8 Ways to Reach Niche Audiences
Tips to help you reach the niche audiences best able to inform your clients’ business decisions.
By Guest Writer
Asking the right questions of the right people. That’s the heart of research. For some studies, like market-sizing, a general audience is critical to the work. But in much of what we do at Vital Findings, niche audiences are required to effectively answer the business question at hand.
People with diabetes, insurance brokers, fashion influencers and C-level technology professionals have little in common, but they’re among the many niche audiences we speak with every day.
Finding a specific and narrow audience isn’t always easy, but we’ve been honing our process for well over a decade and it enables us to match our clients with the people that can most help them make actionable decisions.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
Find people with the right titles
In screeners, you can spend a lot of time asking qualifying questions. But with clients looking to reach niche audiences—especially in the B2B world—you have to go directly to the right people, and one way to do that is to pay attention to titles.
“I’m always surprised how high up we can go with a targeted approach,” says Jason Kramer, Vital Findings’ Founder and Chief Research Officer. “I’ve interviewed the former Vice Chairman of a top three automotive company, divisional heads of the top US brokerages, and dozens of HR heads at Fortune 500 companies. Through them I got insights I’d never have gotten by speaking to a generalist.”
Probe, and then probe some more
Vice President of Client Engagement Stephanie David recently worked on a project where she needed to reach people with diabetes. “If you just ask if people have diabetes, they may say ‘yes,’” she says. “So at Vital Findings, we use additional security measures to weed out professional survey takers.”
In Stephanie’s example, she created a series of probing questions with regard to insulin use. Instead of just asking, “Do you take insulin” she asked questions only someone who has gone through the experience of taking insulin could answer.
“Before we got the right people, we got the wrong people,” says Vice President of Client Engagement Brian Thompson.
“When trying to reach niche audiences, you have to be specific about what you want,” he adds. On a tech-related project, his recruiter brought him lots of people who used his clients’ products. But Brian was looking for decision makers at the top of the company. “I didn’t need people who used the product—I needed people who bought it.”
If you don’t get what you need, don’t be afraid to ask for more respondents.
Make recruitment personal
Associate Vice President of Client Engagement Ivey Crespo works with several footwear brands who are looking to glean insights from influencers and other fashion-forward respondents. She says that initially it was hard to reach these people because they receive so many requests.
But Ivey helps potential recruits understand their importance and the insights they can bring to her studies. She uses personalized invites that demonstrate that she knows who the person is and what makes them unique which creates connection and builds trust.
Talk to people who don’t fit but might be valuable
Sometimes a study comes about, says Jason, where he knows what he needs to learn about, but he doesn’t necessarily know everyone whose work relates to the subject matter. In those cases, he asks for a list of profiles of people who didn’t make it through.
“I’m not afraid to interview someone who doesn’t fit every criteria, but has a really valuable point of view,” he says. For example, on a project related to disability insurance, he was looking for brokers who focus on mid-size companies. But Jason noticed a profile for a consultant at a large national firm who happened to specialize in disability. “By talking to him, I got a bird’s eye view of trends in the business that I could use to contrast what I heard from mid-size brokers. It wasn’t what the client was expecting, and it wowed them.”
Trust your instincts
It’s essential never to forget that, as a market researcher, you bring a valuable set of skills and expertise to your work. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Stephanie says a respondent gave conflicting answers about their experiences with diabetes. In some responses they talked about being very open with others about their diabetes. In other responses they expressed being very private about the disease and its management. She didn’t invite the candidate to participate. “If something seems wrong, it probably is,” she says.
Pay your respondents well
When Ivey works with fashion influencers, she increases the honoraria she pays them. “These people bring credibility to our research, and we have to be willing to pay for the value they bring.”
Brian notes that “Paying respondents too little is a problem across the industry.” He says that in his work on behalf of a large technology company looking to reach senior-level security professionals, he’s often targeting very busy people who already earn high salaries. “Paying them properly is a key way to make it worth their while,” he says.
In the interview, get specific
“You’ve gone to great lengths and considerable expense to recruit subject matter experts. This is not the time to ask generalized questions,” says Jason. “A lot of what I’m hunting for are specific stories and anecdotes, so I won’t leave a general comment alone without probing for an example,” he says.
In one case, a large global benefits company wanted to know why their market share had declined. Rather than asking general questions about the marketplace, Jason asked the respondent to tell him about his specific experience with the client. “He gave me details on his conversations with the client rep, what he thought of their pitch, and why he chose to switch to another vendor. I pulled his comments verbatim, they were so good,” he says. “And the client brings up this story to this day.”