Ten Challenges in Business-to-Business (B2B) Marketing Research, Part Two

By Helen Pham, Data Analyst, Polaris Marketing Research

Within the past decade, business-to-business, or B2B, research has blossomed from a sales generator to an essential marketing tool. While the foundations of B2B studies are similar to those of consumer research, the field environment and process of execution can be quite different. Optimizing B2B marketing research requires clearing obstacles sometimes not faced with consumer research.

Last month in MR Perspectives, we looked at the first five guidelines for making sure that B2B marketing research projects go smoothly; this month, we�ll finish up with numbers 6 through 10.

6) Offer attractive incentives to increase response.

In B2B research, not only does it take longer to find qualified respondents, it is also more difficult to secure participation. More often than not, extremely busy business professionals have no time and little interest in expressing their opinion for free. Proposing an incentive will increase the response rate, especially for surveys with a lengthy questionnaire. Of course, the research firm must consider costs and the respondents when selecting the incentive. For instance, it is unreasonable to offer a 2009 Hummer SUV as the grand prize to a study targeting environmentally conscious executives. Cash incentives are always preferred with most respondents, although we have had good results with a sweepstakes to win a desirable prize. There are many positive aspects to offering incentives; however, researchers must aware that some companies do not allow their employees to accept honorariums. Offering to make a charitable donation to the charity of the respondent�s choice is a good solution for these situations.

7) Inform the respondent of the survey prior to contacting them.

With today�s dramatic overload of information and telemarketing harassments, it is best practice to notify your target audience of the study in advance of fielding. Let the respondent know when and where to expect the study. Notification can be done through the phone, letter, or email, depending on the nature of the business. If the study is not blind, a letter from a senior executive with the survey sponsor can lend credibility.

8) First impressions are crucial.

When launching a B2B telephone survey, keep in mind that most purchase decision makers get survey phone calls daily. Unless the introduction presents a strong, valid case of why they should dedicate the next 10 to 15 minutes of their time to you, they will most likely decline the request. Below are some guidelines for the interviewer to help persuade participation:

  1. Keep the introduction short
  2. Avoid robotic tones, establish rapport
  3. State the purpose of the call
  4. Tell the respondent how long the survey will take
  5. Offer the incentive
  6. Let the respondent know that �this is not a sales call�
  7. Identify the client, if the survey is not blind
  8. Remind the respondent that their opinion is valued

9) Get on the World Wide Web.

When surveying business individuals, web surveys provide an enormous increase in flexibility compared to telephone surveys. Busy respondents can complete the study at their convenience. Throughout all of the studies done at Polaris Marketing Research, we found that respondents are also more honest in their response when it comes to online surveys. Respondents feel that their opinion is more anonymous and therefore they can express it freely, which they might not do with an interviewer in a telephone survey.

10) Don�t over-survey.

Especially when you are surveying a business�s customers, respect the time and attention they give you for marketing research and don�t go back to the well too often. Surveying too often will lessen the perceived importance of each survey contact and will make B2B respondents even less likely to respond, increasing the cost and length of time required for each completed interview..

The world of business-to-business research is unique and the challenges are not insurmountable. Respecting the differences between B2C and B2B research and following these guidelines will help you properly design and successfully execute business-to-business research.

Helen Pham is a Data Analyst in the analytics department at Polaris Marketing Research Inc., where she handles a variety of data manipulation tasks involved in survey research. She has a bachelor's degree in business from Georgia State University.

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