When it comes to getting your designs in front of the right people for research, the vast pool of customer and non-customer candidates can be daunting. Where do you start looking? How detailed should you be in your screening? How do you attract the right people? With so many questions, it’s good to know you don’t have to start from scratch. We boiled it down to the top five most beneficial and successful tools we use during the research and recruiting process. You can start using these tools today to fill your calendar with a ton of juicy research interviews.
Tool number 1: The Test Plan
The plan of attack is hashed out in The Test Plan for every project and every phase. We break it down into a project overview, research strategy, and recruiting details. Things happen quickly at SendGrid and we can’t afford to recruit the wrong persona or in the wrong time frame.To get started, we determine the recruiting details of the Test Plan, which includes the who, when, how, and why of every project.
- Why it’s great: It’s a consistent benchmark to start recruiting and a place for all stakeholders to check in on the intentions and status of each project.
- The downside: It can be time-consuming to create in full. Also, if the lead stakeholders aren’t 100% sure on some details, it can cause some back-and-forth communication to complete.
Tool number 2: HotJar
If you’ve never used HotJar, or only used it for heat maps and tracking, step into the world of HotJar surveys. We have found the best approach is to ask about a customer’s role, projects they are working on, their experience with specific parts of our product, and more specific questions about the tools they use. This has consistently proved to be a great tool for customer research recruiting, and is one of the first things we set up when kicking off a project for our team.
- Why it’s great: HotJar surveys can run in the background while we do more manual screening and scheduling. The survey pops-up for anyone visiting certain parts of our website (you can customize this!), and allows us to screen for all research projects at once. Customers have the option to opt-in to our different research projects, giving us free reign for scheduling. A typical day can bring in as many as 200 new candidates.
- The downside: Exporting a spreadsheet of answers daily to screen possible candidates can be time-consuming — up to 30 minutes a day depending on response rates. I take an additional 3 to 5 minutes per candidate to verify their role on LinkedIn or within our CRM if they are a customer.
Influitive is a customer engagement platform that is customizable for your specific use case. We branded our Influitive page as SendGrid Insiders, where we post challenges, such assurveys or online scavenger hunts, to collect information on our customers and connect with them. Engaged advocates on Insiders earn points for each challenge and trade them in for gift cards, company swag, consulting services, and other rewards.
- Why it’s great: It’s a friendly, non-intrusive way of warming up customers and asking them to opt-in for specific research projects. We get to know our customers on a more personal level, but also have the opportunity to dive deep into how they’re using our product and any challenges they’re facing.
- The downside: Creating new challenges and asking questions in new ways can be tricky and require some creativity.
When we need to speak to non-customers in specific roles or industries, Respondent.io delivers. People on the platform opt-in for multiple types of research projects, and are emailed new projects every day. We create screener surveys, enter in the number of people we would like to recruit, and wait for the results to roll in.
- Why it’s great: It’s another set-it-and-forget-it tool, like HotJar, but the people who opt-in are intentionally looking to take part in user research for an incentive. Respondent.io consistently delivers the persona we are looking for, usually within a 24-hour window. Nine out of 10 Respondent.io recruits show up to interviews and prove to be very feedback-fruitful.
- The downside: It can be expensive— you pay to set the recruiting campaign live as well as pay individual incentives. The calendar tool is also troublesome and requires consistent attention and updates.
Tool number 4: CRM tool
Documentation is a high priority to avoid over communicating with customers and to reference for future research. We use Salesforce to screen customers and document emails and calendar events from interviews as qualified candidates for other projects. Customers that have been interviewed in the past are often the best repeat candidates.
- Why it’s great: Our CRM is kept up to date and is visible to all stakeholders. We can see if a team member (i.e. Customer Success Manager) previously had a conversation relevant to another project, making us more efficient in the interviews we execute. The ability to attach interview notes is an added bonus for visibility.
- The downside: Cirrus, a plugin that syncs Salesforce with Gmail and Google Calendar, is often buggy and inconsistent. Also, it adds a step to the process and is easily missed.
Tool number 5: Old fashioned direct emails
When it comes down to it, direct and authentic communication is king. It is the best received, most responded-to, and most successful in continuing the conversation. Using reports from past communication logged in Salesforce, LinkedIn profiles, and Influitive challenges, we establish which customers are the best fit, then create customizable email templates in Gmail for each project.
- Why it’s great: It’s easy to document and totally within your control. Stats are easy to track and controllable. There are no uncertain factors in sending a direct email. You know who you are communicating with, and, if you have screened sufficiently, you can track the progress of the email using Cirrus Insights.
- The downside: It’s time-consuming and can encourage back-and-forth communication with customers that is not always efficient. Careful wording of emails can also be prolonged based on the sensitivity of some customer accounts.
Honorable mention tools:
- Calendly: This tool syncs with your Google Calendar and allows customers to schedule interview time simply, eliminating the back-and-forth communication game. You are also able to create team calendars to pool everyone’s availability. It’s customizable and easy to use.
- Google Calendar: We log all customer interviews for internal visibility so that stakeholders on all teams can join a customer interview if they’re interested.
- Zoom Meeting: Zoom is used for remote interviewing, and is complete with built-in recording and transcription features. Our backup is Google Hangouts, but recording and transcription are not options.
- Amazon Incentives: We purchase Amazon.com Gift Cards in bulk so that we are prepared to thank our customers in the same week as their interview. These do not expire and have been well-received incentives.