Act Now!” or “Last Chance!” or “Don’t Miss Out!” within your social media or email promotion.

By doing so, respondents are less likely to get distracted from clicking the link to complete the survey or fill out the form.

There is no, “Oh, I’ll do this later” mentality because respondents assume there is no “later.”

you need to crate more urgency meme

Tip #4. Create a Mini-Relationship with Participants Before the Study 🤝

Cancellations and no-shows can be so frustrating.

If you have recruited 10 people for a focus group and only 5 people show up, this impacts the results and level of feedback dramatically.

A way to combat this is by creating a mini relationship with potential research participants.

Our recruitment firm follows a thorough process for finding qualified participants. This involves emails, phone calls, calendar invitations, and text message reminders.

Each time a recruited research participant interacts with Drive Research, they are becoming more and more familiar with our brand.

Participants feel as though our team is counting on them and don’t want to let us down by bailing on the research study last minute.

Tip #5. Offer a Reward or Incentive for Research Participants 💸

Offering a reward or incentive for participating in a market research study is vital in obtaining a close-to-perfect show rate for qualitative research and a higher response rate for quantitative research.

Why should you offer a reward or incentive?

Very rarely do people offer their time and quality feedback for free.

Research participants need something to drive interest and intrigue in order to sign up to participate in a study.

Common rewards or incentives for research participants can be as simple as cash, gift cards, or a grand prize raffle.

The amount of the reward can vary based on each project.

What impacts the amount to offer for an incentive?

  • How long the study or survey will take.
  • How many phases of the study (an online survey + video diary submission + an interview).
  • Travel time to a research facility for in-person studies.
  • Time of the study (during work hours, after work hours, on weekends).
  • How quickly the study needs to be completed.

It is also important to consider who it is you are targeting to participate in a research study.

For example, a $50 reward will seem like a high stipend to a high school student, but maybe not to the parent of the high school student. 

It all depends on who it is you want to participate in your research study. Of course in general, the higher the reward, the easier it is to recruit participants.

Need more direction on market research incentives? Read results from our recent survey that shows what reward is most appealing to respondents.

Tip #6. Start With an Online Recruitment Approach First 🌐

Innovation is all around us in market research. Recruiting is no longer limited to random digit dialing by phone, which is a costly and lengthy process.

Phone recruitment is extremely expensive and can take weeks to build a pool of interested participants.

In 2021, market research recruitment needs to be thought of in terms of hours or days, not weeks or months. Clients want to work with a market research recruitment firm that is quick.

There are several different platforms you can use for market research recruiting. This could range from online advertising, online panels, social media advertising, etc.

No matter what method is used, it’s critical to understand the rules and guidelines for each method.

innovation meme

Tip #7. Cast a Wider Net 🥅

It’s important not to limit yourself when recruiting participants for market research. Oftentimes, casting a wide net pays off to start instead of limiting yourself to a very small pool. 

Consider widening the market area or limiting the qualifications or characteristics.

Typically, casting a wide net pays off because it makes the recruit quicker and builds momentum.

Since there are exceptions to every rule, there are times when organizations need to hunt for those people with very specific characteristics to participate in research.

Understandably, recruitment budgets are higher and researchers develop creative strategies to reach recruits.

In short, find ways to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

Tip #8. Set the Expectations for Qualitative Research Early on 🌅

The participant should be completely aware of everything that is expected of them for the focus group. 

Especially if the study is in-person, participants should know…

  • Where the focus group facility is located
  • When they need to arrive
  • How long the group discussion will last

Don’t spring anything on participants last minute. 

For example, if there are any tasks that are required to be completed before the qualitative study, the participant should be made aware of this before they agree to participate, not the day before or the morning of.

Tip #9. Partner with a Recruitment Firm 🧑‍💼

We couldn't help ourselves.

A recruitment firm such as Drive Research has a team of skilled qualitative recruiters who know exactly what it takes to find even the toughest of target audiences.

A market research recruitment company has worked with clients of many different industries to understand how each is different and what is necessary to recruit all types of demographics. 

