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Eight ways B2B market research differs from B2C

By Andrew Dalglish -

Warning.  Market research can be bad for your health.

It can actively hurt business performance by drawing misleading conclusions.  Conclusions which fail to consider the full picture, which focus on the obvious rather than delving deep or which are simply based on faulty information.  The result is bad decisions.

Research can also passively hurt business performance by not driving action.  The conclusions are sound, but sit on a shelf gathering dust.  Usually this comes down to poor communication – the research isn’t cascaded throughout the organisation or the communication is so impenetrably dry that nobody listens.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Research can also be very, very powerful.  Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that good research can transform a business.

So how can you ensure research actually does drive better performance?

One of the most important tricks is to avoid shoehorning a B2C research approach into a B2B environment.  This just leads to superficial outcomes and potentially damages your brand in the process.

B2B research is different from consumer research in eight important ways:

  1. The 80:20 rule applies.  Give extra weight to the opinions of strategically important accounts
  2. ‘Kingmakers’ are critical.  Provided those that lead supplier decisions are represented, a relatively small number of interviews obtains a reliable view
  3. Behind the ‘Kingmaker’ are various influencers.  The research needs to represent these voices for a rounded perspective
  4. Account for the ‘domino’ effect.  Take a holistic perspective so that events in another part of the customer’s eco-system don’t catch you off guard
  5. Relationships matter.  Don’t try and bypass those who ‘own’ the customer relationship – they and their customers may react negatively.  Instead, gain their support for the research
  6. B2B buyers are experts.  Engage them intelligently and ensure any interviewers have sufficient knowledge to do so
  7. B2B decisions are more considered.  Reflect this in questioning, but don’t forget to cover ‘emotional’ dimensions too
  8. B2B research can be a valuable relationship building tool.  Promise confidentiality to those sharing their opinion, but ask if they would like a direct follow up.  That’s often what they want

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