Challenges and best practices for recruiting B2B participants in user research

June 7, 2024

Recruiting participants that accurately fit the desired profile is essential for obtaining relevant and insightful results in UX research. In Business-to-Business (B2B) recruitment, this becomes even more critical. Unlike Business-to-Consumer (B2C) research, in which participants are often everyday users, B2B research demands participants with specific roles, expertise, and industry experience. These participants provide insightful feedback to allow product teams make informed design decisions and product development.

This article explores the intricacies of B2B participant recruitment by understanding the different profiles in B2C and B2B, examining the distinctive characteristics of B2B participants, and highlighting the challenges and potential solutions involved in B2B recruiting.

To learn more about our other articles on participant recruiting, see below:

Deciding whether you need B2C or B2B participants

Before we get into details about B2B participant recruitment, let’s first identify the key differences between B2C and B2B, and understand which type of participants you need.

B2C vs. B2B participant recruiting

In UX research, participant recruitment can be broadly divided into two categories: Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B).

  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C): B2C recruitment focuses on engaging everyday consumers who use products and services in their personal lives. These participants are typically easier to find and recruit, as they represent a broad and diverse demographic.
  • Business-to-Business (B2B): B2B recruitment involves engaging professionals who use products and services in a business context. These participants are often harder to reach due to their specialized roles, busy schedules, and the specific nature of their work environments. B2B participants are typically selected based on their professional expertise, industry experience, and specific job functions.

Recruit quality B2C and B2B participants in less than 30 minutes with Hubble

Streamline your research by building studies and recruiting participants in a single tool

Understanding the different profiles for B2C and B2B

As you list out research objectives and study details, it is important to identify key attributes of your desired participant pool. Below are some main characteristics you can capture with each type of participant:

B2C Profiles

  • Demographic information: (Demographic information, however, don’t often tell much about your participant profile).
    • Age range
    • Gender
    • Income level
    • Occupation (e.g., Employment status)
    • Geography (e.g., Region, urban vs. rural)
  • Behavior:
    • Purchasing habits and patterns (e.g., Frequent buyers, occasional, deal-shoppers)
    • Loyalty to certain brand (e.g., Promoters, brand switchers, first-timers)
    • Type of products or services they use (e.g., Using competitor products, using multiple products)
    • Usage rates (e.g., heavy, moderate, light)
  • Lifestyle and values:
    • Lifestyle (e.g., Fitness enthusiast, early adaptors, eco-conscious consumer)
    • Beliefs (e.g., Health, budget, comfort, sustainability)
    • Interests (e.g., Fashion, travel, sports, games)

In addition to the characteristics above, there can be other socioeconomic and behavioral factors that can be specified depending on your product’s problem space and research objectives.

B2B Profiles

On top of the B2C factors introduced above, B2B recruiting is characterized with specific job responsibilities and skillsets.

  • Job responsibilities:
    • Job titles (e.g., their official work titles and seniority level)
    • Work responsibilities (e.g., How does their workflow look like?)
  • Company or workplace profile:
    • Industry type (e.g., Technology, healthcare, real estate, finance)
    • Size of the company (e.g., Number of employees, annual revenue)
    • Market position (e.g., Leaders, niche players, disruptors)
  • Behaviors:
    • Jobs-to-be-done and desired outcomes
    • Pain points and challenges

In addition to the characteristics above, there can be other factors, such as procurement process and technology stack/usage, depending on your product’s problem space and research objectives.

🖌️ Quick Tip

As you build your participant profile, make sure each criteria is meaningful to the research objectives. The more criteria, the more niche your participant profile will be.

If your research requires specific skillsets or roles as specified in the B2B criteria, your research ROI will be higher with recruiting B2B participants than B2C. While recruiting B2B participants entail higher cost and incentives for their time, it is important that you engage with participants that can provide relevant data to your research.

Examples of B2C and B2B Participant Profiles

B2C participants are generally recruited based on broad demographic criteria such as age, gender, income level, and lifestyle preferences. Below are examples of B2C participants:

  • College student using a new educational app
  • Stay-at-home parent testing a new kitchen appliance
  • Fitness enthusiast evaluating a new wearable device

B2B participants are recruited based on their professional roles, industry experience, and specific skill. Below are examples of B2B participants:

  • Software engineer with specific experience in tool or language
  • Marketing manager evaluating a new analytics tool
  • Healthcare professional assessing a new patient management system

These participants are recruited based on their professional roles, industry experience, and specific skill sets.

