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Top 5 Market Research List Recruitment Challenges

01 Dec 2022
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On the face of it, recruiting market research participants from a client list seems like an easier option compared to finding them without a list (also known as free finding). As a client, it’s easy to think “all you have to do is contact these people and book them in.” In reality list recruitment can be just as complex as free-find recruitment for a number of reasons. 

In this article we explain some of the common challenges of list recruitment.

1. The list is too short

If you chose to go for list recruitment, you have to consider how many contacts you are providing to your market research company. Let’s say you want to recruit ten respondents and you have 20 people on your list. You might think that’s a fair ratio, but the reality is that you are going to need a much longer list. This is particularly true if the people on the list aren’t actively engaged with your company: it’s much easier to recruit loyal customers or people who had a good experience with your product than it is to recruit ex customers, or people who thought about becoming customers but then changed their minds.

FieldworkHub normally recommends that clients provide at least ten contacts for every respondent needed, and if your list also includes a lot of unengaged contacts or has some of the other problems discussed below, you might easily need 20 to 50 contacts (or more) for every successful recruit.

2. The list is out of date or incomplete

Another point to consider when providing contacts to your market research company is how up to date the list is. It’s very helpful to keep a date tracker which details the last time you successfully contacted each person. It may also be beneficial to keep in regular contact with people who may be interested in taking part in market research at some point in the future. Long-term research projects are much easier to manage if you keep an open communication channel with potential volunteers.

Over time people change jobs, start working remotely, change their mobile phone numbers, move home and change their email addresses. So, if you provide your research company with a list of people that you last contacted a year ago, or five years ago, a lot of the details are going to be out of date.

A good list for recruitment should also contain multiple methods of contact. If your list has email addresses but not names, or it only has company switchboard numbers but not direct lines or mobile numbers, this will make it much more difficult and time consuming for your recruiters to reach the right individuals.

3. The list doesn’t actually have the right contacts on it

This is an issue that arises frequently in B2B list recruitment. You want to interview the decision makers working for a particular type of customer so you pull together a list of your contacts at these customers. However, it turns out that your list actually includes very few real decision makers but instead lots of people who work in procurement or accounts, because they are the ones who were responsible for placing the orders and paying the bills after the decisions had been made! It’s possible that these contacts will agree to refer your recruiters to the real decision makers, but it’s by no means guaranteed, particularly if the true decision maker is much more senior in the company, and even if they do agree it’s likely to mean that recruitment takes a lot more time than originally envisaged.

4. The people on the list aren’t fully screened

When a research company is working from a list, some additional screening is often required to flesh out the details that are already on file and ensure that the participants are suitable for the specific research project. 

It may be difficult to assess up front what proportion of successful contacts will fail the screening process. Say a company wants to talk to customers who use their product in a particular way, it may turn out that most of their customers on the list don’t use it this way. At best, this is going to mean that your recruiters need to talk to a lot more customers than originally expected and at worst, this may mean that the original research question can’t be answered and the research project has to changed to fit the participants that are available.

5. The people on the list aren’t expecting the market research team to contact them, or haven’t given their consent to be contacted

People are understandably suspicious if they receive an email or phone call out of the blue inviting them to take part in market research, so warming up the people on the list is critical to achieving a successful outcome. The most common way or warming up potential volunteers is to send out an email blast. But did the email say who would be contacting them and in what timeframe? Do you have email marketing statistics showing which emails were successfully delivered, which were opened and which recipients actually gave consent to be contacted for this piece of research? This last point is vitally important if you are relying on consent as your lawful basis for data processing under the GDPR or similar data protection legislation.

Final words

It’s very difficult for an external market research agency, such as FieldworkHub, to determine which of the above issues might apply when a company approaches us for a quote for a project that involves list recruitment. It is however, all too easy for a client wanting to conduct market research using list recruitment to imagine that none of them will apply, and consequently end up being disappointed with what the research company is able to deliver. 

The best practice approach is to ask yourself (or your client) which of the issues discussed in this article might apply to your list, explore what actions you can take to mitigate these issues, and discuss your conclusions openly with prospective partners when they are quoting and again at the project kick-off stage.

We hope you find these tips helpful next time you are considering list recruitment for your research project. If you need further advice on any type of recruitment for a market research project, please reach out to the FieldworkHub team.

FieldworkHub is an agile, knowledgeable market research fieldwork agency providing high-quality focus group recruitment as part of our full range of qualitative and quantitative fieldwork services.
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