Why is market research important in B2B? Exploring the benefits

Why is market research important in B2B? Exploring the benefits

It’s fair to say that success in B2B requires smart decision-making. Market research takes the guesswork out of those decisions and helps you make them with conviction – backed by data, insights, and other forms of evidence.

Market research pinpoints what matters most to your customers and prospects. That’s important because out of frequent B2B customers, 80% will change providers at least every two years if their expectations aren’t met, according to Accenture.

That means B2B buyers won’t hesitate to switch away from your brand if you don’t satisfy their needs. However, it also means that if you make the right decisions, you can improve your market share and persuade competitors’ customers to switch to you instead.

In short, the importance of market research lies in its ability to explain how to gain more customers, better satisfy current ones, and reduce churn.

For the best results, market research projects must be tailored very specifically to your business, industry, target market, and so on. That way, the insights will be much more accurate – generalized research won’t provide what you need to make informed decisions.

Some of the main reasons to conduct market research in B2B include the following, but each project type has specific benefits:

Contents

Understanding B2B market research

B2B market research benefits

The impact of market research in B2B

Best practices for maximizing the impact of B2B research

 

 

Understanding B2B market research

As you would expect, the importance of market research for your business depends on your specific objectives.

Some businesses’ research goals are marketing-led, others are sales-led, and many have both.

Broadly speaking, the two overarching ways to get insights are via primary and/or secondary research.

Secondary research – collecting already existing data, e.g. by searching the internet – can provide very valuable information, but as a standalone approach, it will have limitations. 

After all, your competitors can access the same information and it won’t be fully bespoke to your business and its goals.

That’s the case for B2B research in particular, because B2B products are more complex and customized than B2C ones. The audience for each product type is narrower, so you’re less likely to find your answers via secondary research alone (but it can complement primary research very effectively).

Running your own market research project provides the exclusive data you need for making more informed business decisions. For primary research, you need to use quantitative techniques, qualitative techniques, or in some cases both.

In short, the different purposes of quantitative vs qualitative research are:

  • Quantitative research (e.g. online surveys) tests or validates information that can be counted, measured, and rated using numerical data – revealing what people do or think
  • Qualitative research (e.g. phone interviews, online focus groups, etc.) analyzes information based on verbal or non-verbal communication, plus other forms of language – telling you why people behave or think a certain way

Below are some of the most common use cases for conducting market research and we’ll explore the benefits of these studies in the next section:

  • Market segmentation
  • Brand development
  • Buying process research
  • Perception tracking
  • Product development
  • Thought leadership

B2B market research benefits

At a high level – the sales, marketing, and strategy teams tend to see the most value from market research results.

More specifically, each project type has its own advantages: 

#1 Market segmentation

Running a B2B market segmentation study can help with a variety of sales and marketing activities: 

  • Targeting prospects
  • Prioritizing specific customers
  • Refining marketing messages
  • Optimizing channel strategy
  • Developing the right content
  • Optimizing proposition or product development
  • Allocating budget and resources

Alternatively, buyer persona research – a more qualitative version of a segmentation study – has similar benefits but also helps identify customer pain points, UX improvements, and new product needs.

Buyer personas outline the reasons why customer groups have certain preferences or make their purchase decisions. 

They help sales and marketing teams to visualize and target specific segments more effectively.

This type of research is particularly valuable for B2B start-ups with less customer data to analyze, so that they can prioritize their marketing spend and use resources efficiently.

#2 Brand development

Market research can inform your brand development initiatives. Some see branding as more of a concern for B2C companies, but building a strong b2B brand has several benefits, such as: 

  • Making you the safe choice
  • Simplifying decisions for buyers
  • Giving you a point of differentiation 
  • Allowing you to charge a premium
  • Building preference and loyalty

Brand development research can also explore visual identity or logo considerations, as well as product naming implications.

Also, one of the most common services in market research for B2B companies is marcomms testing, which collects customer feedback on draft materials and suggests improvements.

#3 Buying process

For businesses selling to other companies, rather than consumers, developing a better understanding of your target customers and their buying process is often rewarding.

While it varies by industry, a typical B2B buying process involves more stakeholders and stages than a B2C one.

It also tends to include several different business departments and layers of seniority (at bigger companies).

So, market research helps you explore these processes in detail. What information sources do they use? What are their key decision-making criteria? What are their different purchase needs or occasions?

With the right answers, you can adjust sales and marketing techniques accordingly, meeting customers’ requirements more effectively and increasing your chances of making a sale.

#4 Perception tracking

Marketers spend a lot of time and budget on brand-building and brand management efforts.

A brand tracking research program allows marketers to check that their efforts are being well-spent, by:

  • Measuring overall brand health
  • Monitoring how it is changing over time
  • Comparing their company’s brand health against competitors
  • Demonstrating the ROI of marketing strategy initiatives
  • Diagnosing and correcting brand health issues

Over time, the research measures metrics and criteria such as brand prominence, performance, and authority.

#5 Product development

A new product development research study can:

  • Identify gaps in your current product portfolio
  • Find white space in the market
  • Get closer to what your customers and prospects want
  • Determine enhancements to product concepts
  • Explore different customer segments
  • Identify the best pricing strategy
  • Forecast demand based on market trends
  • Develop the best sales and marketing strategiesy to support the product’s launch

At every step in a stage-gate process, there’s a way to collect market research data and draw conclusions that can shape a new product’s development cycle. 

