If you were to talk to any marketing executive for a B2C firm, you would quickly realize they are completely addicted to primary market research. Most any successful B2C company is going to rigorously talk to customers about their products, buying motivation, and perceptions around the firm. But what about B2B, is B2B primary market research as important? I have worked in B2B marketing for over 15 years and I have seen scant primary research on the customer.
What makes B2B different than B2C when it comes to understanding buyers
- It’s difficult to talk to your buyers. If you are going to take the time to engage in a high-value B2B buyer, why would you not try to sell something? Selling seems to take priority of understanding your target market. After all finding and talking to buyers is expensive and time-consuming. And what B2B firm doesn’t have a pipeline problem? I saw this first hand at Oracle. We were asked to perform primary market research, and the CEO personally instructed us not just gather feedback from customers but also include a sales pitch in it.
- Plenty of available research. B2B marketers, especially in technology, rely heavily on research firms to tell them what buyers are thinking and doing. Looking at analyst reports around buying patterns is a lot cheaper (and easier) than finding 15 C-level executives to talk to. Forrester, Gartner, SiriusDecisions, IDC (and others) produce this, why not just consume that instead of creating your own?
- Sales as a proxy for buyers. B2B firms will heavily leverage their sales reps to understand what buyers are thinking about. Sales is usually quite eager to provide this information and use your expertise to close a deal. But is it accurate? No, it’s not! Businesses know how to manipulate the sales cycle to make sure their problems are seen as an industry problem.
But is that enough, here are six reasons why you should be engaging in market research.
Six Reasons to Engage in Primary B2B Market Research
Changing Market Conditions
The reality is the market for buying and selling has radically changed over the last five years. The disintermediation effects of social media and the internet put the buyer in control of the process. This isn’t really new information, this blog is pretty much about those changes. However, it does have ripple effects beyond content marketing and sales enablement – it also affects product messaging. If the buyer is in control of the process, you are going to have less opportunity to shape their viewpoints. You are going to have to understand what they are thinking prior to getting a piece of content into their hands. How do you do this? Primary B2B market research.
Mistaking a customer problem for a trend
This is an issue with any high-ticket B2B firm, an executive goes in and talks to a customer and suddenly the customer’s problems are a hot industry trend. Product development and marketing may react to this, but is it representative? As I engage in market research, time and time again I see the things that executives interpret as a trend to be specific to a customer. A savvy customer knows how to work the sales cycle. And they can easily manipulate someone into thinking their problem is a problem everyone faces. Market research addresses this by talking directly to buyers and confirming trends.
Facts trump opinion
If you have ever been in a product development brainstorm session, everyone will offer great ideas on things you should do to your product or messaging to sell more, or introduce new products, etc. But any savvy veteran to this process knows that most of these are just opinions, primary market research provides facts. Development or sales usually win in these situations, but if marketing has facts – they win.
Seasons junior talent quickly
Marketing professionals are getting younger, while they have a lot of energy and ideas, do they really understand what is going on? The primary B2B market research will season your marketing team quickly. Not only will they quickly grasp how to talk to customers about problems, they will also quickly become industry experts. As they help in these discussions, they will develop relationships with buyers that will enable you to quickly vet messaging, product ideas or cultivate customer references.
The Analyst’s Bias
I have always enjoyed reading analyst reports, interacting with analysts and understanding their perspective. Heck, I am a bit of an analyst myself. But every analyst firm comes with a specific bias when they look at something. Without primary research, it can be difficult to sort through this bias.
Feeding the content funnel
Primary B2B market research can help feed the insatiable need for original content. Buyers are keenly interested in what others are doing, this can be used to your advantage. Your findings can be used in your content marketing efforts. This will help differentiate you and set you up as a thought leader. You can see this because when a B2B firm does some sort of primary research, they promote it heavily and often times their competitors use it in their marketing! Craziness.