Offering Incentives in B2B Research


The key to any successful project is selecting the right people to participate, convincing them to participate, and asking them the right questions.

One of the primary questions clients always ask relative to increasing participation in B2B research is “should I offer an incentive”?    

 Whether conducting quantitative or qualitative B2B market research, the key to any successful project is selecting the right people to participate, convincing them to participate, and asking them the right questions. In today’s digital world, identifying potential respondents that meet specific pre-determined criteria as to their ability to provide insightful input is fairly straightforward, as there are many search tools and databases available to identify candidates.  The ability to ask the right questions is primarily driven by the experience of the research company, developing a full understanding of the strategic intent of the research and clearly defining the project deliverables. In many cases, the most challenging part of the research is convincing the potential respondents to spend the time and participate in the research. 


In B2C research, incentives are a traditional method to encourage participation, however in B2B research offering an incentive is not as prevalent, as there can be some downsides to offering monetary incentives in B2B research. Incentives have always been a concern for B2B researchers, as they often attract marginal respondents that exaggerate (or even fabricate) their level expertise or experience in a specific area in attempt to collect an incentive. 


Most business people would agree that their time is valuable, yet in most of our B2B research projects we attract participants while offering no financial incentive. How?  We try to convey that the time they spend with us may actually be valuable to them.  In most cases the research project can be tied to a potential personal or market benefit, such as: a new market entrant, a new product of enhancement, increased service levels, etc.  If one can convince potential participants that their input is extremely valuable and will be used to make important industry decisions, they are more likely to agree to donate their time and provide their opinion. This “quid-pro-quo” approach allows them to feel that their opinion matters and their input is valued.  As respondents are actually making a value decision to participate, it is also important to be mindful of length of the discussion.  We recommend asking for 15 minutes, but once engaged the interviews are often longer.


If there is no avenue to tie the research topic to potential value for the respondent, another option is to offer a summary of the research for their participation.  In this case they are trading their time for insight which is hopefully of some value to them.  This method also allows one to control the information provided in the summary, delivering as little or as much insight as seen fit.


Creating a win-win proposition for the potential respondent is the best way to increase participation and attract the right participants in B2B research.  There is often a tendency to quickly move to a financial incentive, but we feel that should be the last resort as it is not only often an expensive solution, but also tends to attract less knowledgeable respondents, ultimately negatively affecting the results of the research.

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