B2B Market Research

Business to business (B2B) research is inevitably more complicated than consumer research.The researchers need to know what type of multi-faceted approach will answer the objectives, since seldom is it possible to find the answers using just one method. Finding the right respondents is crucial in B2B research since they are often busy, and may not want to participate. Encouraging them to “open up” is yet another skill required of the B2B researcher. Last, but not least, most business research leads to strategic decisions and this means that the business researcher must have expertise in developing strategies that are strongly rooted in the research findings and acceptable to the client.

There are four key factors that make B2B market research special and different to consumer markets:

  • The decision making unit is far more complex in B2B markets than in consumer markets
  • B2B products and their applications are more complex than consumer products
  • B2B marketers address a much smaller number of customers who are very much larger in their consumption of products than is the case in consumer markets
  • Personal relationships are of critical importance in B2B markets.

Derived Demand. All demand in B2B markets is derived from some kind of demand in a consumer market. For example, a chemical company may manufacture products which when added to cement, make it set more quickly. This will then be sold to cement companies, who will then sell their product to building companies, or individuals. Depending upon where you are in the value chain will determine how much contact you have with the end consumer, and your interactions with other members of the value chain. If there are any problems further up or down the value chain, this in turn can affect other members of the value chain in terms of ability to meet customer demand less choice, or ability to switch supplier. When operating in a B2B market, if supply of a product is interrupted, it can be difficult to substitute or switch suppliers. There can be many reasons for this. The company may operate in a market where there are few alternatives available. Even if there are alternatives available, simply switching may have time and cost implications for the manufacture of goods

Technical products. Products themselves can be technical in nature, with customers wanting very exact information about what the product is or is not capable of – for example, technical data sheets, technical performance data. Differences in the ways in which product benefits are marketed. Many industrial companies do not have the marketing communications budgets of larger companies. Advertising campaigns are often smaller, targeted and based on opportunities to see, feel and touch the product itself – trade shows and word of mouth still play a vital role.