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How best to incentivize B2B decision-makers to take part in research

How best to incentivize B2B decision-makers to take part in research

Consumer research agencies have it easy. Pretty much everyone is a consumer, so the pool of potential respondents for a research project can be vast.

It is slightly different for B2B research agencies. Our respondents – decision-makers within organizations – are a scarce resource, especially when the study focuses on individuals in senior or niche roles.

The problem is not just that they are scarce. Securing decision-makers’ support is also tricky. Gatekeepers may project them, they have limited time, and their focus is on improving their business, not taking part in research.

However, B2B respondents can be incentivized to take part in the research if you use the right approach.

The most powerful incentives are ‘soft’:

  • In most B2B markets, people buy from people, and buyers and sellers tend to have a strong relationship. Leveraging this relationship is the most powerful incentive of all
  • Another powerful soft incentive is appealing to a decision-maker’s curiosity. If the research topic, or technique, sounds interesting, decision-makers are more likely to consider taking part
  • B2B respondents are time-poor, so it’s important to emphasize that the time they do spend on the research will benefit them in the long-run. We recommend emphasizing how research participation will lead to innovations or service improvements, and therefore help them and their employer

These soft incentives aren’t always possible, and may not be enough by themselves, so ‘hard’/tangible incentives can be required:

  • A common approach is to thank respondents for their time with a financial incentive, either a cash payment or a prize draw for a gift card or something like an iPad. That isn’t always appropriate, either legally (due to corporate bribery laws), ethically (due to the optics of giving well-remunerated decision-makers cash for their opinions), or practically (sometimes it isn’t even required)
  • A charity donation is a useful alternative – it rewards decision-makers for their time by appealing to their sense of charity, without any of the legal/ethical issues. It also allows clients, or respondents, to direct money to a charity that they support

In our experience, if you’re looking to persuade time-poor decision-makers to participate in research, a mix of soft and hard incentives works best.

Chris Wells
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