The reliance of B2B buyers on third-party customer reviews, which are 1.4 times more impactful than supplier data, signals a vital change in purchasing patterns.1 This development highlights the need for comprehensive brand or market research focused on building trust and showcasing verified success through authentic customer experiences. Companies can develop their sales and marketing strategies accordingly and serve better for their target market.
This article provides an in-depth guide into how companies can achieve B2B brand research for ongoing product and service enhancement while aligning with evolving market demands.
What are the benefits of B2B brand research?
1- Improve brand perception
Figure 1. Changes in B2B buyers’ use of channels in researching suppliers.
B2B market research is crucial for shaping and refining brand perception, especially in an era where digital platforms are pivotal in the decision-making process (see Figure 1). Understanding how and where the audience seeks information allows a brand to craft its messaging and presence to meet the buyers where they are. By analyzing buyer behavior and preferences through B2B market research, companies can create targeted content, develop responsive communication strategies, and ensure that their digital touch points reflect the values and solutions that resonate with their audience.
2- Understand evolving customer needs
Millennials and Gen Z now make up 64% of business buyers, and their expectations for vendor service differ from those of older generations.3 Among these younger buyers, 90% report dissatisfaction with at least one aspect of their vendor relationships, a stark contrast to the 71% dissatisfaction rate among older generations. Your brand research on distinct age groups may yield different insights, which might even be conflicting. Meeting these needs with customized service can be possible through brand research in the first step.
3- Up-to-date insights on customers’ mindsets
B2B market research indicates a clear preference among buyers for self-service and remote options, though this can vary across industries.4 Businesses must stay on top of these preferences, which have become more immediate since the pandemic. Regular market research is essential to understand these changing needs and to serve customers better.
What are the key methods for conducting B2B research?
Table below compares different B2B research methods:
|Explore market landscapes, pinpoint emerging opportunities
|Drill down on specific market variables, test business theories
|Gather firsthand data for in-depth market understanding
|Analyze pre-existing data for strategic insights
|Qualitative techniques: in-depth interviews, focus groups
|Quantitative techniques: targeted surveys, statistical analysis
|Direct engagement: customer surveys, prototype testing
|Data synthesis: industry reports, scholarly articles
|Preliminary understanding of market trends and customer needs
|Detailed insights into customer preferences and behaviors
|Immediate, relevant feedback on products/services
|Broad industry trends, competitive context
|Ideation phase, market feasibility studies
|Product positioning, market segmentation analysis
|Product/service validation, market fit assessment
|Strategic planning, benchmarking
|Uncovers broad market dynamics
|Delivers precise, measurable data
|Provides real-time, applicable insights
|Cost-efficient, wide-ranging overview
|Lacks quantitative precision
|Requires predefined hypotheses
|Time and cost-intensive
|May not address specific, current business questions
1- Exploratory research methods: Utilizes qualitative methods to offer a broad understanding of industry trends and customer needs, ideal for initial market exploration. Its main limitation is the lack of quantitative precision.
2- Specific research methods: Employs quantitative techniques to provide detailed insights into customer behaviors and market specifics, suitable for precise market analysis. Its effectiveness depends on having clear hypotheses in advance.
3- Primary research methods: Involves collecting firsthand data for direct market insight, crucial for product testing and market fit assessment. The approach is detailed but can be resource-intensive.
4- Secondary research methods: Analyzes existing data (i.e., market research reports) to give an overarching view of market dynamics, supporting strategic planning with cost efficiency. However, it might not cater to specific business requirements.
Best practices for conducting B2B market research
1- Integrate social insights with your CRM data
Figure 2. Figure represent the preferences of B2B buyers interacting with the suppliers
According to Gartner, 36% of B2B buyers use a supplier’s social media accounts as a key resource during the purchasing process, second only to the supplier’s website.6By integrating these social media channels with your CRM software, you can uncover new insights for your brand research.
2- Analyze sentiment to improve customer experience
You can check the conversations between your live agents or chatbots with the customers to understand their sentiment to get a grasp of customer behavior. A recent report shows that when live agents replied within 2 minutes of a B2B buyer interacting with a chatbot, they significantly increased their chances of booking a meeting.7 However, a delay of 5 minutes in response led to a tenfold increase in the likelihood of site visitors leaving.
Besides, it is a good practice to check B2B software review platforms to analyze the sentiment in customer reviews.
Check out our articles on the benefits of sentiment analysis and the best practices.
3- Find target audience using participant recruitment platforms
Although participant recruitment platforms are traditionally associated with B2C business research, their utility in B2B contexts, particularly for product testing and feedback, is increasingly recognized. For instance, consider a B2B company specializing in software solutions for the retail industry. By using participant recruitment platforms, this company can specifically target the actual end-users of their software. These end-users can provide crucial insights either through qualitative research, quantitative research, or focus groups.
4- Test content marketing strategy
Continuously assessing and improving your content marketing strategy is vital to connecting effectively with your target audience. As of July 2022, LinkedIn stands as the most impactful social media channel for B2B marketers, with nearly half utilizing it for paid content promotion.8 To maximize engagement and conversions, it’s important to experiment with various elements on your company’s LinkedIn page. This includes A/B testing for headlines, imagery, and calls-to-action, which can reveal what most appeals to your audience.
5- Measure how sustainable is your brand perception
While B2C companies are increasingly prioritizing sustainable products and services for future generations, B2B brands have been slower to follow suit. However, a recent study indicates that a vendor’s commitment to environmental sustainability significantly influences B2B buyers’ decisions.9 To align with this emerging trend, B2B companies should first assess any existing sustainable practices within their operations. Following this, conducting brand research to gauge how your brand is perceived in terms of sustainability is crucial. This research can guide the development of initiatives to enhance your brand’s sustainability profile.
5- Identify influencers to build your brand
Although 74% of B2B marketers acknowledge the benefits of influencer marketing, only ~20% have implemented formal campaigns, often hindered by a skills and knowledge gap.10 Yet, when effectively executed, such as SAP’s TechUnknown podcast hosted by an influencer, which boosted downloads by ~70%, it shows its influence on brand reputation.11
For those interested, here is our data driven list of market research tools.
You can also take a look at our data-driven list of survey software.
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