For example, recruiting participants for a bank and credit union member satisfaction survey is much different than finding participants for a restaurant focus group.

Even though a market research firm may specialize in executing various types of studies such as focus groups, surveys, and executive interviews does not mean you need to hire the research firm for all aspects of the study.

The Benefit to You
Typically, a market research firm will offer individualized recruitment services to find research participants to then pass along to your team to administer the study. 
It is one less step in the market research process that falls on your team who likely already have a full plate.

Drive Research has many tricks and tips, like these ones, up our sleeves to make sure all research projects are successful!

💡The Key Takeaway: Based on our years of experience recruiting participants for market research, we know all of the best tips and tricks. A few of our favorite best practices are using a screener survey, building a rapport with participants, and setting clear expectations.

Mistakes to Avoid When Recruiting Participants for Research

Some market research recruits can be more challenging than others. 

Finding and convincing participants to take time out of their evening to join an hour Zoom call or to travel to a facility is no easy task. It has to be worth it for them. 

With that being said, there are a few easily avoidable mistakes that can cause recruiting participants for research to be more difficult than it needs to be. 

Let me share with you 5 of these mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Creating a Long Screener 📏

Keeping the point-of-view of the participant is crucial here. Participants are willing to help, offer feedback, and take a survey if it is short and engaging. 

No one wants to take a 20-minute phone call, answer a 50-question online survey, or participate in another form of an over-bearing questionnaire.

Prioritize your must-ask questions and save those nice-to-ask questions for the qualitative research itself. 

Your first goal is to actually find and secure participants. If your online screener is too long or boring, you'll shoot yourself in the foot from a recruitment standpoint.

Mistake #2: Creating Difficult Quotas 🔎

Searching for left-handed, blue-eyed, 18 to 20-year-old CEOs who are married, surf, and also garden on a daily basis? 

Keep searching. 

woman searching meme

To be clear, it's important to create quotas so the recruit can reflect your target audience.

Quotas can also be helpful to have a balance of key demographics such as age, gender, and ethnicity. 

But don't go overboard! 

Too many quotas create expectations that may not be reachable and sets your project up for failure.

Ask a few of the key quota questions and be flexible with demographics and you'll always ensure your groups are fully recruited. 

Remember it is qualitative research, not quantitative. The idea is to explore, not measure. 

Save your statistical reliability and audience breakdowns for your next online survey instead.

Mistake #3: Hosting a Daytime Group for B2B Participants 👔

Again, view your focus group or in-depth interviews from the perspective of the participant. 

Are they willing to participate in a focus group for 2-hours and earn $150? Likely. 

Are they willing to do this at 10:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m.? Probably not.

With the vast majority of the general population having a 9 to 5 job, asking the boss to take the morning or afternoon off could prove difficult.

This creates another barrier and makes your market research that much more difficult to recruit for. 

Try to plan your qualitative studies around the respondents' schedules.

For instance, our market research recommends hosting focus groups beginning at 5:30 p.m. or later. 

You don't want to work late, but you have to make sacrifices when it comes to qualitative recruitment.

10:00 a.m. might work best for you but what if no one signs up to participate in the research?

Mistake #4: Not Paying Rewards Immediately 💰

Sensing a theme here? Respondent perspective. It's paramount in market research. Without people willing to participate and share their time, our industry would not exist. 

A simple tip here is to pay the rewards at the time of the market research.

In the case of in-person focus groups, after it concludes participants should be paid $75, $100, or $250 then and there.

The same goes for remote market research studies. It is important to pay rewards within 24 hours of a phone interview or online focus group. 

Delaying this payment creates skepticism and dissatisfaction. Once a few days or a week pass participants begin to think if they will ever receive a reward. 

This does not reflect well on the sponsor or the market research recruitment company. Pay these immediately.


Mistake #5: Not Allowing Enough Time for Recruiting ⌛

Qualitative recruiting takes time, particularly if you have some difficult quotas or niche participants you want to reach. 

