Getting access to users ensconsed within large companies

27 Feb 2004 - 5:55pm
10 years ago
4 replies
623 reads
Seth Nickell
2004

As part of the product I am designing now its important that I better
understand (talk to, shadow, function as...) a few different classes of
users as they exist in their "natural habitat": the large non-hi-tech
corporation.

In my past experience I've always been able to use direct access to
prospective customers or lean on my personal connections to find
suitable people to talk to. Unfortunately because this product area is
very new for Red Hat, we don't have suitable business relationships that
I can leverage to get at "prospective users". To my surprise I've
realized that essentially all my personal contacts are in some form of
high technology corporation (an area where I already have a wealth of
data, but I have reasons to believe they tend to function differently).

Have other people encountered this problem? How do you get in touch with
users who aren't trying to buy from you (yet!) that are buried within a
large company? At the moment my best plan is (somehow?) finding people's
names within the company and cold calling (a very weak plan indeed) I
have even considered picking a few large companies and just walking into
one of their office buildings and see if I can get somebody to talk to
me!

-Seth

Comments

1 Mar 2004 - 2:35pm
vutpakdi
2003

--- Seth Nickell <snickell at redhat.com> wrote:
> As part of the product I am designing now its important that I better
> understand (talk to, shadow, function as...) a few different classes of
> users as they exist in their "natural habitat": the large non-hi-tech
> corporation.
...
> Have other people encountered this problem? How do you get in touch with
> users who aren't trying to buy from you (yet!) that are buried within a
> large company? At the moment my best plan is (somehow?) finding people's
> names within the company and cold calling (a very weak plan indeed) I
> have even considered picking a few large companies and just walking into
> one of their office buildings and see if I can get somebody to talk to
> me!

Based on my time at a large insurance firm as a consultant, I would expect
any attempt to unofficially approach a non-tech company to be met with at
least extreme sketpicism and resistance if not defensive paranoia. You'll
be faced with convincing the person/people who you contact that you have
some sort of official sanction from a company that they care about, that
it's worth their time to talk to you, and that you won't be stealing their
secrets for a competitor.

Have you tried to build official relationships using your sales and
marketing organization? Seems like you might be able to work with that
group to officially approach the company. Pitched as a "help us design a
product for you and your industry. You'll be able to direct the design of
the application as well as get a discount as a launch customer", companies
would probably be more receptive to working with your company.
Alternately, working with an existing provider to the target non-tech
company to garner an introduction might work.

A final alternate might be to locate a person who is representative of a
user at the type of company and hire them as a temporary consultant. For
example, locate a retired (or laid off) insurance compensation processor
and hire them to provide input.

Ron

=====
============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

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3 Mar 2004 - 11:36am
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

Hello!

I have similar problems to yours. I get access to test subjects or
observable behaviour in large organizations by exploiting to the hilt
any form of relationship where I am a customer of a large corporation.
This, however requires some polite emailing et alia and a lot of
preparation time. You need some form of permission at one point.

I also do a lot on the phone, with less preparation. The trick is to
make them accept as fast as possible, on the phone, that you are not
selling them something, and to find one of the thousands of lonely,
talkative bureaucrats that usually inhabit large or very large
organizations. It does not matter wether they are in a private company
or a government org: They will gladly talk to you for an hour or more,
once you get them started. The only serious work involved is in gently
steering them back to what you are looking for when they veer away.

This requires no permissions becasue you are not physically in the
place but it is still not a cold call since you refer to somebody who
sent you to this person, for information. Most of the time, it is a two
or three step affair. In the end I am always amazed at how much more
most people are willing to tell me on the phone, while rambling on,
than when I schedule for a formal innterview. Of course, sometimes
this does not work since I actually have to see them doing it.

Alain V.

--- Seth Nickell <snickell at redhat.com> a écrit : > As part of the
product I am designing now its important that I better
> understand (talk to, shadow, function as...) a few different classes
> of
> users as they exist in their "natural habitat": the large non-hi-tech
> corporation.
>
> In my past experience I've always been able to use direct access to
> prospective customers or lean on my personal connections to find
> suitable people to talk to. Unfortunately because this product area
> is
> very new for Red Hat, we don't have suitable business relationships
> that
> I can leverage to get at "prospective users". To my surprise I've
> realized that essentially all my personal contacts are in some form
> of
> high technology corporation (an area where I already have a wealth of
> data, but I have reasons to believe they tend to function
> differently).
>
> Have other people encountered this problem? How do you get in touch
> with
> users who aren't trying to buy from you (yet!) that are buried within
> a
> large company? At the moment my best plan is (somehow?) finding
> people's
> names within the company and cold calling (a very weak plan indeed) I
> have even considered picking a few large companies and just walking
> into
> one of their office buildings and see if I can get somebody to talk
> to
> me!
>
> -Seth
.com/

__________________________________________________________
Lèche-vitrine ou lèche-écran ?
magasinage.yahoo.ca

3 Mar 2004 - 3:23pm
Becubed
2004

> Have other people encountered this problem? How do you get in touch
> with users who aren't trying to buy from you (yet!) that are buried within a
> large company?

