Recruiting Highly-Qualified Participants for Market Research

Survey_Sample_Recruitment.jpgOne of the most expensive and critical components of market research is the recruitment of participants. In other words, who will participate in the market research study? In the market research business, determining who to sample and how many to include are key decisions directly affecting the validity and applicability of a study’s findings.  Once that decision is made, it’s often a challenge to create a diverse pool of participants.

Are you looking for a representative sample of people in a geographic region or do you need something more specific, like a small subset of the population who use a certain product or engage in certain behaviors? The more targeted the audience, the more challenging and expensive the study is at the recruitment stage.

Locating Uniquely-Qualified Participants

Recently, I was tasked with recruiting a set of individuals who had PhDs and conducted medical research in major universities across the United States. Naturally, these doctors are very busy and have limited time to participate in 45-minute individual phone interviews. We knew the recruitment would be a challenge.

In my case, the most obvious place to start looking for specific participants was to Google their names and their last known universities. I found several universities publish the doctors’ contact information or included general e-mail addresses. Some universities even included phone numbers.

However, in many cases, these searches were not enough to locate all of the respondents needed to complete the study, so I had to get creative. One way I was able to obtain contact information was by searching for papers about key medical research published under the doctors’ names. This way, I was able to find some participants who had moved on to new medical facilities or government agencies. Often, these papers would include current email addresses or employers.

Establishing Trust Leads to Referrals

Especially when your potential sample population is small, it’s important that the participants have a good experience with the research process. For instance, for highly-qualified respondents like doctors, there is generally compensation involved for their participation. In order to build trust and credibility, we pay our participants immediately following quality interviews. This lets our respondents know we are a legitimate research firm and makes them feel comfortable recruiting on our behalf, which, in turn, helps us meet our sample goal.

In the PhD example, several researchers shared my contact information with their fellow colleagues and even with colleagues at competing universities. They felt comfortable referring us because we had demonstrated that, as a market research firm, we could be trusted and that their industry would gain from our market research through improved products.

Each project provides a variety of challenges in obtaining the sample goal, and no two projects have had a “one size fits all” approach that works for recruiting uniquely-qualified respondents. These are just a few ideas that worked for me. Overall, it’s important to establish a reputable brand and create a great participant experience so people feel comfortable allowing you into “their space.”

Vernon Research Group has a long history of helping companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies understand their customers, members and stakeholders. Contact us today if you’d like to discuss how market research can help you strategize for greater success. For more information about how market research can improve lead generation, customer acquisition and retention, you can download our free eBook, Using Market Research to Improve Lead Generation.