Tips & Tricks

Recruiting the Right Test Participants

It's important to pick the right people to test.

When your faucet is leaky, you don’t call an electrician because you need someone who has the right expertise to help you. So let’s say you work for a health record (EHR) software company. and you need to do some user testing. You certainly wouldn’t call up your accountant and ask if she was available for a short test. While it’s tempting to gather feedback from a user group that takes little effort to access (and I’m not saying all accountants are rapidly accessible), you need to ensure you are testing with the right target audience to get the highest quality insights.

When I led an innovation team we struggled with this, so our team built out a database of customers and non-customers that we could run tests on when we needed them. Ultimately we had about 10,000 participants who all opted into this program. When we needed to run a test with 10 to 20 people, we would search this database for the right targets. It saved significant recruitment time and cost. However, it’s not always the case and that took a good 6 months to build out.

So what do you do?

First, identify the right participants.

One team I spoke with a few years ago needed to find athletic coaches for endurance athletes as their app had a specific use-case and target audience. Heading to the local Starbucks or even posting an ad to Craigslist may not quite work. For some consumer apps sourcing on Craigslist may actually work though you’ll need to use a screener questionnaire. It’ slikely you already know this as when you were creating your designs for your product you probably had some personas you designed for.

Second, go where they are.

In the example above example: where do endurance coaches hang out? Is there a secret endurance coach club you can visit? No! But there are running and cycling races, as well as forums, so finding your way there might help you learn who may be a good candidate recruit to your test.

Third, screen for quality.

When you have a clear view of who you need to test, you’ll need to create a short screener question to weed out the incorrect participants. These can include simple questions like: “how many athletes do you coach on a regular basis?” Sure there may be demographic questions, however if you can get to question wich selects for the behavior type,this can increase the quality of participant you test with.

Lastly, find an emotional incentive.

Gift cards are all well and good, but if there’s a better incentive you can offer your test participant, that will make a difference in the quality. I lost count of how many people I tested with over the years who up front asked me if I had the $20 gift card before the test even started. This indicated to me it was all about an economic transaction and not necessarily a quality information exchange. Finding customers who have a distinct problem you’re solving for so the benefit to them isn’t a free lunch, rather it’s a problem solved for them. Or some prospective customers who pride themselves on being at the cutting edge and wiling to try new things.

Yes, it all takes time, but as we know shortcuts are often shortcuts so the quality can diminish.

Learn more: – A recruiting site (disclosure, we have a partnership with them for our Advanced Participant Recruitment feature)

GV article: How to Find Great Participants for Your User Study

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