Good knowledge of the market has always been one of the major prerequisites for any business trying to demonstrate long staying power. These days when marketing methods are undergoing huge changes, and B2B customers regularly use as much as six different interaction channels before making a purchase decision, coming up with answers to whom, how and when to market your product or service becomes an even more complex issue that requires a thorough examination. Here are a couple of tips that should help you along the way.
Set up objectives
Do you want to learn the strengths of your competitors, look for the emerging opportunities in the market, build a strong brand identity or adjust the marketing message to the established customer base? All these objectives require different approaches. What you should do in order to come up with these tangible goals is to conduct an internal analysis, see which areas of your business need course-correction, and try to figure out the questions whose answers can improve your business strategy.
Decide which approach you are going to use
Collecting data can be roughly divided into two broad approaches:
- Qualitative – researchers talk directly with a limited number of respondents. Live conversations allow more open-ended questions and new lines of inquiry, but the data is often hard to analyze due to its depth.
Some of the most popular options you have on disposal here are focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and user experience research.
- Quantitative – an approach that relies more on its volume than the quality of the collected data. The questions are standardized and easy to process, which makes this method better suited for large-scale research projects.
The data collection methods you have on disposal here are online surveys, phone surveys, mail surveys, and mystery shopping.
Generally speaking, the quantitative research method will help you to discover what is currently happening on the market, while qualitative research will help you reach a better understanding of why. Both of them have their merits in regards to the scale and the goals of your project, and it is advised to use them both, if possible.
Design questions that will provide legitimate results
Regardless of the method you choose that will entail your questions to be more open or in the form of multiple choice or matrix, you have to follow certain rules that will help you to collect the data of much better quality:
- Consider consistency in question formatting and scaling.
- Consider the respondents’ demographic background.
- Write statistically valid questions that don’t prompt an automatic response.
- Avoid leading questions and the ones that assume the answer at the outset.
- Clarify the language.
- Put the demographic questions at the beginning of the interview or the survey.
- Make a gradual transition from general topics to more specific questions.
Conduct secondary research
Secondary research usually covers exploration of the resources like company records, available online surveys, studies, books and other data that has already been published. They are less expensive to do than the primary research, and take far less time, but offer a great frame of reference for reaching a better understanding of factors hard to identify through surveys, such as macro-economic conditions, technological shifts, demographics, local income levels, and so on.
Answer the original questions and perform the SWOT analysis
Once you have the answers, it’s time to apply them to the questions originally asked and employ the results in your business strategy. The gathered info can be also used as a starting point for further research regarding the issues you uncovered during previous efforts and as material for the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), which may not necessarily have been the target of your initial research.
Take into consideration the limitations of the B2B environment
The B2B environment is marked by group decision-making, where the very decision-making process of each company may be drastically different and, organizing focus groups can be challenging due to the crowded schedule of the stakeholders. Also, the degree of willingness of the various parties to share information can seriously compromise the quality of the gathered data. Try to mitigate these situations by leveraging personal relationships, and offering the stakeholders incentives like eBooks and webinars to be a part of your research.
This short roadmap should help you grasp the basics of what makes a quality and productive B2B market research. If you are inexperienced in this issue, you can try to find a third party help that will deal with the technicalities of the whole process. Still, steering the research in the right direction will be your responsibility.