I’ve always been fascinated by language.

How words can be used to convey emotion, create tension and divide interpretation. The precision with which a good wordsmith can draw you into a story. The ability of punctuation to radically alter the meaning of a sentence.

As a marketing director part of my role is to use language to try to engage diverse and often disparate groups. And, as a researcher, my role is uncannily similar.

The question of how you recruit and engage hard-to-reach, time-poor audiences is perhaps the most frequently asked question of any B2B research company.  Brands, agencies, industry experts – all of us are seeking that magic bullet. That infallible formula. That fail-safe approach.

In truth, however, there isn’t one.

There are of course standard responses: finding the right ‘hook’, using appropriate language, accommodating different times for interviews, ensuring the survey/ discussion is engaging and relevant and so forth.

But these answers are not unique to B2B. They represent best practice for engaging any audience group.

Market researchers have long acknowledged the extent to which personal experiences, attitudes and values, influence professional behaviour. Yes, respondents may have different priorities at work. And yes, their roles may sometimes necessitate dialling up or down different aspects of their character. But they don’t simply put on suit and become someone else.

Is it not therefore time to stop thinking about how we recruit and engage both B2B and B2C audiences and instead start thinking about how we engage them as people?

Can we honestly say that a stay at home parent or a career has fewer demands placed on their time than an accountant? Is it still possible to argue that FTSE 100 CEO will only engage with formal communications? And do we as brands, businesses and agencies really want to be the people that enforce these stereotypes?

I’d argue not.

Yes, the universe size and seniority of some B2B audiences can necessitate that that the content and approach is different to that of a consumer-facing questionnaire, but the same rules of engagement still apply. The respect with which we treat a CEO’s time should be equally applied to an online panellist. The pioneering question types we apply to a consumer survey can be used to elicit feedback from architects. The same level of effort we put into demonstrating the value of participation to a small business owner should be applied to their end customers.

As an industry we have seen participation in market research fall in recent years. The demands on respondents’ time are ever increasing. The demand for deeper insight ever growing.

Now, more than ever, I would suggest that our ability to continue to uncover insight that matters depends on our willingness to engage with people as people, rather than as participants.

Author: Emily Dickinson from Opinium