I've had great success in talking with local-level user or professional
groups, when you can find them. It's amazing how many professions have
associations with local chapters, or simply informal groups of people
interested in a particular business domain. Sometimes regional
business-development organizations are a good resource, too.

Once you get in touch with a group's organizer, they're usually willing to
spread the word among their membership. And I'll repeat again the wise words
said earlier in this thread: you're NOT calling to ask for help, but to
offer a cool opportunity.

Hope this helps,

Robert

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Interaction Design Group
Quarry Integrated Communications Inc.
rbarlowbusch at quarry.com

3 Mar 2004 - 5:06pm
Lyle_Kantrovich...
2004

If you want to outsource recruiting, call test facilities or market
research firms...they often offer recruiting services and can help you
locate users that fit your demographic. They'll help you develop a
screener or you can build your own. Rates depend on the demographic
you're looking for, who does the screener, and how difficult it might be
to get a list of people or companies. "Typical" rates are between $100
and $250 per recruit.

I've had some luck just cold-calling known customer companies and asking
for people in certain roles (e.g. purchasing, IT, wherever your target
users are)...if you can make it clear you're not selling something,
they'll usually give you a few minutes to screen them. If they're not a
match, often they can recommend someone else to call.

If I were at Red Hat though, I'd think about looking for people on
mailing lists, discussion groups, or people who've registered or called
support recently... Just a few ideas.

Here are some links:

Usability Lab Rentals and Recruiting
http://www.stcsig.org/usability/topics/recruiting-firms.html

When to Outsource the Recruiting of Test Users
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/outsource_recruiting.html

Finding the Right Users (Includes a Screener)
http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000102.php

Hope that helps.

Lyle

----
Lyle Kantrovich
User Experience Architect

Croc O' Lyle - Personal Commentary on usability, information
architecture and design.
http://crocolyle.blogspot.com/

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
- Leonardo da Vinci

-----Original Message-----
From: ndgmtlcd at yahoo.com [mailto:ndgmtlcd at yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 11:36 AM
To: snickell at redhat.com;
discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Getting access to users ensconsed within large
companies

Hello!

I have similar problems to yours. I get access to test subjects or
observable behaviour in large organizations by exploiting to the hilt
any form of relationship where I am a customer of a large corporation.
This, however requires some polite emailing et alia and a lot of
preparation time. You need some form of permission at one point.

I also do a lot on the phone, with less preparation. The trick is to
make them accept as fast as possible, on the phone, that you are not
selling them something, and to find one of the thousands of lonely,
talkative bureaucrats that usually inhabit large or very large
organizations. It does not matter wether they are in a private company
or a government org: They will gladly talk to you for an hour or more,
once you get them started. The only serious work involved is in gently
steering them back to what you are looking for when they veer away.

This requires no permissions becasue you are not physically in the
place but it is still not a cold call since you refer to somebody who
sent you to this person, for information. Most of the time, it is a two
or three step affair. In the end I am always amazed at how much more
most people are willing to tell me on the phone, while rambling on,
than when I schedule for a formal innterview. Of course, sometimes
this does not work since I actually have to see them doing it.

Alain V.

--- Seth Nickell <snickell at redhat.com> a écrit : > As part of the
product I am designing now its important that I better
> understand (talk to, shadow, function as...) a few different classes
> of
> users as they exist in their "natural habitat": the large non-hi-tech
> corporation.
>
> In my past experience I've always been able to use direct access to
> prospective customers or lean on my personal connections to find
> suitable people to talk to. Unfortunately because this product area
> is
> very new for Red Hat, we don't have suitable business relationships
> that
> I can leverage to get at "prospective users". To my surprise I've
> realized that essentially all my personal contacts are in some form
> of
> high technology corporation (an area where I already have a wealth of
> data, but I have reasons to believe they tend to function
> differently).
>
> Have other people encountered this problem? How do you get in touch
> with
> users who aren't trying to buy from you (yet!) that are buried within
> a
> large company? At the moment my best plan is (somehow?) finding
> people's
> names within the company and cold calling (a very weak plan indeed) I
> have even considered picking a few large companies and just walking
> into
> one of their office buildings and see if I can get somebody to talk
> to
> me!
>
> -Seth
.com/

____________________

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