It goes without saying that conducting market research with business consumers is a different animal than with general consumers. This audience requires different approaches to the research design, recruitment, and analysis of the results.
B2B research demands a much greater depth of understanding of the target market and buying process. Whereas in consumer research the buying process can often be easily foreseen and likely consumers clearly identifiable, the same is not true in the B2B marketplace wherein the decision-making processes can be quite complex, involving multiple stakeholders and procurement processes. For example, in B2B research it may not be enough to just survey the key decision-maker, in that other influencers or procurement processes may exist thereby limiting the power of an individual to act based solely on their personal opinions and behaviours.
Therefore to avoid any potential issues, here are a few tips that will help to ensure the B2B research you conduct will produce actionable and valid results.
- Thoroughly investigate the target market and buying process. Often times the client already knows a lot about their customers, so perhaps start by moderating some internal brainstorming sessions, mapping out the buying process. If it’s a new market for your client, then suggest a handful of in-depth qualitative interviews to inform the study design.
- Carefully craft the sample frame. Ensure that the right mix of potential customers and members of the buying process within those organizations are included in your sample frame. Its important to choose appropriate segments, positions in the company, and count of participants inside a single organization. If required, substituting a larger sample for a smaller one with better insights is well worth it in the end.
- Choose the right methodology. You could be tempted to simply do a broad-based survey as is done in consumer research and rely on the “law of averages” to get valid results. However, if, for example, a smaller sample is chosen, the decision should include whether to use methodologies appropriate to smaller samples, such as Adaptive-Choice Based Conjoint, or even to consider simply going for in-depth qualitative interviews.
- In quantitative research, keep in mind the roles of each subgroup within the buying process when building a questionnaire and design accordingly; it will save you a lot of headaches when trying to explain why the results lead to unexpected conclusions.
- For qualitative research, create as many probes as possible to make sure that complex organizational issues are addressed, while leaving room for participants to have experiences that require you to go “off-guide”.
- Be strategic with information. Every research participant has the potential of being a customer, first-time or repeat. The information they receive needs to contribute to building a positive perception of your client should the study not be blind.
Although B2B research may require deeper upfront undertaking than consumer research, the advantages of offering products and services that clearly reflect business consumer needs far outweigh the obstacles.
SmartPoint Research is highly skilled in conducting B2B studies and has successfully recruited complex samples for many projects across a wide range of industries. To learn more about our B2B market research services, please contact us.