What is B2B Research?
Business-to-business market research is the process which helps an organization discover key preferences, opinions, and thoughts of a particular audience or conducting a competitor analysis by surveying or sampling a portion of that audience.
For example, a company might want to learn more about an unmet product or service need before releasing a new offering. Businesses may also want to understand what contributes to employee turnover or what attracts prospective team members to a particular organization.
Discovering the answers to these types of questions, as well as a long list of other business-to-business type questions, can help a company make better, smarter decisions which can significantly impact its bottom line.
B2B Research Methods
In general, businesses conduct primary or secondary research. The latter involves analyzing information which has already been collected by other organizations and sources and drawing conclusions from that body of knowledge.
Primary research, on the other hand, is research which is intentionally conducted to answer a particular question or address a specific need. Within primary research, companies will conduct qualitative and/or quantitative research, depending on their particular goals and requirements:
Qualitative research is typically conducted with smaller groups and goes into more depth to gather opinions, ideas, and thoughts of those being interviewed. Many businesses may use qualitative research methods such as focus groups or in-depth-interviews either before or after quantitative research. For example, if a company is looking to fill a particular need with a new product offering for HR Online Recruitment Platforms, it may want to talk with a group of HR Professionals to uncover:
- what their biggest challenges are in recruitment areas,
- what tools and information they wished they had, or
- what problems they cannot seem to solve.
Quantitative research would typically follow and the feedback from qual interviews interviews can then be refined into a more quantitative study (conducted either online survey or via telephone survey), which can measure things like:
- frequency of need,
- willingness to pay to meet that need,
- and preferences on how to learn about new products or services.
When a company embarks on quantitative B2B research, it really wants to gather the hard data or numbers from a statistically significant portion of their target audience. The results are designed to help the business make better decisions about product development, pricing, and distribution, which will lead to greater profits and lower costs in the long run. Quantitative research may be in the form of phone or more typically online surveys.
When is the best time to conduct B2B research?
Selecting the best timing for conducting a B2B study is two-fold: first, you need to consider when is the best time in relation to a particular project or product launch, and second, you need to think about the best time to actually complete the data collection.
The general rule is that the sooner you conduct the research, the better. For example, if you’re beginning a new business or launching a new product, it’s always a good idea to conduct some B2B market research before you invest a great deal of time and money pursuing a particular direction.
The results from the research can help you answer big questions like:
is there a demand for your product or service?
as well as fine-tune issues such as pricing, packaging, and communication preferences.
You can also consider natural moments of gathering feedback when your business reputation is at stake like before and after a crisis or even more regular daily matters count; such as after a customer calls your service line, after a conflict resolution attempt, or once a purchase is made and received.
The second issue with timing has to do with the scheduling of the actual research. Practical considerations such as when a budget is available or renewed or how work plans are put in place may dictate beginning a project at the start of a calendar year or a specific quarter. Another factor may be when you actually need the research results. For example, if the results are scheduled to be presented at the company’s shareholder meeting or during a specific customer conference, you’ll need to backtrack to determine the timing of the actual research.
Consider the busy periods for your particular target audience and avoid scheduling a survey during those times
You’ll also want to consider when your sample respondents may be more available to give you time for your study. Consider the busy periods for your particular target audience and avoid scheduling a survey during those times. For example, don’t send accountants surveys during tax season or ask for input from educators during the first week of school or during common exam periods.
Benefit of B2B Research
B2B market analysis helps businesses in many ways. Changes in industries, markets, the economy and even in society can significantly impact organizations from year-to-year. A reputable B2B market research agency provides accurate snapshots of where your important audiences stand at any given moment and is critical in helping to answer these relevant business insights questions:
- Understanding your awareness and perception ranking in the B2B marketplace
- Determining if your B2B customers are aware of your primary products or services
- Mapping your marketplace and understanding your competitors
- Clearly defining what sets you apart
- Determining how and where customers find you
- Finding out how important price is to your B2B buyers
- Understanding what keeps clients coming back
- Gaining vision into opportunities which are around the corner in your industry
- Tuning your marketing content to resonate with what buyers are searching for
- Uncovering your strengths and weaknesses
- Finding out how your pricing compares to the competition
- Discovering whether there is demand for your new product or service
- Identifying emerging trends in your industry or marketplace
- Developing key topics for digital content marketing strategy to engage your buyers and build your authority.
