A big part of getting the information you need to make smart decisions about everything from messaging, to product positioning, branding, merchandising, pricing, etc can be attained if you can just get the right people to participate in your research. In this post, I’ll outline the key elements of DIY recruiting and how it has worked for me.
Why Do Recruiting Yourself?
First off, many small and medium sized business simply can’t afford to outsource recruiting. Plus, one of the benefits of doing recruiting yourself is that you can develop relationships with your research participants. Companies that have to move fast can get a huge advantage from working with a group of research participants who have already participated in previous studies. Of course, depending on your research, it’s not always possible to develop a group as a resource. That said, developing an internal competency around recruiting will save effort over time, and can be a resource for many areas of a business.
Pre-Requisites For Recruiting
There are some things that you’ll need to know before you start:
- Research Goals: It’s important to have clearly articulated research goals and objectives before you start any recruiting activities. This will not only tie your efforts to actionable results, it will ensure that you’ve recruiting relevant participants.
- Participant Segmentation: Having research goals in place will support participant segmentation. You can also use existing market segments, but it’s most useful to segment your participants on a behavioral basis. So, if you’re recruiting to test brand identities for a new beverage for kids you might want to segment retailers, end consumers (kids), and purchasing consumers (moms). If you’re on a tight budget focus on the segments that have the greatest potential for returns.
- The Screener: This is a document that will assist in screening potential candidates to participate in your research study. It will include information from the participant segmentation as well as:
- Clear expectations for the participant – How long the commitment will be, when it will take place, etc.
- Sample size – This can range widely by the research methodology you use. The point is to make sure that the sample is large enough to spot the trends that will serve as your design targets.
- A demographic profile of ideal participants – Gender, age, income, family, etc.
- Additional information that is relevant to your research – Do they use your product/service, how often, etc.
- Background – Have they participated in such research before, do they work in the industry, etc. Depending on how your research is being conducted, this can be built into the study itself.
- Recruiting Schedule: This is a realistic time-line for your recruiting project. Depending on your research program you may have to make a significant number of phone calls, or send a large number of e-mails, to coordinate research participants, so leave plenty of time. It takes longer to do recruiting that you’d think. Also, you can count on a decent number of participants not-showing up or finishing your study, so plan accordingly.
- Project Management: Ideally, you’ll have a project manager of some sort to help coordinate your research program, manage the time-line, budget, and communication.
- Compensation: You may have to compensate people for their participation in your study, so make sure you account for this in your budgeting. If you’re on a tight budget it is possible to motivate people to participate with a chance to win a significant prize which costs less than compensating every participant. The single most important motivation is a chance to make a difference though!
Obviously, if you’ve got a business up and runningÂ you may not have to look any further than your list of current or past customers. If, however, you’re working on something new such as a business plan, or a new product or service, you’ll have to recruit from the wild. This is where things get creative. Here are a couple examples from my experience.
Back in 2005 when I was working with Adina For Life, a beverage company that makes sustainable, organic and Fair Trade beverages, I was involved in developing two test markets. At that time, we had an initial product line of juices with small production runs, which meant we could go out into the field to obtain data and incorporate findings into our nextÂ run. But, how to get the data?
Some of the DIY options included in-house focus groups, online surveying for packaging and branding, and interviews with retailers. Though we ended up doing a variety of programs, the most significant was embedded into an in-store demo program that I’d set up. Since we were already in the stores, this was a great opportunity to interface directly with customers. We developed a research guide for our “juice ambassadors” who would conduct a sampling of a variety of flavors before collecting a short paper-based survey . Because we had two test markets on opposite coasts, and were selling primarily to independant stores that sold other organic products, we had a fairly controlled market segment based on a specific purchasing behavior. This saved us from collecting too much demographic information, and allowed us to focus on the flavors and packaging, while assessing regional preferences.
Several years later, I was conducting research for another food venture that exploring a mobile BBQ restaurant concept that would essentially sell BBQ out of a truck in major urban areas. The business did not exist yet so there were no customers to reach out to. The main DIY option that came up at first was to find other mobile restaurants and talk with their customers. Of course, there were no other mobile BBQ truck nearby so that approach had certain limits. Then I started exploring online; what I found was a ton of communities that were interested in BBQ, or dining out in general. I started participating in these groups and sharing a little bit about the project. I got an enormous response and soon had hundreds of participants taking a survey. I created trackable links for each community where I invited participants (Chow magazine, Craigslist, Yelp, etc) so I could track where they were coming from.
Both of the recruiting methods I used had the benefit of developing community around the brands conducting the research. I hope these examples are helpful and inspire you to get out there and start recruiting on your own. If you’ve got examples from your own experience, please share!