Op4G Blog

Appealing to our Better Angels: How Op4G Uses Creative Incentives in B2B Research

Posted by Meghan Sullivan on March 15, 2017

Market research – or “any organized effort to gather information about target customers” – can be vital to the competitiveness and success of companies.  Sometimes, the targets are individual consumers. Other times, they are actually fellow businesses. For example, a silverware company might want information on the preferences of restaurants. Likewise, a tire company might want information on car manufacturers. Such research is better known as “Business to Business” or B2B research.

Unfortunately, B2B is far from easy! It often entails questioning top company executives, as they are most likely to make the purchase decision. These executives are not only hard to track down (since they are generally unlisted). They are also extremely busy and well paid. Moreover, they are focused on furthering their own business—not yours—and may be reluctant to share “semi-confidential” corporate details.

So how can B2B market researchers entice executives to participate in surveys, interviews, or focus groups? Many offer modest cash incentives – maybe $100 for 1 hour of the executive’s time.  But for an executive drowning in work and making $200, $500 or $1000/hour, such incentives rarely suffice. (In some cases, they may also “fall foul of corporate bribery laws or policies”).

In the words of B2B experts, “you simply cannot compensate a busy professional or expert for the time they are sharing with you”. Instead, “you need to give respondents a compelling reason to support the research”.

Some researchers highlight how executives’ insights might improve the products/services available to them. Executives can then view the research as potentially beneficial to their company. Other researchers appeal to executives’ passion, sense of curiosity, or desire for mental stimulation. They try to engage the executives in thought-provoking discussions about their company or field. Furthermore, many researchers strive to develop a personal connection to the executive – a real “human bond”.

But, as it turns out, one of the most effective incentives is actually the offer of a charitable donation. In one experiment, only a small fraction of survey participants were promised a charitable donation, yet they ultimately accounted for 53% of survey respondents! Who knew that corporate executives were so altruistic?

 Luckily for Op4G, charitable giving is central to our business model. We require all research participants to donate between 25 – 100% of their earnings to a non-profit. They can choose from among our 350+ non-profit partners, which include Big Brothers Big Sisters, the American Lung Association, the Nature Conservancy, and the YMCA. This charitable element gives us yet another edge in the B2B market research space.

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Topics: Market Research, Surveys, B2B

Written by Meghan Sullivan

Meghan works part-time for Op4G, assisting primarily with Op4G’s social media, blog, and monthly newsletter. Based in Ottawa, Canada, Meghan completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at Wellesley College and Oxford University. She then earned a Master of Public Policy degree at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In addition to her work at Op4G, Meghan is a Senior Policy Advisor. She is an avid athlete, playing both varsity basketball and softball in university. Meghan is also passionate about international and environmental issues and volunteers for several related non-profits.