As the old saying goes "Rome was not built in a day" and neither is a good market research recruit.

Finding participants for qualitative research takes time. It requires refinement, communication with project stakeholders, adjustments, and hard work. 

Forcing this to be done in a short amount of time (days or a week) creates issues.

You'll either have to accept less than optimal participants or bend on your recruitment criteria to fill your groups. 

Choose that or accept the fact you might only have mini-groups of 4 or 5 people instead of 10 to 12.

💡The Key Takeaway: There are many mistakes that can occur through the process of recruiting participants for market research that can impact data quality. Talk through these common mistakes with your market research recruitment team, before jumping in.

Benefits of Hiring a Market Research Recruitment Agency

A qualitative research recruitment company understands the value of finding qualified participants more than anyone else.

Companies who recruit for market research are experts in finding justified, quality participants to join a study to uncover key business action items.

Are you a hotel looking to find parents of young children to understand if amenities such as free parking or free breakfast drive their decision-making? 

Or maybe you are a financial institution looking to speak to recent home buyers to learn how they chose a bank or credit union for their home mortgage loan?

No matter what industry you are working in or what demographic you are trying to reach, a qualitative recruiting agency is the best option for finding participants in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Here are just a few of the many advantages you’ll uncover from working with a third party.

Benefit #1: Save Time and Money 🤑

Some B2B or B2C businesses are tricked by the promise of DIY market research and choose not to hire a recruitment company. The problem? 

Without having experience in qualitative recruitment, these organizations are shooting in the dark to find the people they are hoping will join their qualitative research study.

Inevitably, DIY market researchers end up spending more time, resources, and money trying to find qualified participants.

A qualitative research recruitment firm has the experience and knowledge to know what does and does not work.

It is their sole purpose to recruit participants in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Think about it this way. You buy a box of hair dye from the store thinking it will save you money compared to a professional hairdresser. 

However, now your blonde hair looks orange and uneven. Time for a visit to the salon to spend even more time and money to fix this mess.

To ensure your market research project is most successful, leave the recruiting to the professionals.

If you're still considering conducting market research in-house, watch this video first.

Benefit #2: Find Participants More Quickly 🏃‍♀️

Data collected from a focus group is only as strong as the participants recruited for the group discussion. 

It is important to have the best representation of your target demographic in a qualitative research study to answer your key business questions in order to make future profitable decisions.

By partnering with a company that specializes in qualitative and quantitative recruitment, you have the peace of mind of finding these qualified participants.

One step further, a third party will deliver this promise fast. 

The key factor here is digital outreach. As opposed to other traditional recruitment methods, look for a company that places an emphasis on online recruitment rather than dialing random phone numbers.

Talk about finding a needle in a haystack.

Our qualitative recruitment company, for example, has an impressive pool of extremely qualified and targeted participants that can be recruited within days of launching fieldwork.

Benefit #3: Know Exactly Where to Source the Sample of Participants 💡

As a full-service market research company, we cannot stress this enough – participants drive the effectiveness and the results of the research. 

With that being said, it is not always easy to track down the perfect group of research participants.

And even when you do, they are not always willing to participate in an hour-long study.

By partnering with a market research company that specializes in qualitative recruiting, you are increasing those odds of finding exactly who you want to include and who you want to answer these key business objectives.

For example, a new restaurant is conducting focus group research to understand what factors drive millennials in choosing a place to eat.

The restaurant chooses to hire a focus group recruiting firm to find participants who are:

  • A mix of males and females
  • Live in the area
  • Were born between 1981 and 1996

With these criteria in mind, the focus group recruitment company chooses to run paid social advertising on social media platforms in which millennials are most present.

The imagery and text of the social advertisements are customized to these audiences to increase eyeballs and link clicks.

As the social advertising campaign continues, the focus group recruitment company oversees its progress and makes any changes to ensure the best quality candidates are served the ads.

Within days, the focus group company has targeted the exact group of individuals to participate in the restaurant market research.

