If you’re considering starting a business or investing in a fledgling enterprise, the question of how to conduct B2B market research may well need attention. Here is your ultimate guide to nailing the process.
Scientia potentia est.
Or as most of us know it: knowledge is power.
While this 400-year-old Latin aphorism was unlikely to have been conjured for the benefit of B2B businesses, its sentiment is absolutely spot on.
Understanding the target market is absolutely essential to the success of any business, particularly in the B2B (business-to-business) sector.
It forms the backbone upon which organisations can make informed decisions, develop effective strategies, and stay competitive in a tough market.
Qualitative research. Quantitative research. Primary research. Secondary research. Competitor analysis. Risk mitigation.
In this article, we’ll cover these key terms and so much more – all to deliver you with the ultimate guide on how to conduct B2B market research.
And by outlining a step-by-step process, you’ll be armed with the framework that will empower you to succeed in the complex world of B2B marketing.
What is B2B Market Research?
Before we delve into the process, let’s cover off the basics.
What actually is B2B market research – or business-to-business market research?
Well, it’s the systematic process of gathering, analysing, and interpreting data and information related to a specific business environment, industry, or market segment.
This data can be absolute gold, allowing organisations to gain critical insights into their business landscape, competitors, and potential customers.
Unlike business-to-consumer (B2C) market research – which focuses on understanding the behaviours and preferences of individual consumers – B2B market research is tailored to the unique dynamics of interactions between businesses, where one company serves as the customer or client, and the other as the supplier or service provider.
At its heart, B2B market research seeks to unearth insights that can inform strategic decision-making within the context of business-to-business relationships.
This research can encompass a wide assortment of topics, including:
- Market trends
- Industry analysis
- Customer needs and preferences
- Competitive landscapes
- Supplier performance
The primary goal of conducting this research is to equip businesses with the knowledge and insights that are necessary to thrive in a competitive field.
How B2B Market Research Helps Businesses
B2B market research is a fundamental undertaking for organisations that are determined to prosper, often in a cutthroat environment.
Here are some tangible ways in which B2B market research can benefit companies of all kinds in the business-to-business sector:
Identifying Market Opportunities
B2B market research helps businesses pinpoint untapped segments, emerging trends, and unmet customer needs. By understanding these opportunities, organisations can tailor their products or services to address specific market demands effectively.
Knowing your competition is imperative in B2B markets. Market research allows businesses to assess their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, pricing strategies, and market positioning. This information helps organisations to refine their own strategies and gain an all-important competitive edge.
B2B market research helps companies understand their target customers better – providing insights into customer preferences, pain points, and decision-making processes. This knowledge allows businesses to create more compelling value propositions and tailor their marketing efforts accordingly.
Businesses often face risks related to market changes, regulatory shifts, or economic fluctuations. Through market research, organisations can anticipate and mitigate potential risks, ensuring they are well-prepared for any challenges that may arise.
Researching the market can guide product development efforts. By gathering feedback and insights from potential customers, businesses can create products or services that best align with market demands, increasing the likelihood of success.
Marketing and Sales Strategies
B2B market research helps with creating effective marketing and sales strategies. Businesses can use the data to target the right audience, optimise marketing channels, and craft attention-grabbing messaging that resonates with potential customers.
Types of B2B Market Research Data
Before embarking on the step-by-step process of conducting B2B market research, it’s important to understand the types of data that can be collected.
B2B market research typically involves both primary and secondary data sources. Here’s an overview of those data sources and others:
Primary data is information collected directly from the source. It involves conducting surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observations. This data can be customised to address specific research questions and is highly valuable for gaining insights into customer preferences, opinions, and behaviour.
Secondary data consists of information collected and published by external sources. This can include industry reports, market studies, academic research, government publications, and data from industry associations. It provides valuable context and background information about the market and industry trends, although the obvious downside is that these insights aren’t available exclusively to you.
Qualitative data reveals in-depth insights into the motivations, attitudes, and perceptions of B2B customers. It is often gathered through methods such as interviews and focus groups, allowing businesses to understand the ‘why’ behind customer behaviour.
Quantitative data involves numerical data and statistical analysis. It is typically collected through surveys and structured questionnaires – for example, client satisfaction research in which current customers are surveyed and asked to rate a product or service. This type of data helps in quantifying customer preferences and market trends.
Internal data is data generated by the company itself. This may include sales figures, customer records, and operational information. Analysing internal data can reveal valuable insights about the company’s performance and customer behaviour.
External data encompasses information from outside sources, such as market reports, industry benchmarks, and competitive intelligence. It helps businesses benchmark themselves against competitors and understand market dynamics.
Now that we’ve established the importance of B2B market research and explored the types of valuable data involved, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of conducting B2B market research.
Step-by-Step Process for B2B Market Research
Here are the essential factors to note when conducting B2B market research…
Define Your Research Objectives
The first and most crucial step is defining clear research objectives. What do you want to achieve through your research? Are you primarily looking to understand market trends, assess customer needs, or evaluate competitors? Defining specific research objectives will guide your entire research process.
Identify Your Target Audience
Determine the specific B2B audience you want to research. This may include existing customers, potential clients, or industry stakeholders. Clearly defining your target market helps in selecting the most appropriate research methods.
Choose Your Research Methods
Depending on your research objectives and target audience, select the most suitable research methods for you. Common methods for B2B market research include customer surveys, interviews, focus groups, online analytics, and competitor analysis. Ensure that your chosen methods align with your research goals.
Create a Research Plan
Develop a comprehensive plan that outlines the entire research process, including timelines, budgets, and responsibilities. A well-structured plan ensures that your research stays on track and that all necessary resources are allocated appropriately.
