“Traditional market research,” such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and even ethnographic research are often seen as methods usually reserved for the B2C sector. A company selling household products might want to learn how their customers use kitchen accessories, for example, and conduct a series of research studies observing people in their kitchens (ethnographic research), and then pull people into focus groups to have ideation sessions and understand their routines, wishes, and how they cook with their current set of kitchen tools. This personalized insight gained from B2C market research, coupled with actual observation, has led to a wealth of understanding in how people use products, and it’s spurned thousands of new ideas for B2C companies.
But do these same methods work in B2B? Or, perhaps the better question – is there a return on investment (ROI) for B2B market research?
The answer is a resounding Yes. With a capital Y. Let’s explore why and how.
B2B market research saves time
The product development process in B2B is often much lengthier than the process for B2C. Product teams, engineers, software developers, and designers will spend months and often years working on a product rollout. They might receive input from a few current customers, but a select number of loyal customers is not at all indicative of a wider marketplace, who may have little or no understanding of the product or its benefits. Bringing in B2B market research early on in the process gives the product development team insight into the pain points, work environment, and needs of the wider marketplace, which will help them develop the product to meet this sector’s needs – they won’t be relying on assumptions, in other words – which leads to more accurate product prototypes and saves months and months of iterations.
B2B market research saves resources
The product development cycle pulls from multiple teams – marketing, design, engineering, logistics, and sales. When B2B market research is a part of the process – from the very inception of a product idea – these teams will be included in the research project. Holistic market research doesn’t just take into account the customers – it also examines the internal process and provides a framework and roadmap for how the teams will work together to make the process more efficient, which ultimately saves on resources and enhances communication between teams.
B2B market research pays for itself – typically many times over
Time and time again, our team at InterQ has been pulled into a company’s product development process late in the game – when a product has already been developed, or when it’s already being marketed. Market research is called in when a company seeks to understand why a product isn’t selling as well as they thought, or to learn why customers aren’t grasping certain features. At this stage of the process, millions has been spent on development, and months and years have been invested into the product. When we conduct B2B market research at this stage, we can identify (typically pretty quickly) the issues that customers are running into, and the company is able to pivot and improve the product, but it’s an unfortunate waste of R&D investment that they would have saved had they brought B2B market research in during the initial product development stage. When market research goes hand-in-hand throughout the product development process, we’ve seen companies get a two to three-fold return on their market research investment.
B2B customers have opinions – are you listening?
The B2B world is high-stakes: products are typically much more expensive than products for the B2C sector (enterprise software versus a coffee maker, for example), and the audience is not nearly as large. When the stakes are so high – when a company is investing huge resources into developing an expensive product for a relatively small market – B2B market research is an absolute necessity to ensure that your B2B customers’ needs are being met with the product’s functionality, long-term viability, and overall product appeal.