💡The Key Takeaway: The benefits of hiring a market research company for participant recruitment include saving time and money, finding participants quickly, and choosing the best sampling method.

Examples of Recruiting Participants for Research


Example #1: Focus Groups

Overview of the Focus Group Recruiting Study

A research company hired Drive Research to help conduct four focus groups in Syracuse, NY. 

The focus groups lasted an hour and 45 minutes. They were held on two consecutive evenings at 5 p.m. and again at 6:45 p.m. 

Participants received a $125 stipend processed by the client as a thank-you for the feedback and time to attend the focus groups.

The four focus groups were broken down as follows:

  • Two female groups of college juniors and seniors
  • One male group of college juniors and seniors
  • One male group of college freshmen and rising sophomores

Details of the Participants

Drive Research recruited 12 participants per focus group in order to sit 10. 

The screening criteria to find participants for the focus group included

  • Students must have lived at least 1 year in a college dorm.
  • The groups have to include a mix of schools across New York State including small, large, private, public, urban, and rural, etc. 
  • Drive Research also tracked respondents to recruit a mix of ethnicities.

Details of the Focus Group Facility 

The focus groups were hosted at our focus group facility in Syracuse, NY. 

The focus group facility offers several benefits:

  • Convenient access to two major highways
  • Nearby hotel and food accommodations
  • Ample free on-site parking just outside the entrance
  • Located only minutes from the airport, downtown Syracuse, and Destiny USA - the nation’s 7th largest shopping mall.

As an additional benefit, Drive Research is centrally located just north of the city of Syracuse, in Onondaga County.

It is directly located off Route 81 and the NYS Thruway making for easy client and participant access. 

Additionally. the focus group facility is just minutes away from several colleges and universities.

It is centrally located in New York State giving plenty of opportunities to acquire a mix of college students who attend New York State schools.

Recruiting Participants for the College Focus Groups

Drive Research developed the screener based on the client-provided criteria. 

The process to recruit participants for the client included:

  • Targeted email lists of panel participants living in the target markets.
  • Paid randomized social media ads to the targeted audience.

Drive Research developed an online survey of questions to pre-screen the audience through invitations. 

Those who qualify received a re-screening and confirmation call to ask additional questions. 

From there, participants received a confirmation email asking them to reply back “yes”, a calendar invitation, a confirmation call 24 to 48 hours before the focus group, and a reminder text the day of the session.

Here's a snapshot of the Drive Research recruiting process:

  • Develop the recruitment screener
  • Place re-screening phone calls
  • Send confirmation email
  • Place a reminder phone call
  • Send reminder text

Outcomes of Recruiting Participants for Focus Groups

The outcome and findings from the focus group remain confidential to the client.

Our team fully recruited all 4 focus groups. In fact, we had a 97% show rate which, not to toot our own horns, is extremely high.

At the end of the process, the client received the following:

  • High-quality video recordings of the focus groups
  • High-quality digitally recorded audio files
  • Transcripts of the focus groups
  • Learn more about how to get started with focus groups

Example #1: In-Home Usage Test

An in-home usage test (IHUT) is one of the best ways to ask a typical or potential customer to try and give feedback on a product or service. 

Oftentimes, these studies begin with recruiting participants for the IHUT.

Once a list of qualified and committed participants has been gathered, all are sent detailed instructions and the product or service that needs to be tested.

One of the trickiest parts of an IHUT is recruiting participants. There are typically several qualifying criteria and quotas that need to be met in recruitment. 

Below, we share how our market research company recruited participants for an in-home usage test with several qualifying criteria and quotas.

Objectives of the IHUT Recruitment

Drive Research was hired by a client to complete an IHUT product testing recruitment project. 

The client tested a household cleaning product across U.S. households. 

The respondent was shipped a cleaning product required to complete a series of tasks such as: 

  • Downloading an app
  • Registering an account
  • Filling out an introduction form (URL)
  • Using the product over the course of 4 to 6 weeks

Periodically, respondents were prompted to participate in short 10-question surveys triggered by product usage and when they opened the app on a weekly basis.