🖌️ Quick Tip

To learn more about B2C and B2B participants, we recommend our article section on B2B and B2C participants.

The complexity of recruiting B2B participants

Recruiting B2B participants is inherently more complex than recruiting B2C participants. This complexity arises from the need to identify individuals with specific skill sets, workflows, and behaviors that align with the research objectives. For example, if your study is about a new project management tool, you will need to find participants who are not only familiar with project management but also have experience using similar tools in a professional setting.

Moreover, B2B participants often require more personalized and targeted recruitment strategies. Unlike B2C participants who can be recruited through broad channels, such as social media and online surveys, B2B participants may need to be reached through industry-specific networks, professional associations, or direct outreach.

“There’s more demand for unmoderated research than ever, but to get quality insights, you need quality participants. Knowing exactly who every participant is means that you’re testing your products with the right audience, so you're getting insights that improve your product and business.”

Jack Pratten
CEO at Respondent

Common challenges in recruiting B2B participants

1. Limited pool of eligible participants

One of the most significant challenges in B2B recruitment for UX research is the limited pool of eligible participants. Unlike B2C recruitment, where the target audience is vast and diverse, B2B recruitment often requires participants who meet very specific criteria. These criteria can include industry experience, job title, company size, and familiarity with certain technologies or processes.

The specificity of these requirements narrows down the pool of potential participants, making it difficult to find suitable candidates. This scarcity can lead to extended recruitment timelines and increased costs, as more resources are needed to identify and engage the right individuals.

2. Detailed skillsets or seniority

In addition to a limited pool of participants, B2B recruitment often involves finding individuals with specific skill sets or seniority. For example, it is more difficult to find software engineers at IC levels than managers that have decision making powers in their organizations.

These individuals not only need to have the right job title but also the relevant experience and responsibilities. This level of specificity can make the recruitment process highly complex, requiring detailed screening and vetting procedures to ensure that participants meet all the necessary criteria.

3. Time constraints and scheduling difficulties

Time constraints and scheduling difficulties are another major hurdle in B2B recruitment. Unlike general consumers, who may have more flexible schedules, B2B participants are often working professionals with demanding jobs. Their availability is limited, and coordinating schedules can be a logistical nightmare.

This is particularly true for high-level executives or decision-makers, who may have packed calendars and limited windows of availability. The challenge is not just finding the right participants but also aligning their schedules with the research timeline, which can lead to delays and rescheduling issues.

4. Motivating participants to engage

Motivating B2B participants to engage in UX research is another significant challenge. Unlike consumer research, where monetary incentives or small gifts can be effective, B2B participants, especially executives and decision-makers, require more substantial motivation. These individuals often have high opportunity costs, meaning that the time they spend participating in research could be spent on more pressing business matters.

The incentives need to be compelling enough to justify their participation. This could include offering exclusive insights from the research, networking opportunities, or even higher monetary compensation. Crafting an appealing value proposition is crucial to securing their engagement.

5. Privacy and compliance concerns

Ensuring confidentiality and compliance can be a critical concern in B2B recruitment. Especially when your research involves contextual inquiries or interviews that probe about their detailed workflow and processes specific to their organizations, the amount of information that participants can share could be limited. Many participants will be reluctant to share their screens.

Participants need to be assured that their insights and data will be handled with the utmost confidentiality, especially when discussing proprietary technologies or business strategies. While it may be difficult to identify an engineer at a large tech company, it can be easy to identify a manager leading a devOps team. Clear communication about how data will be used, stored, and protected can help build trust and encourage participation.

We’ve looked at some of the most common challenges that are faced when recruiting B2B participants. These challenges overall make it costly both in terms of money and research turnover time. By understanding major challenges involved with B2B recruiting, there are some solutions to better effectively handle participant recruiting.

Finding B2B participants involves identifying individuals with the appropriate skills and job responsibilities within a limited pool of candidates. - Photo by Owen Cannon on Unsplash

Overcoming B2B recruitment challenges

Successfully recruiting participants for B2B UX research can often be a hurdle for businesses. Identifying the right participants, engaging them, and ensuring their participation can be challenging. Below, we explore a few channels and methods that researchers use to overcome  common B2B recruitment challenges.

