How to do market assessment research in B2B

How to do market assessment research in B2B
Contents

Why does market assessment research matter in B2B?

How B2B market assessment research works

Best practices for market assessment research in B2B

Why does market assessment research matter in B2B?

If you enter a new market without due diligence, you’re taking a big risk. 

Carrying out market assessment research will help you make robust evidence-based decisions about whether to enter a market – and if so, how to approach it. Evaluating the credibility of an opportunity and understanding how much demand there truly is for your product or service – that’s crucial in B2B. 

Out of frequent B2B customers, 80% change suppliers at least once every two years due to unfulfilled expectations, according to Accenture. That presents both an opportunity and a threat when you enter a new market.

On the one hand, it means buyers could quickly switch away from the incumbent and move over to your brand instead if you come in with an innovative offering – one that meets their needs better. 

On the other hand, if you enter with a bad strategy, it may mean that after they’ve trialed you unsuccessfully, they won’t hesitate to leave you quickly.

However, market opportunity assessment isn’t only useful for businesses seeking new ventures. It’s also a very valuable exercise for companies weighing up whether to stay in a market – for example, so they can withdraw before the market contracts too far. 

Similarly, it can help brands looking to reinvent their current under-performing proposition. Simply put, it supports long-term business planning decisions. 

With a market assessment analysis, you can:

  • Inform your go/no-go decisions
  • Forecast how big a market is and see if it’s growing
  • Evaluate the competition and the security of their market share
  • Identify high-priority customer segments and their typical attitudes/behaviors
  • Receive early feedback on your new concept’s viability
  • Find opportunities with high ROI potential
  • Understand the best way to approach these opportunities

How B2B market assessment research works

There are several stages to running thorough market assessment research in B2B:

  • Assessing the market potential to make go/no-go decisions
  • Gathering competitor intelligence
  • Understanding usage and attitudes (U&A)
  • Segmenting your target audience
  • Sizing the market
  • Building and developing your entry/go-to-market (GTM) strategy

Bear in mind that several aspects of market assessment research are particularly important in B2B. For example, B2B products and services tend to be more complex, while B2B decision-making processes are more complicated too. 

Therefore, be rigorous with your market assessment research. Make sure you know how likely your potential customers are to buy from you, before investing too much, in case the uptake isn’t as high as you’re expecting.

Here’s our run-through of the different steps:

#1 Assessing the market potential to make go/no-go decisions

First, you need to explore the market in-depth. Before starting any primary research, begin with secondary research.

The type of secondary research sources you’ll find most useful will vary, depending on your industry and the kind of information you’re looking for. We’ve categorized them as follows:

  • Regular government datasets
  • Special government reports
  • Company directories and databases
  • Market research reports
  • Company websites
  • Online communities
  • Academia
  • Trade associations
  • General, business, or trade press
  • Social and search tools

You’ll probably find that there’s so much information out there, that it’s hard to know when to stop. Sometimes, it’s also difficult to decide which data is relevant or not. 

Therefore, it helps to structure the desk research using a model – popular ones for market opportunity assessment include:

  • PESTLE analysis: Summarize the different macro factors that will shape your strategy – by breaking them down into political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal, and environmental categories
  • SWOT analysis: Identify where your potential competitive advantage lies and what kind of strategy you should build – by separating the insights into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

In a SWOT analysis, when analyzing threats, don’t only focus on competitors – we’ll cover competitor intelligence next. Threats are much broader than that, so for example, you could include a brief overview of the macro-level threats that would feature in a PESTLE analysis. 

The information gathered by this point will help your business to make a go, no-go, or ‘go with caveats’ decision based on the likelihood of success and favorable market conditions. 

If you’re planning to proceed, there’s a lot more you can learn to inform the best approach. Typical next steps helping you plot your market entry strategy include a thorough evaluation of the competition, a deep dive into usage and attitudes, a detailed segmentation, and a robust market sizing exercise. 

#2 Gathering competitor intelligence

Who are the big players already established in the market – what are their strengths and weaknesses? Where does your competitive edge lie?

