July 30, 2019

14 Ways to Recruit Hard to Reach Customers

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John Cusmina

President, TL Health

Whether you have an orphan drug applicable to only a handful of prescribers or you are working with healthcare professionals with increasingly busy schedules, you know the struggle of trying to recruit hard to reach customers. Recruitment is a critical part of the research process and without enough respondents, a study’s findings can be compromised or worse, the study cannot be completed at all.

Here are a few tactics we use to recruit those hard to reach customers and gather the insights needed to help you make better, more informed business decisions: 

  1. Take a multi-channel approach

Everyone is unique and the way in which they want to be communicated with is unique too. For most people, email will work. But sometimes we must consider other methods to recruit our target audience like fax, social media or FedEx. By taking a multi-channel approach, we increase the chances of your invitation getting in the hands of your target audience.

  1. Utilize patient advocacy groups

Patient advocacy groups are a great way to get in contact with patients and healthcare professionals that are relevant to your needs.  Sometimes they will even have a “Physician Finder” on their web page, as well, to direct patients to physicians treating their disease. This helps us because it provides a comprehensive list of potential candidates applicable for your research.

  1. Be flexible with the incentive

We understand that with a small audience to choose from we will probably have to pay a higher premium than normal in order to recruit them for our study, and that premium may increase if we need responses faster or if we are not getting enough qualified candidates. By being flexible with the incentive, we increase the likelihood of filling recruitment quotas. We factor this into the market research proposal, so you are prepared to potentially pay a little more to properly field your study and are not hit with any surprise costs.

  1. Be available

When dealing with hard to reach customers, you want to minimize any barriers to participate.  We understand that, when recruiting, we must serve several different schedules as everyone’s life is different. We do this by making sure we are available off-peak hours like nights, early mornings and weekends. In addition, we have multiple, experienced moderators on staff to help increase our availability for respondents.

  1. Be persistent

By sending out one to two friendly reminders during recruitment, we keep your study top of mind. This also allows us to try different subject lines, messaging, times, days and incentives to help field the study as quickly as possible.

  1. Plan ahead 

By allowing plenty of time to complete the recruitment, we not only ensure your quotas are filled, we also guarantee better quality results. If you know your research needs to be completed by a certain date or milestone, we make sure to start recruitment well in advance.

  1. Develop a mini panel

If you are planning to do multiple studies with an audience over the course of six months or a year, another tactic we utilize is to develop a mini panel of individuals to participate in a pre-determined number of market research projects.  Pre-recruiting gives us plenty of time to recruit candidates and incentivizes the physicians to sign-up for the research because they know they will have the opportunity to participate in more studies in the future.

  1. Take advantage of referrals

Sometimes the best research candidates come directly from other candidates! Utilizing referrals is a great way to reach other qualified individuals because those making the referral are working in the field every day and may be able to provide the names of other physicians who are also treating patients in this area.

  1. Utilize company’s lists

If you have a list of potential prescribers, let us match that against our internal opt-in database of more than one million physicians.  This can not only speed up recruitment time, but also ensure we are speaking to the right candidates and allow us to match behavioral data with attitudinal data.

  1. Initiate multiple recruitment houses

When timelines are tight, another option we consider is using multiple recruitment houses. This is beneficial as each house has its own unique panel, so it allows us to pull respondents from a larger population. We oversee the entire recruitment process so there are no conflicts with the same physician signing up for the research twice. 

  1. Consider clinical trials’ websites and publications

Clinical trials and publications provide us with those individuals who have recently completed or are currently working in your disease area. These individuals are some of the top thought leaders for their disease area and can provide exceptional insights for your research.

  1. Be Specific

Be specific and include as much detail as possible around exactly what it is you are looking for. We include all the details necessary to encourage recruitment without making invitations too long. Participants feel more comfortable signing up for research when they know what they are committing to.


  1. Screen out unqualified candidates

There is nothing worse than starting an interview only to find that the person you are talking to isn’t “right” for your project and now you lost valuable time when you could be speaking with a more qualified candidate.  That is why we include a screener in our recruitment process. Some examples of the criteria we screen on include years in practice, number of patients treated monthly and familiarity with certain treatment procedures. 

  1. Make candidates feel special

Physicians want to be kept aware of “new” treatments that may change the way they currently manage a disease. If the research is going to change the way a certain disease is treated or will impact the lives of patients, we let them know!  When candidates feel as though their input is going to help change patients’ lives, they are more inclined to participate in the research.

In Summary

Recruitment can be difficult when working with small or busy populations; but by following these tips, we have made the process a lot easier and can get the qualified candidates you need to help you make the best decisions to grow your business!

john work photo- white backgorund

John Cusmina

John has over 34 years of pharmaceutical industry experience working in Product Management, Market Research, Sales and Sales Operations for companies such as GSK, AstraZeneca, Shire, Medeva Pharmaceuticals, and IMS Health. His specialties include: Market Strategy Planning & Development, Launch and Operational Planning, Market Research, Multi-Channel Promotions and Business Development.

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