1. Utilizing recruitment panels

Platforms like Respondent and UserInterviews offer access to a vast pool of potential participants who have already expressed interest in participating in research studies. They are trained to be testers and typically know how to think-out-loud during the studies.

In Hubble, partnered with Respondent, you gain access to over 3 million participants, streamlining your recruitment process by designing the study and immediately launching recruiting in a single platform.

Benefits of Recruitment Panels

  • Wide reach: Access to a large, diverse pool of candidates.
  • Efficiency: Generally quick fulfillment of recruitment needs with access to millions of participant panel. Moreover, platforms offer automated scheduling.
  • Quality: Higher likelihood of finding participants who meet your specific criteria.
🖌️ Quick Tip

With Hubble, you can find and schedule the first qualifying B2B participant as quick as 30 minutes after launching the recruiting request.

2. Cold or warm contact via social networks

Social networks, particularly LinkedIn, are powerful tools for B2B recruitment. LinkedIn allows you to search for specific job titles and companies, making it easier to connect directly with potential participants.

Best practices for LinkedIn recruitment

  • Personalize your message: Avoid sending generic mass messages. Tailor your outreach messages to increase the chances of a positive response.
  • Build relationships: Engage with potential participants to get to know more about them and their professional career, needs, and interest.
  • Leverage LinkedIn Ads: A bit more nuanced, but target specific demographics and job titles with LinkedIn's advertising platform to find qualified participants.

3. Leveraging product users

Your existing user base can be an excellent source of participants for UX research. Research is a team effort and building relationship with colleagues from marketing and sales team could come in handy with getting access to your users. Collaborate with your marketing or sales teams to identify potential users who may be willing to participate.

Strategies for reaching product users

  • In-app notifications: Use in-app messages or pop-ups to invite users to participate in your research.
  • Email outreach: Send targeted email campaigns to your marketing list or blog.
  • Customer feedback programs: Incorporate recruitment opportunities into customer satisfaction surveys and feedback forms.

4. Industry conferences

While less common, attending industry conferences and trade shows can provide valuable networking opportunities for B2B UX research recruitment. Setting up booths or tables where you can showcase your product and directly engage with potential participants can be highly effective.

While this method is less common, establishing relationship in-person is effective for building your own recruitment panel in the long term. Also, showing yourself to those industry-specific conferences and events show how much you and your company are devoted to hearing to the customers.

Tips for conference recruitment

  • Networking: Take advantage of networking sessions and speak directly with attendees.
  • Presentations and panels: Participate in or sponsor speaking engagements to highlight your research needs.
  • Follow-up: Collect contact information and follow up with potential participants after the event.

5. Professional associations and online groups

Professional associations and online groups can be useful for recruitment, though they often have gatekeepers and restrictions on advertising. Nonetheless, they are worth considering for their targeted audiences.

Tips for utilizing online groups

  • Read group rules and restrictions: There could be restrictions on advertising or recruiting as those groups typically only allow posting related to the profession. Make sure that you are following the group rules.
  • Networking events: Attend association-hosted online or in-person events to meet potential participants.

6. Company websites and directories

For highly niche groups, company websites and industry directories can be useful especially when you know certain key players in your market. Search through their websites, contact pages, and team members page to discover potential candidates.

You can follow-up with potential candidates through Linkedin to establish connection.

7. In-product surveys

Tools like Hubble allow you to generate pop-up surveys directly within your product, making it easier to recruit participants from your actual user base. This method ensures you get feedback from active users who are engaged with your product.

Tips for implementing in-product surveys

  • Timing: Display surveys at moments when users are likely to have insightful feedback, such as after completing a specific task.
  • Question design: Keep surveys short and focused to maximize response rates.
🖌️ Quick Tip

If you are having trouble finding niche profile participants, reach out to Hubble support. We have team members to assist with your research to collect participant criteria, build high-quality screener surveys, schedule and incentivize participants.

Best practices for effective B2B recruiting in UX Research

With the right strategies and practices, you can streamline your recruitment processes and engage participants effectively. Below are some of the best practices to keep in mind:

1. Transparent Communication and Customized Messages

Clear and personalized communication is critical when recruiting B2B participants. Here are some tips:

  • Tailor each message: Address the individual by name and highlight how their specific expertise and experience will be valuable for the research.
  • Explain the purpose: Clearly state the purpose of the research and how their participation will contribute to product development.
  • Maintain transparency: Ensure that both you and the participant understand the expectations from each side. Avoid any miscommunication to save time for both parties.