#6 Thought leadership

Lastly, demonstrating that you’re a thought leader in your sector can:

  • Build trust among customers and potential customers
  • Set you apart from your competitors
  • Showcase your expertise and raises awareness
  • Act as a conversation starter, or changer, for time-pressured buyers
  • Improve your organic SEO and social media presence, or provide ‘link bait’

The impact of market research in B2B

Thorough market research has a broad range of benefits, but arguably what matters most is its role in helping businesses grow.

Robust data will support evidence-based decisions, with the potential to deliver better results – in terms of business strategy, marketing results, financial performance, and so on.

Highly data-driven businesses are three times more likely to see a significant improvement in their decision-making, according to Think With Google research.

However, nearly two-thirds (62%) of decision-makers may still rely more on experience and advice, rather than data.

And according to McKinsey, data-driven sales in B2B can translate into a 15-25% increase in profits.

But the data you use to make more informed decisions shouldn’t only be quantitative or statistical. 

Some of the best insights come from qualitative research because, in addition to statistics, you need to understand why making certain decisions will have an impact.

For example, there’s plenty of evidence that emotions affect B2B buying behavior – in some cases, more so than for B2C purchases. Qualitative research is the best way to explore this and understand a) what this means for your sales cycle and b) how to capitalize.

Qualitative research can support better sales and marketing decisions by helping you to:

  • Map out complex processes e.g. a B2B purchase process
  • Hear customer views in their own words
  • Get insights from very niche B2B audiences with smaller sample sizes
  • Understand relevant themes in granular detail

Best practices for maximizing the impact of B2B research

#1 Recruit genuine B2B decision-makers and don’t take shortcuts

Most B2B projects need the views of the target market. Respondents should include people who have an important part to play in purchase decisions.

The challenge is that these executives are often senior, short on time, and hard to incentivize for market research projects.

In consumer marketing research, panels are a quick and efficient way to reach respondents. However, most research panels don’t have real B2B respondents (even though many panels claim otherwise) – again, because they’re in senior roles, time-poor, and earning well.

Therefore, reliable B2B research requires a little extra work to recruit relevant respondents who can answer your questions accurately. Shortcuts won’t work.

Options include building a proprietary database of interested customers, perhaps using a CRM if you have obtained clear consent for this.

Other alternatives include finding eligible participants via:

  • LinkedIn or other social media platforms
  • Industry events and associations
  • Trade publications and websites
  • Independent online forums
  • Calling and emailing

We also recommend personalizing outreach attempts, rather than using standardized messages, and offering appropriate incentives for a B2B audience.

#2 Go beyond merely collecting and reporting data

Too often in this industry, market research projects end with dry, insufficiently-interrogated quantitative or qualitative data. When that happens, it significantly reduces the importance of market research – there are a lot of bad reports out there giving the industry a bad name.

Throughout a project, the priority should be an unwavering focus on the business objectives. There are plenty of research methodologies you can use, but what matters most is the end, rather than the means.

For B2B research to be valuable, the results should merely be the start of a much more consultative process.

The findings are more likely to lead to business-wide improvements if they’re brought to life, through creative visualizations or narrative storytelling, for example.

Experienced consultants should be able to use change management techniques and implementation workshops to drive progress, based on recommendations from the results.

#3 Tailor research to your industry and experience

B2B industries tend to be complex and nuanced, requiring vast sector-specific knowledge and experience.

Most B2B projects can greatly benefit from relevant stakeholders, across the business, sharing their expertise at the outset. 

That helps ensure that the research doesn’t cover old ground and does ask the right questions that the wider business needs answers to.

And when it comes to the analysis stage, reviewing the data and insights in isolation risks the results missing the bigger picture.

Proprietary information you already have – e.g. sales data or forecasts around future market trends – works alongside the research results to produce better, more specific conclusions.

Summary

Why is market research important in B2B?

Some of the main overall reasons for conducting market research in B2B include the following: understanding how to sell more effectively; segmenting a target audience; assessing new markets to enter; informing brand development activities; analyzing customers’ buying process; tracking customer perceptions; informing product development; exploring how to target marcomms more efficiently; informing business growth strategies.

B2B market research benefits

Each of the following common project types has its own range of specific benefits for sales, marketing, and strategy teams: market segmentation; brand development; buying process research; perception tracking; product development; thought leadership.

The impact of market research in B2B

Robust data will support evidence-based decisions, with the potential to deliver better results – in terms of business strategy, marketing results, financial performance, and so on.

Qualitative research can support better sales and marketing decisions by helping you to: map out complex processes e.g. a B2B purchase process; hear customer views in their own words; get insights from very niche B2B audiences with smaller sample sizes; understand relevant themes in granular detail.

Best practices for maximizing the impact of B2B research

To run effective B2B research that makes important discoveries, we recommend that you: recruit genuine B2B decision-makers and don’t take shortcuts; go beyond merely collecting and reporting data; tailor research to your industry and experience.

Chris Wells
Share:

Got a B2B market research project
you’d like to discuss?

Contact us

More from the blog

A guide to customer satisfaction research in B2B, including asking the right questions

How to

September 29, 2023

A guide to customer satisfaction research in B2B, including asking the right questions

Why tracking customer satisfaction matters in B2B industries and how to include the right questions in research projects.

What is a target market? Identifying your audience and ideal customer profile in B2B

Insights

June 19, 2023

What is a target market? Identifying your audience and ideal customer profile in B2B

All you need to know about researching your target market and ideal customer profile in B2B, including our best practices.

Understanding the differences: primary vs secondary research

Insights

May 31, 2023

Understanding the differences: primary vs secondary research

Only primary research gives you exclusive data, but secondary research insights can also help solve your business challenges.