- Identifying whether your ideas about your company match public ideas
- Finding out why your customers chose you over a B2B competitor
- Finding out what you are known for in the marketplace
As you can see, strong B2B research methods can help you determine what problems exist, where your competitive advantage may be, and the changing challenges of your customers. By using this information, you’ll be able to make better, smarter business decisions.
How to Conduct B2B Market Research
Many articles, contractors, and consultants provide a myriad of options for conducting B2B projects. On the one hand, companies with large budgets and complex research projects can hire a full-service research marketing agency to manage all the details from strategy to compiling a comprehensive final report.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, many do-it-yourself options abound online, which can be executed inexpensively and quickly. However, results may or may not provide you with range of market research reports you are specifically seeking.
Most businesses choose to conduct B2B research someplace between those two extremes. With all the technology and connectivity available today, both quantitative and qualitative research can often be completed in-house with assistance from online B2B panel providers.
What is a B2B Panel Provider?
A B2B panel provider is a company that pre-recruits people who are willing to provide insights for various research projects. Panel members can be categorized by job title, expertise, demographics, geographical location or a host of other specifics. When a customer contacts a panel provider and specifies the representative group they want, the provider then pulls from its database to deliver the correct panel. Panel members can be tapped for both qualitative and quantitative research projects.
Types of B2B Panel Providers
Many companies provide different B2B panels for their customers. These providers can be divided into three main categories:
Specialty Panel Providers: Specialty panel providers can provide customized B2B panels down to extremely narrow parameters so you get exactly the representative sample you are seeking. For example, if you want to survey individuals who are responsible for purchasing office supplies at companies under $200,000 in annual revenue on the east coast, you can obtain that panel quickly and easily. Specialty Panels will focus on industry verticals like: Tradesman, Engineers, Architects, Physicians, CPAs, Attorneys, Etc..
Panel Resellers: Like most reseller companies, panel resellers depend on the work of other panel providers. They act as an aggregator for a multitude of other panel providers, providing a one-stop shop solution for customer with a wide variety of needs.
Full-Service Panel Providers: These panel providers, often global panel providers, offer access to a large database of millions of people who have agreed to participate in panels and provided various profile attributes for consumer profiling, B2B profiling, and healthcare profiling which can be sorted for customers. Like some Panel Resellers and Specialty Panel Providers – most Full-Service Panel Providers offer Programming and Hosting Services for Online Surveys and Data Tabulation and Data Reporting Services as well
How to Select a B2B Panel Company
When you’re screening B2B panel providers, you’ll want to make sure they have a few key processes in place to help ensure that you’re getting the online panel quality you’re paying for. Here are some tips for you as you begin your B2B panel selection:
Specialization in B2B: Some panel providers focus on business-to-consumer panels, which are very different than B2B panels. Make sure you select one that has expertise and proven experience with the B2B marketplace. Compared to consumer markets B2B markets can be much more complex to target and the need for on-boarding participants is much more intensive. Categories of B2B markets are different than B2C markets and tend to be:
- Industry and Role Focused
- Product or Service Focused
- Market Focused
B2B market research recruiting by panel providers needs to consider the following areas which should be of interest to all B2B market research clients:
Targeted Recruiting: Ask your potential B2B panel provider how it recruits panelists. Find a provider that has a well-thought-out process in how it engages its participants.
Vetting Process: Just because a panelist claims to work a particular job or live in a specific country doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Talk with your panel provider about the steps it takes in vetting, confirming and verifying identity, professional credentials, and other demographics.
Multiple Reward Programs: Panelists will be motivated by different incentives. An experienced B2B panel provider will offer a wide variety of rewards and incentives to recruit, retain, and reward its best panelists.
Ongoing Quality Control: Just because a professional fits a particular survey criteria today doesn’t mean that will hold true in six months. Talk with your panel provider to find out how frequently panelist data is confirmed or updated.
Market research techniques for B2B are a vital component of a successful business plan and provide invaluable information to new and seasoned companies alike. Understanding what B2B market research can do for you as well as what type of resources are required will help you plan a future research project now. Incorporate these processes into your next new product or service plan and set aside time and budget to conduct a comprehensive study. With the right plan and B2B panel provider partner, you will obtain valuable information to move your organization forward successfully.