Approach to Finding Participants for the IHUT

To address the objectives at hand, Drive Research handled the recruitment for these in-home usage tests. 

First, our qualitative recruiting company utilized an online screener to find qualified participants for the study. We managed the design and programming for the recruitment screener.

Once the survey was finalized, our team targeted those who fell within the targeted demographics for the project and sent randomized invites to complete the screener via email.

Additionally, those who qualified for the project received a re-screening and confirmation call. 

During this call, participants were asked to confirm answers to core qualification criteria and confirm all contact information was correct.

Qualifying quotas for participation in the IHUTs included:

  • Living within the United States
  • Approximate split of 80% female and 20% male
  • Specific race and ethnicity quotas
  • Primary shopper for household cleaning products
  • Use household cleaning products at least twice a month
  • Use a specific brand of cleaning products
  • Own a smartphone (iPhone or Android)
  • Must leave Bluetooth enabled throughout the testing period

Outcomes of Recruiting Participants for IHUTs

The goal was to have 150 testers at the end of the 4 to 6-week project. The client requested a total of 180 recruits to account for any drop-offs or cancellations during the project.

Drive Research qualified, re-screened, and confirmed 192 participants for this IHUT project. Better yet, our IHUT recruitment company completed this recruit roughly 1 week ahead of schedule. 

Although this was the end of contact between Drive Research and the recruited participants, we recommended the client stayed engaged with the participants.

It was important for the client to continue to send reminders and updates throughout the study. 

It was also recommended the client include clear, step-by-step instructions for the IHUT in the shipment as well as a contact for participants to reach out to if they have any questions.

Example #3: In-Depth Interviews

Objectives of the IDI Recruitment Project

While Drive Research often partners with organizations on full-service market research projects, this client requested our qualitative recruitment services specifically. 

The Drive Research role was to solely recruit individuals for the qualitative in-depth interviews (IDIs). The agency needed a total of 18 individuals to participate in follow-up phone conversations. 

Although the details of the conversation were not shared with our qualitative recruitment team, the conversation centered around the knowledge and usage of shelf-edge labeling systems.

The interviews were finalized, moderated, transcribed, analyzed, and reported on by the client.

Approach to Finding Participants for Executive Interviews

Our qualitative market research firm targeted individuals working in management and decision-making roles within operations in the retail industry.

These respondents were screened to ensure they had working knowledge or purchase responsibility for shelf-edge labeling systems. Additionally, a specific company was excluded from the qualitative recruit. 

It was expected that 3 in 4 professionals (or more) use this technology. This was defined as the incidence rate (IR).

Like all of our recruitment studies, a short online screener was developed to source qualified participants. 

The recruitment screener included a few questions to confirm the following details:

  • The respondent’s job title 
  • Knowledge of shelf-edge labeling systems
  • Decision-making responsibility
  • Place of employment 
  • Contact information
  • A day of week and time of day for a telephone interview

Drive Research utilized a network of potential research participants who fit the profile of the client.

Outcomes of Recruiting Participants for Executive Interviews 

The marketing and communications company was provided a list of 18 sign-ups in Excel, plus several alternates in case of last-minute dropouts. 

Although the audience proved to be particularly niche, Drive Research did recruit all 18 participants within 3 days of launch. This included a trial soft launch over a 24-hour period to test the viability of this recruit.

An honorarium of $150 was offered for these 18 interviews. The physical address of the participants was collected at the conclusion of the 30 to 45-minute phone interview so the client could process mail payments.

Contact Us to Recruit Market Research Participants

Drive Research is a national qualitative recruiting firm located in Upstate New York. Our team recruits participants for qualitative market research projects across the country. 

This includes focus groups, executive interviews, in-home usage testing, user experience interviews, and other types of market research studies.

Questions about how our qualitative recruiting agency can help you on your next market research project? Contact us.

  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

emily carroll about the author

Emily Rodgers

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Manager. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.

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Qualitative Recruiting Market Research Case Studies