Finding Niche Respondents

Top Strategies For Recruiting Hard-to-Find Survey Respondents


Finding respondents for your survey is one thing. Recruiting hard-to-find participants for a niche survey topic is a whole different ball game – one that often requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Luckily, we’ve been in the game long enough to be deemed experts in the field. So, without further ado, this article outlines the different approaches, both paid and free, to getting survey responses from difficult-to-reach respondents.


  1. Determining Audience Difficulty
  2. Recruiting Niche Respondents for Free
  3. Paying to Get Hard-to-Find Respondents

Determining Audience Difficulty

Before you embark on the journey of recruiting hard-to-find survey respondents, it’s important to assess whether the audience you’re trying to reach is niche or not. There are two ways you can do this:

Method 1:

Reach out to online panel providers – simply Google 'online survey panel' or 'buy survey respondents' and request a quote. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Specify your survey topic, country, participant count, and audience demographics.
  • Clarify survey details, like which question types you included, actions required of respondents (e.g., watching an external video or having to do a follow-up survey later on), and whether you require personal data from your participants.

By assessing the online panel’s willingness to gather your responses for you, you can determine whether your audience is indeed difficult to reach or not.

Method 2:

Calculate incidence rates or simply employ common sense to determine how easy you’ll be able to gather responses. Ask yourself:

  • Am I looking for an audience that consists of very few people (for example, young adult females with Autism Spectrum Disorder who own dogs)?
  • Is my ideal respondent difficult to reach online (for example, people with severe learning disabilities)?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, your audience is likely very niche and therefore difficult to reach. But don’t fret! There are several ways – both free and paid – to reach a niche audience.

Recruiting Niche Respondents for Free

1. Optimize Your Survey

If you’re looking for people to take your survey without offering payment or incentives, you’re going to have to keep your survey short and engaging. Keep it concise and make it as interesting as possible.

ExampleDesign a survey with no more than 10 questions – only focus on the most critical aspects of your research topic. Include graphics and visuals where possible to enhance the participant’s experience.

People are more willing to help you out for free if they only have to spare a couple of minutes of their time. Plus, you want to ensure that your respondents actually complete the survey and don’t leave halfway through. Short and sweet’s the rule.

2. Capitalize on Your Survey’s Nicheness

Having a hard-to-reach audience can actually count in your favor, since the data you’ll collect could be super valuable to the same people you want answers from. Take Growth Marketers, for example. These professionals are probably very interested in the strategies and experiences their peers might have. You can use this to your advantage: Offer to share your results with your respondents for their own benefit, in exchange for their participation in your survey.

3. Meet Respondents in Their Natural Habitat

One of the top ways to reach niche audiences is by distributing your survey where they’re at. This could be a community gathering, audience-specific meetup, or professional event.

Pro Tip: Look up relevant events in Eventbrite, or other online forums dedicated to your target audience. For example, if you’re looking to survey UX/UI Designers in a specific region, search for planned meetups in the area and attend it. Engage with participants, explain the survey's purpose and ask for their input. Offer a QR code or easy-to-remember URL to make it as easy as possible for respondents to take part.

4. Find Participants Online

Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups and start doing targeted outreach. Directly message individuals within your niche and present your survey to them. People are more likely to take part in surveys if you ask them directly, rather than posting it to a broad audience.

Did you know? Most businesses make their email addresses and that of their employees available to the public. Use this to your advantage by sending an email to prospective respondents, asking them to take a couple of minutes to answer your survey.

Paying to Get Hard-to-Find Respondents

1. Explore B2B and C-Suite Outreach

Since exclusively-online surveying isn’t all that effective when it comes to reaching niche audiences, consider contacting a B2B or C-suite* outreach company that specializes in your target audience’s industry. Even if you’re not looking to survey someone in the business world, these companies can help you reach specific survey candidates that would otherwise be difficult to find. Provide the company with your survey details and let them use their expertise to reach your ideal respondents.

Pros of using B2B and C-Suite Outreach Companies

  • These companies make use of CAPI (Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing) and CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing), which are better suited for surveying hard-to-reach respondents.
  • They know how to get the contact information of your audience, collect the data in person, and store it online. While this approach is much more labor intensive, it has a much higher yield (especially with niche audiences)

Take note: Prices for these services usually range between $20 and $100 per respondent for a 15 min survey. If this falls within your budget, fill out our quote request form, and we’ll set you up with our trusted CAPI/CATI partner.

Did you know? The term B2B stands for “business-to-business”, while C-suite refers to the top management positions in a company (such as CEOs, CFOs, etc.)

Closing Thoughts

While the recruitment of hard-to-find survey candidates demands a tailored approach, it’s far from impossible. Whether you have an extensive budget for your survey or not, you have options when it comes to reaching your niche target audience. Get creative with incentivizing your prospective respondents and finding them in their go-to places. And remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get help from the experts.

P.S. We specialize in recruiting even the toughest-to-find survey respondents. Take it easy on yourself and reach out.

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