What is B2B Market Research?
If you work in the private sector, there is a good chance you’ve heard of business-to-business marketing. Also known as B2B, business-to-business marketing refers to the marketing of products/services from one business to another, like processor chips to computer companies, textiles to fashion houses, and tires to car manufacturers. But did you know that the B2B market is larger than the business-to-consumer (B2C) market? In fact, at $780 billion, it is more than twice the size of the B2C market (as of 2016)!
To understand why, consider housing. To build a house for consumers (B2C), developers need to buy windows, doors, cabinetry, etc. from other companies (all B2B). These companies, in turn, purchase components from other corporations—the window company may buy glass from one corporation and wood framing from another (again B2B). This continues all the way through the supply chain.
To tap the lucrative B2B market, market research is integral. For starters, it can help businesses learn about their market including its size, trends, and opportunities. It can also identify potential customers and their changing needs/wants. Moreover, it can provide powerful intel on competitors and the economy at large. In such ways, B2B market research can shape business strategies and ensure sound business decisions based on real data.
Challenges & Tips
B2B market research is often easier said than done, largely because it requires conversations with top business executives. Not only are these individuals difficult to track down, as they are often unlisted and employ various ‘gatekeepers.' They also tend to be well paid and not enticed by small monetary rewards. Moreover, executives can be wary of competitors and thus, averse to sharing internal corporate intel. Finally, executives are busy advancing their own corporate interests, leaving little time to help other businesses.
Reflecting on these challenges, 3 key lessons emerge.
1.) First, market researchers need a way to connect with B2B respondents. An expert tip is to go through third parties that hold relationships with business professionals, such as publishers of trade magazines or business loyalty programs. While “these sources may not be as pure from a sampling point of view," they are a quick, cheap, and effective way to reach the target population.
2.) Second, market researchers need to offer executives compelling incentives to participate in the research. These can include “soft” incentives (like the opportunity to engage in a stimulating conversation or inform product improvements) and “hard” incentives (like a charitable donation or entry into a prize draw).
3.) Third, researchers need to ensure that participation will be easy and minimally demanding of executives’ time. One solution is to use online surveys, which are a more flexible option that can be completed outside of work hours.