B2B organisations have always had a natural inclination to expand internationally.  With a finite customer base at home and products which can be ‘translated’ with relative ease it makes good sense.  And as globalisation continues at a pace, the importance of foreign shores is ever-increasing.

This international dimension has important implications for how market research is conducted and interpreted.  In my time I’ve run research projects in dozens of countries so thought I’d share a few pointers for those about to embark on an international B2B research study.

  • Choose the research approach carefully.  Select the wrong methodology and participation rates may be low or real opinions hard to uncover.  For example, some cultures have a strong preference for providing feedback one-to-one which means that focus groups aren’t a viable option.
  • Ensure clarity.  In any country it’s essential to ensure that all research questions are clear and unambiguous.  This is even more important when questions will then be translated into another language.  For example, avoid jargon or slang.
  • Translate well.  It’s essential that the nuance of meaning in a question is the same in all languages being used.  This means that back-translation and proof-reading by native speakers is a must for survey questionnaires.
  • Remember the rules.  Surveys need to adhere to local Data Protection laws and, if they’re offering participation incentives, bribery laws.  These can be strict in some countries so take care not to fall foul of the authorities.
  • Interpret in context.  Different cultures have different norms when it comes to answering survey questions.  For example, some countries are ‘hard markers’ and tend to give lower scores to brands in relation to measures like satisfaction or advocacy.  This means that focus should be on the relative position within each country and direct comparisons between countries need to be made with care.

Happy travels!

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) target market research.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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