There are many methods for conducting market studies in B2B. The quantitative questionnaire (or survey) is one of the most widely used methods, but there are cases where qualitative studies, which require quite different know-how and methods are more applicable. Here we describe the method and associated tools most suitable for B2B marketing.
Market studies in B2B: survey methodology
Market studies in B2B in 11 steps
- The first step is to describe the objectives of your market study in a few points; a maximum of two to three main points for a good survey. Avoid piling up the objectives.
- Once the objectives have been set, you need to define the total population of your survey. To do this, match this definition with the objective established in the first step.
- The third step is to conduct a preliminary study on a few individuals (10-12 people) in order to come up with a few hypotheses. In doing so, you will now have a good foundation for your work that will be tested later on.
- Once you have identified these hypotheses, you need to formulate them clearly (based on step 1), describing very clearly the points you want to confirm, clarify, or even deny. In this step, you must proceed without prejudice, take into account that anything could happen, keep all your options open before you have analysed all the answers.
- The next step is to write the questions with great care. The more you practice, the better. Your writing should be as understandable as possible, make sure to avoid any bias in your questions.
- Then comes the choice of the type of survey: online surveys are most common today, face-to-face interviews (at a trade fair for example, over the telephone, through video conferences…).
- Once the questionnaire is ready, the next step is to do a test run. Start by putting yourself in the conditions of the respondent and then, find a dozen respondents to test your survey. This will correct 80% of the obvious errors of bias, logic and wording.
- Before releasing the final version of your survey, you still need to determine your sample size so that it is representative of your population. Keep margins of error in mind.
- To administer your survey, ask the questions in a clinical way to avoid biases. This implies that interviewers are trained professionals. Plan to send a reminder in case of a self-administered questionnaire; otherwise, online tools allow for follow-up of non-respondents. Non-responses should be given particular importance as they are a good indicator of the quality of your questionnaire.
- When you are at the analysis stage, if the survey permits it and the sample is large enough, use cross-tabulations (or cross-tabs). Remember to remain cautious in your analyses and always back up your results with proper data references.
- Lastly, in your report, start with an “executive summary.” Avoid biased conclusions, support these conclusions with charts and analysis. Minimize prejudice. A good way of structuring your results is to compare them to your original hypotheses. Avoid “politically correct” conclusions that please everyone but do not reflect the reality of the product, the market or the customers.
The limitations of theoretical approaches
In B2B, the target population tend to be smaller and harder to reach than in B2C. Hence, the samples tend to be smaller and more expensive to build. It is, in fact, more difficult (if not impossible) to obtain representative samples as sometimes not all the statistics are available.
Note: decision-making processes depend on the size of the company you are dealing with. The larger the business, the more complex the decision-making process. With that in mind, when complex processes are involved, your market study can only bring generic results. Moving forward, a targeted account plan is necessary customer by customer (account plans are some sort of individual market research on large companies). This is where ABM (Account Based Marketing) comes into play.
Trends and innovations
Nowadays, Computer-Aided Web Interviewing (CAWI) is mainstream.
Amongst the tools available on the market, there is of course Google Forms offered for free by Google. Its interface is simple, intuitive, responsive design, and you can also retrieve the data in Google Sheets. However, Google Forms will never compete with professional solutions such as SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, Typeform or SurveyGizmo.
These solutions offer advanced team management features, the download of templates, survey customization and reporting.
Tools and methods
There are several types of surveys:
- Face-to-face interviews can be non-directive or unstructured (i.e. without an interview guide) or semi-directive (i.e. with an interview guide mostly made of open questions).
- Focus groups (group interviews): these meetings usually bring together less than a dozen people and aim to analyse purchasing behaviour or participants’ perceptions of new products or services
- The surveys: these are administered either in person, by telephone, by mail or online. On average, they consist of 20 to 25 questions on a given topic. The questions are either closed or open-ended and classified from general to specific.