Moreover, who are the smaller disruptors, relatively newer to the market but with a strong chance of taking – or fragmenting – the market share?

If there’s a lot of competition, guide your secondary research with another framework, such as Porter’s Five Forces analysis

This divides your competitor intelligence gathering into the following: 

  1. Current competitors
  2. The threat of new entrants
  3. The threat of substitute products or services
  4. The bargaining power of suppliers
  5. The bargaining power of customers

However, for both market opportunity assessment and competitor intelligence gathering, don’t restrict your research by sticking rigidly to the confines of any one framework. Each one makes trade-offs to simplify the approach.

Use an iterative approach, so that the research process adapts and evolves to best meet your needs. Don’t do all the upfront desk research in one go, in case some of it proves to be irrelevant once it comes under more intense scrutiny later on.

Also, stress-test the findings with other stakeholders to see where the gaps in the insights are. 

#3 Understanding usage and attitudes (U&A) 

By this point, you should have some insights into who your different potential buyers will be.

Interviewing them using qualitative research will help you understand what the ideal product or service looks like, which buyers present the best opportunities, and how to target them.

You’ll also find out more about the purchase process in this market. For example, who’s involved, how they make decisions, how long it takes, and so on.

You can also learn more about the wider market opportunities and threats, plus competitor strengths and weaknesses if you ask the right questions. 

If there’s enough potential in the market, then analyzing the results should reveal some white space or gaps for a new, differentiated product or service

#4 Segmenting your target audience

A one-size-fits-all product or service approach rarely works in B2B. 

By segmenting your potential customers, you’ll learn which ones to prioritize for the most lucrative opportunities – and how to tailor your efforts to win their business.

As mentioned earlier, this is more difficult to do in B2B compared to B2C, so it requires a more specific approach. On top of that, key decision-makers are harder to recruit, they’re time-poor, and they need to be engaged in a different way to consumers.

Start by establishing some important firmographic data – including location, company sizes, etc. 

Typically, a segmentation involves a robust statistical analysis of data from quantitative research, but a qualitative persona-based approach is also possible.

There are several different ways to segment your target audience, such as by:

  • Decision-maker type
  • Potential or profitability
  • Needs and attitudes
  • Behavior

After establishing who you can target – and who to prioritize targeting – you can size the market. 

#5 Sizing the market

The calculation you used should be tailored, usually based on a combination of secondary and primary data. Insights from your initial desk research should give you a macro view of the market. 

You may also be able to work out rival players’ current market share from your competitor intelligence, but you’ll usually need some primary data as well, to plug the knowledge gaps. To calculate the demand-side accurately, some primary research is always required. 

Triangulate the data to produce three important sets of annual market estimation statistics:

  • Total addressable market (TAM): Including all potential customers, sales, and channels
  • Serviceable addressable market (SAM): The proportion of the TAM within your product or service’s targeted scope – for example, a specific segment
  • Serviceable obtainable market (SOM): The proportion of the SAM likely to buy from you, based on factors such as demand and market share

At this stage, you could either estimate how much to charge customers or conduct some initial pricing research for more accurate data – more on this below.

#6 Building and developing your entry/go-to-market (GTM) strategy

B2B research can also inform your GTM strategy. Make sure you have a clearly-defined business case by this point – if you don’t yet, seek out extra insights to help shape it. In this market, how does your product or service offering align with your overall strategy?  

Aspects to consider as part of a GTM strategy include:

  • Budgeting and pricing

Test different models, approaches, and tactics to learn how much your customers will pay.

  • Product and service tailoring

As mentioned, a one-size-fits-all approach is much less common in B2B than in B2C. Consider trade-off research and statistical techniques, such as TURF or cluster analysis to ensure your product or service meets buyer needs, as effectively and efficiently as possible.

  • Distribution channels

Understand where your buyers would expect to find your product or service and which is the best route to market.

  • Marcomms strategy

Find out which marketing and communications channels or messages to use so that you can promote your goods effectively.

