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B2B market research – how to get it right

What goes into creating a successful business-to-business market research campaign

February 6th 2015

More complex and very beneficial, we look at the key components of business-to-business research

What is B2B market research?

What many people understand as market research is actually B2C market research; asking members of the public for feedback on a newly developed product. B2B market research differs. Its respondents are often experts in the subject being researched and will be asked far more specific questions, as it aims to benefit from their knowledge of the field.

Although its aims, approach and methodologies are different from B2C market research, both have the same goal - to use insight to drive decision-making.

Getting B2B research right:

  • Select appropriate respondents/customers with expert knowledge where required
  • Develop strong relationships with clients and respondents
  • Measure competitors to fully understand your business market place and the client’s buying decisions
  • Design questionnaires which show a clear understanding of customer needs
  • For person-to-person interviews select a knowledgeable, trained and personable interviewer
  • Develop trust and a guarantee of confidentiality e.g. MRS

The respondent

When conducting B2B research, it is very important to be aware of the respondent’s status as a customer of the research client, usually this is a pre-existing relationship that needs to be respected and upheld. Researchers also need be mindful that sometimes relationships aren’t as positive as they could be, either way it can create a bias on their part.

Successful B2B research must gain the support and buy-in of the individuals in the client business who own the customer relationship; it must support and develop that relationship, not undermine or damage it.

Question selection

Researchers need to have the expertise to engage B2B buyers intelligently. In B2B, the research must still use appropriate techniques to gather the right answers, but must be delivered in an informed and intelligent way, through professional questionnaire design and person-to-person interviewing. In the latter case a researcher must have sufficient industry knowledge to interact knowledgably – they need to understand the sector and be able to get the respondent to open-up and reveal nuggets of insight.

A guarantee of confidentiality is crucial to those providing their opinion. To increase engagement it is often beneficial to offer a direct follow-up on research results. This gives respondents a further opportunity to provide input, and also continues to build their engagement in the outcome. This is especially useful if there have been issues or challenges in the relationship that the research is aimed at addressing.

B2B research can not only provide valuable insight to drive better decision making for product and service development, but it is also a valuable relationship building tool. Asking well-researched questions and harnessing the respondents’ knowledge is key. Customers that participate and see their views being used to shape the supplier’s business, will inevitably be more engaged as a result.