Execute your chosen research methods to collect data. If you’re conducting surveys or interviews, design questionnaires or interview guides that are clear and objective. When analysing existing data sources, ensure that you have access to the latest information.
Once you have accumulated the data, it’s time to analyse it. Depending on the type of data collected, you may use statistical software for quantitative analysis or thematic analysis for qualitative data. The chief aim is to extract meaningful insights and patterns.
Explicate the research findings in the context of your objectives. What do the data and analysis reveal about your market, customers, and competitors? Look for trends, opportunities, and potential hurdles.
Translate your interpretations into actionable insights. What are the prime takeaways from your research? How can these insights guide your business decisions and strategies? Prioritise the most crucial findings.
Put your recommendations into action. Adjust your business strategies, products, or services based on the insights gleaned from your research. It’s important to ensure that your team is aligned with any updated strategies and/or objectives.
Monitor and Evaluate
B2B market research is an enduring process. Continuously monitor the market, customer behaviour, and competitor activities. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies and alter as required.
Share the research findings and insights with relevant stakeholders within your organisation. Sound communication ensures that everyone is informed, aware, and aligned with the direction the business is moving in.
By following this step-by-step process, organisations can systematically gather, analyse, and apply valuable insights relating to their specific niche of the B2B market.
Business That Have Excelled at B2B Market Research
Several iconic organisations have leveraged B2B market research to achieve excellence and success in various sectors. Here are some notable examples from Australia and abroad:
While primarily a B2C (business-to-consumer) organisation, Woolworths Group also operates a significant B2B segment, serving businesses in the food and hospitality industry.
The Australian-based multinational retail and finance company conducts extensive B2B market research to understand the purchasing behaviour, supply chain needs, and preferences of its business customer base.
This research-driven approach has allowed Woolworths to tailor its offerings and logistics services to better serve the B2B sector, contributing to its growth and overall business success.
An Australian institution, Telstra excels in the B2B space through strategic market research.
The country’s largest telecommunications company conducts extensive research to understand the evolving communication and technology requirements of businesses across diverse sectors.
This insight enables Telstra to deliver customised telecommunications solutions – including cloud services and business connectivity – to meet the demands of its B2B customers.
A global leader in steel manufacturing, BlueScope Steel leans on B2B market research to adapt to ever-changing industry demands.
By analysing market insights, industry trends, and the needs of construction and manufacturing businesses, the Australian company develops innovative steel products and solutions that cater to the evolving requirements of its B2B customers.
The US tech and consulting giant has consistently excelled in the B2B space through comprehensive market research.
By continuously researching emerging technologies, industry trends, and customer needs, IBM has been able to adapt and innovate its products and services to meet the changing demands of its business clients.
This approach has enabled IBM to maintain its standing as one of the world’s largest technology companies – it’s also one of the oldest – and lead the way in areas such as cloud computing, AI, and cybersecurity.
Procter & Gamble (P&G)
A consumer goods behemoth, P&G conducts extensive B2B market research to better serve its many retail partners and distributors.
By analysing market data and consumer behaviour, the American multinational identifies trends in the retail industry and tailors its product offerings accordingly.
This strategy has enabled P&G to establish successful partnerships and maintain a significant presence on the shelves of retail stores across the globe.
General Electric (GE)
GE, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in the US city of Boston, excels in the B2B landscape by investing in research and development based on market insights.
GE’s research informs its diverse range of industrial products and services, from aviation and healthcare to energy and transportation.
Its B2B market research-driven innovation has allowed the time-honoured organisation to remain a global leader in industrial technology and infrastructure.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
The cloud-computing division of multinational tech company, Amazon, AWS excels in B2B markets by continuously researching the evolving needs of businesses in the digital age.
By identifying trends in cloud computing, data analytics, and AI, the Seattle-based company fashions its cloud services to cater to a wide range of B2B customers – from startups to enterprise-level organisations.
The success of these iconic names in B2B markets is no doubt aided by their commitment to conducting thorough market research – and using the insights to guide their actions.
Being attuned to changing markets, customer needs, and competitive dynamics has allowed these companies to adapt and innovate where required and offer tailored solutions that resonate with their B2B clients.
Ultimately, this drives business growth and allows these organisations to remain dominant in their respective industries.
How to Conduct B2B Market Research – Closing Words
B2B market research is a fundamental process that empowers businesses to make informed decisions, adapt to changing market dynamics, and flourish in their respective fields.
It’s important to remember that B2B market research is not a one-off exercise but an ongoing effort to understand and serve your target audience effectively.
With each research cycle, businesses can refine their strategies, innovate products or services, and stay at the front of the pack in an ultra-competitive B2B landscape.
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What Are the Research Methods for B2B?
Some of the most popular methods for B2B market research include customer surveys, interviews, focus or discussion groups, competitor analysis, and online analytics. Whatever method/s you choose, it’s important to ensure that they align with your research goals.
What Are the 4 Ways to Conduct Market Research?
B2B market research typically consists of four key types: primary research, secondary research, qualitative research, and quantitative research. External and internal data can also be added to the mix.
What Is B2B Methodology?
Business-to-business (B2B) is the process of selling products or services from one organisation to another. B2B market research is the action of gathering data to determine what prospective buyers want and need.
What Are the 5 Types of Qualitative Research?
Qualitative research is often placed into five distinct groups: ethnography, narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, and case study.
What Are the 4 Types of Quantitative Research?
There are four generally accepted types of quantitative research: descriptive, correlational, causal-comparative/quasi-experimental, and experimental research.