Participant recruitment for product discovery

Too many times, teams start recruiting right before they need answers to a research question. Do you wait until you have a specific need and a discovery study lined up ready before you start the recruitment process?

Finding the right participent

When we plan and hope that we can recruit participants without delaying our research. Out of fear, some teams often look to find cheap ways too quickly find people. These often result in using generic recruitment panels that are filled with professional study participants.

The short turn-around time for recruiting puts the UX of the product or service at risk. When you enter into a time for money, it reduces the participants and researcher relationships to being a transaction.

Would you spend 60 minutes with me if I give you $100?

The value of UX comes from anticipating users' needs and exceeding their expectations. Research must be informed by deep interactions with our users, but research done poorly (or not at all) can take the team in the wrong direction. When teams go cheap on recruiting participants, they diminish the overall value of the UX, and this is not where you should be cutting costs.

What if you could reduce the effort it takes to recruit participants, with people who would actually use your product and want to help you improve it. In a continuous and sustainable recruitment strategy. You can easily find people with minimal fuss from your current customers. Building on your existing relationship with people who are already attracted by what you offer.

Mindset shift:
Move from a transactional approach to a relational for recruiting. Think of the research participants as a partner in our research, design, and development. To design with our participants and not for them.

Smart UX researchers, build up long-term relationships with user community members. They establish long-term friendships. Like all great friendships, there's give-and-take. Most participants aren't interested in the monetary remuneration. They are invested in your product and are happy to give their feedback. Instead, participants are interested in the outcomes. This doesn’t mean that we don’t then have to give them an incentive for their time.

We pay them to demonstrate we're serious about what feedback and input they bring. I’ve written here about different options for incentives and in some cases, money isn't appropriate. The better the relationship, the less money remuneration will matter. Participants have the same interest in the UX outcomes, that we have. They want to see a direct line between their contribution and the outcomes they'll get.

Having a pool of invested partners who are potential users of the product is incredibly valuable. It allows us to have all sorts of conversations from getting quick answers to easy questions, or census on a particular issue and long-term studies. Ultimately, it allows us to make our designs more nuanced and responsive to a broad range of users.

We need to find communities of our users and if these communities don't exist, we'll need to build them ourselves. We can use existing customer relationships and expand our network to others they know.

Participant recruiting is a critical part of our UX research success. Without great participants, we won't have the research insights we need to deliver well-designed products and services. We need to start our recruitment process long before we have our first sessions, so we can start building relationships with potential participants. Building relationships is a form of research, where we build partnerships with a pool of participants. Those partnerships will pay off for a long time and will allow us to have all sorts of great research conversations.

When we invest in recruiting participants, the pay-off is big. There are many ways to recruit directly from your existing product. The best off-the-self products for this is, which combines scheduling, incentives, screeners, and intercepts with a research CRM. This all-in-one participant management tool, keeps track of all your participants and research.

Whilst this is a great product, the outcome can be achieved by combining some widely available tools that your team may already be using. A good place to start is with Hotjar, using its survey tool to target sections of your site or customers attributes with a screener intercept that you can use to capture a customer's email address. Alternatively, a landing page with a sign-up form, that you can direct participants to, would work just as well.

Once you’ve been able to capture an email address, or you can identify customers through your existing customer database. Email them with a link to your calendar, to make scheduling on your participant's terms use an online appointment scheduling tool like Calendly, Acuity, Microsoft Bookings.

Sign up below, and I’ll send you the templates that I’ve used to recruit participants every week, for over two years.

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