  • Sales strategy

What knowledge, tools, training, and resources does your team need? What’s the best approach for inbound and outbound sales? What’s the cost of acquisition and will it evolve sustainably? 

  • Support strategy

Any new launch puts extra pressure on your support team – so evaluate the most likely issues or questions that new customers will have and make sure your employees are prepared.

  • Roadmap

When will new features or service elements be rolled out? When will you ask customers for feedback and when will you communicate future developments to them?

  • Success metrics

Set clear expectations. Aside from any sales targets, work out what are the most relevant, bespoke metrics to judge your investment against. This requires some thought – for example, while the Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a common one, it’s rarely the right metric to prioritize in B2B.  

Best practices for market assessment research in B2B

#1 Start researching internally because knowledge-sharing saves time

Unless you’re looking at a completely new opportunity with no link at all to your current business, your colleagues will likely have insights to share that can’t be found elsewhere.

Knowledge-sharing sessions with them can save you a lot of time during the initial stages of a market assessment exercise. Overlooking this often leads to efforts being duplicated, wasted resources, and results that won’t answer key stakeholders’ remaining questions.

Silos in large companies are usually the cause of insufficient knowledge-sharing. It’s less likely in smaller companies, but even then, your colleagues may be able to get some unique and useful insights from their wider network, if you engage them early enough.

Thorough knowledge-sharing internally isn’t only important at the outset, but during and after the research too. Implementation workshops are a great way to instill the findings throughout the business and agree on the next steps together.

#2 Make sure you’re precise about which space you’re moving into

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds and requires three steps:

  • Define the issue your product or service addresses
  • Define your category and the niches within it
  • Identify substitute products or services

Failing to consider this in detail could mean that you only partially identify the scale of a market opportunity, or that your goods won’t be designed with customer pain points in mind.

To pinpoint the white space you should be targeting, the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework can provide a better understanding of the unmet needs that need addressing.

#3 Interview market experts, not just your potential buyers

Given the level of investment that could be green-lighted off the back of market assessment research, the research process must produce accurate data.

It’s vital to speak to the right buyers to understand market trends, product usage, and attitudes in depth.

In addition, a few carefully-chosen interviews with industry experts can shed a lot of light on the market landscape.

Trade body leaders, trade media editors, and industry analysts are all useful sources of information.

For an international market assessment, try to speak to country-specific experts too. That’s a significant time-saver when trying to understand the complexities of how to offer something new in other countries – for example, from a regulatory standpoint.

You can also cross-reference their insights with those of the buyers you interview, to sense check whether they’re providing an accurate picture of the demand side.

#4 Consider other ways to estimate market size and share beyond desk research

Often, information about market size and share simply isn’t available through secondary research sources. 

If so, make sure that your primary survey of buyers includes some questions to reveal their levels of spending – and how these vary, depending on different suppliers and product types. 

That way, you can also get valuable information about how competitors are perceived.

Your market sizing calculations will still be robust – and sometimes, they’ll be based on data that is much more up-to-date than what you’ll find in online reports. 

Summary

Why does market assessment research matter in B2B?

With a market assessment analysis, you can: inform your go/no-go decisions; forecast how big a market is and see if it’s growing; evaluate the competition and the security of their market share; identify high-priority customer segments and their typical attitudes/behaviors; receive early feedback on your concept’s viability; find opportunities with high ROI potential; understand the best way to approach these opportunities.

How B2B market assessment research works

There are several steps to running thorough market assessment research in B2B: assessing the market potential to make go/no-go decisions; gathering competitor intelligence; understanding usage and attitudes (U&A); segmenting your target audience; sizing the market; building and developing your entry/go-to-market (GTM) strategy.

Best practices for market assessment research in B2B

When doing market assessment research, we recommend that you: start researching internally because knowledge-sharing saves time; make sure you’re precise about which space you’re moving into; interview market experts, not just your potential buyers; consider other ways to estimate market size and share beyond desk research.

Chris Wells
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