2. Offer Meaningful Incentives

B2B participants often have busy schedules, making it essential to provide attractive incentives:

  • Monetary rewards: Offer competitive compensation for their time and expertise.
  • Demonstrate value: Explain how their feedback will directly impact the improvement of the product or service, benefiting businesses like theirs in the future.

3. Build Long-term relationships

Engaging B2B participants for the long term can enhance the quality and reliability of your research:

  • Follow-up communication: Send thank-you notes and periodic updates to maintain engagement.
  • Regular updates: Keep participants informed about how their feedback has been implemented. Participants will be pleasantly surprised when they hear how their feedback have been addressed and become more loyal to your product.

4. Leverage referral programs

Referrals can be an effective way to recruit quality participants.

  • Encourage referrals: Ask current participants to refer colleagues or relevant business contacts.
  • Incentivize referrals: Offer incentives for each successful referral to motivate participants.

5. Create effective screeners

Screening participants carefully ensures you get the right respondents for your study. Consider screener surveys as the first step in understanding potential participants. Include questions that help you evaluate their relevance to your research needs.

  • Include red-herring questions: Use these to filter out participants who may not be suitable.
  • Avoid leading questions: Leading questions can prime participants to provide a desired answer.
  • Avoid using strong emotive words: Make sure your screener appears exciting without sounding leading.
  • Avoid use of binary yes-no questions: Binary yes-no questions don’t tell much. Instead, frame the questions starting with "how" or "what".
🖌️ Quick Tip

To learn more about creating effective screener surveys, we recommend our article on creating effective screener surveys for quality participants.

6. Prepare backup participants

Having a backup plan ensures that your research is not delayed:

  • Loosen the criteria as needed: Be ready to adjust your criteria slightly to include more potential participants if your primary pool is insufficient.
  • Over-recruit: Consider recruiting a few extra participants to account for no-shows or dropouts.

7. Establish an In-House Recruitment Panel

Building an in-house recruitment panel can significantly streamline future recruitment efforts.  This approach reduces the time and cost associated with recruitment for each new project and ensures access to high-quality, vetted participants.

  • Track quality participants: Maintain records of participants who provided valuable insights and showed professionalism.
  • Regular engagement: Stay in touch with quality participants and keep them informed about future research opportunities.
  • Exclusive panels: Create a panel of trusted participants who can be called upon for future studies, reducing recruitment time and costs.
🖌️ Quick Tip

Remember that the goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship where participants feel valued and are more likely to engage with your research activities in the future.

In this post, we explored the intricacies of participant recruiting in user research, with a particular focus on the technical and complex nature of B2B recruitment. We discussed common challenges and highlighted common recruitment channels that researchers use to get in touch with niche participants. By following best practices in recruitment, you should be able to improve the recruitment process for your next B2B research.

Recruit quality B2C and B2B participants in less than 30 minutes with Hubble

Streamline your research by building studies and recruiting participants in a single tool

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is B2B recruiting more challenging than B2C recruiting?

B2B recruiting is more challenging because it often involves targeting specific roles and job responsibilities within professional settings. There are limited qualified individuals fit for studies depending on your participant criteria.

What are some best methods for recruiting B2B participants?

We recommend using recruitment panel like Respondent or UserInterviews. Hubble partnered with Respondent so that you can immediately gain access to 3M pool of participants. If you are having trouble finding niche profile participants, reach out to Hubble support. We have team members to assist with your research to collect participant criteria, build high-quality screener surveys, schedule and incentivize participants.

How do I identify the right participants for B2B UX research?

Identify the right participants by defining your target audience based on criteria such as job title, industry, company size, and decision-making authority. Use screener surveys to filter for the specific criteria.

How can I ensure high-quality participation in B2B research?

Make sure to clearly communicate the purpose and objectives of the study so that you and the participants are aware of what to expect. To ensure that you filter for the right participant pool and high quality participants, we recommend the article on creating effective survey screeners.

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Jin is a UX researcher at Hubble that helps customers collect user research insights. Jin also helps the Hubble marketing team create content related to continuous discovery. Before Hubble, Jin worked at Microsoft as a UX researcher. He graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from U.C. Berkekley and an M.S in Human Computer Interaction from University of Washington.

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