The 10 most important elements to consider are:
- Understand the business: Find out how the business operates and how it interacts with its B2B customers. Understanding all components of the relationship and points of contact with customers including ordering, logistics, servicing, payments, technical expertise, channels to market, etc., is key to ensuring an effective project, sample and questionnaire design and analysis.
- Understand the decision making group: Decision making in B2B relationships is more complex. Businesses seldom engage with only 1 person who operates totally independently when deciding which products/service or suppliers to use. There are usually a number of influencers and decision makers. One needs to consider with whom to engage, what level of person one is talking to, what that person’s impact is on the decision-making group and what specialist knowledge is required.
- Understand the make-up of the customer and potential customer base: Sampling in B2B environments needs to consider the size of the client base, who contributes most of the revenue, which accounts are targeted for growth and where the customers are located. Samples in B2B environments are typically smaller, can be geographically dispersed, harder to access and there will be “must do” interviews.
- Determine how best to engage and Interview the business respondent: One needs to find a compelling reason and right approach to get B2B decision makers to participate. This speaks to choosing the right methodology and interviewer, for the right respondent and topic. Decision makers are often difficult to reach. Interviewers need to have the right skills to make contact, engage the decision maker to secure an interview while respecting their time availability. Seldom would a consumer call centre interviewer be able to conduct an effective interview at a CEO level, on a specialist topic.
- Methodology: While digital is increasingly important and all digital approaches must be considered, in B2B we need to think about the target respondent and which platform they are most likely to engage with. It is highly unlikely that a CEO of a large corporation will respond in their business capacity to an e-mail online survey, about matters affecting their business. At Livingfacts, we often use hybrid approaches to get to the full decision-making group and ensure we meet the research objectives.
- Length of survey versus depth required: Best practice principles apply but B2B interviews are often longer or have multiple people in one interview, making scheduling time for interviews important.
- Sensitivity and confidentiality of corporate information: The individual’s role and level of authority needs to be considered to assess what information they can and cannot share.
- Frequency: In markets with a small or core group of current or potential clients and/or specialisation one needs to guard against over-surveying as this creates research fatigue, lower participation rates and ultimately even smaller samples. This must be managed in an holistic way which considers other initiatives which are happening with decision makers, before fielding a project.
- Incentivising: Is this allowed in the industry and company? It’s important to know the industry and company’s ethics and policies. In many cases the answer is no and even if permitted, needs to be meaningful to the business and individual.
- Engage all important stakeholders before you start: In many cases the research will be used by and/or affect multiple people in the organisation. Getting their buy-in at the beginning and understanding their needs is key to effective design and actioning of results.
Selecting a research supplier who understands businesses, their complexities and how they operate is key to successfully conducting B2B research.
At Livingfacts we have 20 years’ worth of experience in understanding what customers, stakeholders, staff and suppliers need. We work with you to provide current research and insights on how to remain relevant in changing times.