Every UX research project starts with two questions: what are the research goals and who are the users?  These questions are critical to kick off recruiting. Recruiting can be a hurdle in UX research because we do not always have access to the target users. On any given day at Marketade, we have multiple studies we are recruiting for. So we have a ton of experience with creative recruiting. Overcoming recruiting challenges is at Marketade’s core.

The Problem

For those who have tried to recruit users for a UX study, this story might sound familiar:

  • Our client was not getting the results her management team wanted from their existing website.
  • They had some analytics on usage of the existing site, as well as some high-level feedback from customer support and comments submitted from users on their website.
  • They wanted our help defining a strategy for redesign within 3 weeks.

Once we reviewed the existing data, we had the target users for the UX testing broken into two groups: our client’s current customers and potential customers who were currently using products from competitors. For the first group, we asked the client for a list of customers we could contact. They in turn reached out to their customer support team for the current customer data. In the meantime, we went to work recruiting users who were potential customers currently with a competitor. We put together screeners and recruited users who matched those attributes.

But getting the list of current customers from the client proved more difficult than expected. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but because of the way customer lists were organized and maintained, getting current customer data could not be achieved in the 3 weeks we had to complete the study.


Knowing we could not get a current customer list in time, we knew we needed to get creative. We used some tried-and-true recruiting strategies that tend to work for us when our primary recruiting methods are not an option:

  1. Get creative. Sometimes it just comes to you – ways to get access to customers without needing their contact info from a service provider or product company. For instance, we once needed to do research for a company focusing on products for new parents, so we posted a request on a few parenting message boards. Another client was a website for wine enthusiasts that reviewed wines by regions. We targeted a few local wineries and asked them to include an invitation to participate in user research in their online newsletter. It is as simple as asking yourself, “where would these kinds of people gather?”
  2. Recruit via social media. A few years ago, this would not have been possible. But today, even if you just ask your staff to post a recruitment post on their social media pages, you can get a lot of responses. We recently needed to do some research with engaged couples who were planning a honeymoon trip for a travel website. So, we had our staff and friends post an ad on social media that recently engaged couples could go to a Google form, take a brief survey, and if selected get $100 gift card for participating. Within 2 days we had over 50 responses!
  3. Cast a wider net. Imagine you have a client who is a big service provider, like a bank, healthcare company or insurance provider. Access to customers can be difficult — sometimes impossible. But we have posted ads on various metro area Craigslists for people interested in earning a gift card to participate in research. Interested respondents can take a brief survey that gives screener questions, which provides us with a list of potential users. It takes a little more phone screening to ensure the right target users, but usually within a day or two we get a good panel for testing.

By using some of these alternative methods for recruiting current customers, we found the right users who could participate in the study and deliver the research to the client on time and on budget.  We learned a lot from both user groups and provided insights to the client that provided user-centric strategic goals and KPIs for the redesign.

At Marketade, we do a lot of quick, effective recruiting for user research. Contact us to learn how we can help you understand more about your users.