B2B Market Research Study? – Don’t Hire that Panel Firm

Why do panel firms do such a poor job recruiting interview respondents for B2B market research studies?

B2B Market Research Podcast – B2B Market Research Study? – Don’t Hire that Panel Firm

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And why do researchers keep giving panel firms this responsibility? We look into these questions during today’s podcast.

When I say “panel firm,” do you get positive or negative connotations? I can almost guarantee they’re negative. With panel firms in the mix, recruiting has been separated from the research process for a long time.

I think the explanation for this separation is simple. Recruiting is hard.

Frankly, doing it right is even harder than conducting a great interview.

Recruiting for B2B market research studies? You need the right skill set

Someone with the ability to find good recruits and conduct good interviews for a B2B market research study must have:

  • Industry expertise.
  • Business know-how.
  • Excellent interviewing chops.
  • A great analytical skillset.

This person also has to withstand the inevitable ego bruising when it comes to how potential research candidates decline — or even fail — to respond to certain types of outreach. You need to have a pretty thick skin and a large amount of tenacity to conduct recruiting efforts effectively. You are unlikely to find a person with such an array of specialized abilities working for a panel firm.

It’s worth clarifying that I’m talking about recruiting in a B2B context, not a consumer context. If you want to talk to 20,000 people who have shopped at Best Buy and you want to compare their feelings about shopping at Amazon or Target, you’re going to have to turn to a panel provider because you’re probably not going to have a database of 20,000 consumers right at hand. A B2B study, however, requires a different approach.

The market research community has even commented on the challenges that exist in working with panel providers. Just some examples of titles that you come across when searching the subject: “Garbage In, Garbage Out Part Deaux (aka Panels Suck),” “More Dirty Little Secrets of Online Panel Research.”

And yet, B2B market research recruiting keeps being outsourced to panel firms.

I think it often seems easiest for companies to put the hard task of recruiting B2B market research study respondents off on someone else.

B2B Market Research Study? - Don't Hire that Panel FirmI think it often seems easiest for companies to put the hard task of recruiting B2B market research study respondents off on someone else. We see similar situations in all the portions of a typical business. Sales teams call on the same accounts over and over again without generating new leads and accounts. Why? Because prospecting is hard and talking to existing clients is not.

Marketing teams run programs that are creative, but the programs don’t drive new customers to engage. Why is that? Because it’s easier to be creative first than it is to focus on ROI first and creativity second.

Human resource teams don’t hold themselves accountable to the company’s overall success but they build lots and lots of dashboards. They focus on process over substance. Why is that? Because it’s hard to tie hiring directly to the performance of the company’s employees as a group.

But pushing off B2B market research study recruiting to panel firms isn’t working, and studies suffer because of it.

B2B market researchers should do their own recruiting

Here at Cascade Insights, we realized early on that panel providers weren’t going to provide us the recruits we wanted. Instead, we decided to conduct what we call “investigative recruiting” using our own FTE’s.

Why does blending in-house recruiting and in-house interviewing lead to better outcomes?

First, B2B market research analysts know exactly what to look for.

First, B2B market research analysts know exactly what to look for.

At Cascade Insights, the analyst doing the recruiting is usually involved in designing the research effort. They’re scoping it. They’re building it right from the start. With their deep familiarity with the purpose of the study, they know exactly what to look for. There’s no translation that needs to happen between market research firm and panel firm.

In addition, how often have you seen a panel firm fail to solicit the right level of response?

Often, you look at a panel firm’s outreach and see that there is a sentence or phrase, or even the subject line itself that sends a very different message than what you need to convey. B2B respondents are very sensitive to where they spend their time. Good respondents can be scared away by outreach efforts that send the wrong message. So why fail before you even begin to play?

B2B market research respondents have domain expertise.  Hence, it is important to give the impression that they will be asked meaningful questions that directly relate to their chosen area of expertise. In short, if the outreach demonstrates that the interviewer understands what the respondent is talking about, respondents are more likely to participate.

Conversely, outreach message blunders that reveal a lack of familiarity with the subject matter will negatively impact response rates. If the analyst who will be conducting the interviews has a large role in crafting the outreach, you’re more likely to avoid these types of mistakes.

The B2B market research analyst can also identify holes and missing information as the research effort progresses. This is particularly important in qualitative research, which is inherently more investigative and easier to adjust during the course of the study than your average quantitative study.

Do you need to know more from C-levels, directors, or somebody in the trenches? The analyst knows more than anyone else what’s missing. Why not let them immediately begin to search for these people and tune the outreach and engagement to get exactly the right people for the study right from the beginning?

How in-house recruiting means higher overall ROI

True, it may be more expensive from a salary or hourly standpoint to have a market research analyst find their own respondents than to use a low cost panel firm. However, this cost is offset by the increase in the overall efficiency of the research process.

Now let’s talk about some possible objections to keeping recruiting in-house. You may worry that it will cost more. I can say from actual, practical experience that it doesn’t.

True, it may be more expensive from a salary or hourly standpoint to have a market research analyst find their own respondents than to use a low cost panel firm. However, this cost is offset by the increase in the overall efficiency of the research process. More importantly, you’re going to get a better research output in the end, so your overall ROI is going to be higher. This assumes, of course, that the analyst is tenacious in their pursuit of recruits.

Perhaps you’re concerned that your B2B market research team will never agree to do their own recruiting. You should be asking them, why not? Is it because they don’t want to or because their lack of participation is leading to better research? I think you’ll find it’s more the former than the latter.

You may be tempted to hire recruiting firms and panel firms because they have specialized skills. However, your market research team already has an array of specialized skills. They pick up new ones at conferences every year. Adding recruiting to the mix is just like adding any other skill you’ve added to improve research project management or execution.

In closing, if you don’t want to add recruiting to your team’s skill set, that’s fine. Cascade Insights is here to help. Just remember that separating recruiting and interviewing leads to bad results, so don’t do it. With that, I want to close today’s podcast. Thanks for listening.

This podcast is brought to you by Cascade Insights. Cascade Insights conducts market research and competitive intelligence studies exclusively for B2B technology companies. Our specialization helps us to deliver detailed insights that generalist firms simply can’t match. Visit us at CascadeInsights.com, where you can check out a wealth of free resources including ebooks, blog posts, podcast episodes and conference presentations. While you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.

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