B2B organizations, that is, those that are developing products or services for use by other businesses or organizations, have a difficult balancing act to juggle. While they must regularly look at their future opportunities and assess what products they want to launch or markets they want to enter, they must simultaneously keep their finger on the pulse of existing customer sentiment.
It’s a challenging duality, but one that regular market research can help them manage. By leveraging data-based approaches to keep tabs on existing operations as well as future opportunities, B2B companies will not just succeed at customer retention but they will also be successful at future growth and customer acquisition.
Let’s look at six different types of market research studies B2B companies should be using regularly to succeed.
1. Customer Sentiment Measurement
As opposed to B2C organizations, B2B companies tend to have fewer customers. This means that retaining those active customers is perhaps that much more important. As a result, B2B organizations should regularly take customer sentiment measurements to make sure they are meeting customer needs and expectations.
A frequent approach is using Net Promoter Score, or NPS. This is a measurement approach that asks customers how likely they are to recommend a product or service to a colleague or fellow professional. It’s a quick survey question for customers to take, which makes it easy to collect the data. And, when organizations ask this question repeatedly of customers of months or even years, they can quickly see if they are meeting high-level satisfaction standards.
Of course, if sentiment is declining, or just not as high as it should be, organizations can then perform one-to-one interviews with less-satisfied customers. This will allow these businesses to probe deeper, better understand what’s at the heart of dissatisfaction, and then more readily develop plans to improve these sentiments.
2. Product Concept Tests
A classic question that comes up within B2B organizations is how they can expand their market coverage. After they have successfully penetrated a market, there is a desire to find new customers. Often, that means offering new products or services to reach a new customer base. However, because these represent completely new products or services, there is inherent risk associated with launching them. Executing product concept tests mitigates this risk.
Product concept tests are fairly straightforward. Either through survey-based approaches, interviews, or focus groups, research participants are shown different product ideas. These could be very basic product explanations or highly detailed mock-ups. They are then asked about their interest in the product, the relevance for their organization, and other questions to gauge potential purchase intent. By asking these same questions across different product concepts, organizations can gauge relative appeal. This helps them discard ideas with low interest while putting more resources into ideas that have greater weight.
3. Competitive Audits
B2B sales tend to be slower and more deliberate. Buyers are objective parties often comparing multiple solutions or products against each other. This means B2B organizations must understand what customers are looking at when exploring the category, how to stay competitive against other players, and how to prepare for customer questions that ask for how they stand apart.
Performing regular competitive audits helps organizations keep abreast of their broader market category. Competitive audits use an objective process to explore different components of competitor products. This can include everything from product features and pricing to market positioning and value propositions, marketing channels used, and marketing spends. It’s a holistic process that creates apples-to-apples views of unique organizations.
The end product is an analysis that lets organizations easily see where their competitors are strong and where they are weak. And, in doing so, let B2B companies recognize where they have opportunities to enter empty spaces and win in that area.
4. Product Optimization Studies
B2B companies offering software products of multi-faced services must make judgment calls about what to include in their products or services and what they should leave behind. It’s a key decision for any organization that needs to optimize its resources toward increasing the chance of customer satisfaction and acquisition. To make these decisions objectively, organizations turn to product optimization studies.
These types of studies often leverage one of two methodologies. The first is called MaxDiff. This approach forces survey-based research participants to review a set of features from an extensive list. They then select their most and least preferred feature. This process is repeated multiple times per respondent, and then across all respondents. The end result lets you see what features customers think are must-haves and which ones they could do without.
The second commonly used approach is a conjoint analysis. In this survey-based approach, respondents are shown a series of different products, each with different features and benefits. They then select their preferred option. Once again, this process is repeated multiple times for each participant and then across all participants. At the end, organizations are able to determine exactly which batch of features and benefits bundled together produces products customers are the most excited about.
All of these types of studies include some level of complexity, and are likely out of the typical skill sets you’d find with most B2B companies. While B2B companies can try to do these in-house, they’ll likely find that they are ill-equipped to do the work and spend far more time than they expected executing on the projects. For organizations looking to pursue these types of projects, working with a market research firm is a tried and true solution for running these projects successfully.
You’ll be armed with a team that can listen to your distinct business goals and challenges, and make recommendations for how best to approach tackling those needs. Additionally, you’ll be equipped with experienced professionals who know how to build these projects, use the right tools or platforms to execute them, and also how to look at results and provide objective, unbiased summaries and recommendations. Leveraging research firms ensures that you use your resources wisely to tackle the most pressing business opportunities.