What is
B2B Market Research?

A Complete Guide

What is B2B Market Research?

B2B market research is the process of gathering feedback from current, former, or potential buyers and competitors in a B2B context. Organizations that conduct B2B market research gain access to:

  • New perspectives around customer pain points
  • Competitor activity
  • New revenue growth opportunities

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How Does B2B Market Research Differ From B2C?

B2B market research is conducted differently than B2C market research. These changes in research tactics and strategies are due to the inherent differences in how B2B vs. B2C products are sold, purchased, and developed.

The B2B Buyer’s Journey

The B2B buyer’s journey looks very different from the buyer’s journey of a consumer. In a B2C purchase process, there is typically just one consumer making the purchase decision. There may be a range of influencers who have the ability to tilt a decision, but a B2C purchase usually comes down to one buyer.

During a B2B purchase cycle, there are a number of people who jointly make a decision. The size of that group can be quite large, with an average of between 6 and 10 professionals now involved in a single B2B sales decision. Some group members may have slightly more influence than others, but all opinions are valued and must be taken into account for a decision to be made. As a result, the way in which B2B sellers nurture their leads in the buying journey process tends to be a different approach than in B2C.

The B2B Sales Cycle

The B2B sales cycle runs over a much longer timeframe than a typical B2C purchase. In the B2C sector, the sales cycle is very quick, oftentimes with decisions being made right at the store shelf. In B2B, this same purchase process typically lasts between 3-9 months.

B2B Pricing Models

B2B products tend to have higher price points than your average B2C product. B2C products are often simpler and more straightforward, while B2B products are more complex in nature, leading to increased purchase costs.

Lengthier sales cycles and buyer decision-making processes also mean that B2B product owners may have more pressure to prove the highest return on their investment. Since more time, energy, and complexity goes into making a B2B purchasing decision, higher costs can be expected.

Additionally, in B2B, pricing models vary greatly by size of company, the person who is purchasing the solution, and utilization patterns. Sometimes, B2B pricing is 100% custom, or simply not visible in the early stages of a buying cycle.

The B2B Customer Base

B2B market research tends to conduct studies with lower sample sizes than B2C market research studies. One reason for this is that B2B companies often target a more niche audience for their solutions than B2C products. For example, a bottle of shampoo can be marketed to customers worldwide, whereas a B2B solution may only have an addressable market of 100,000 companies or less.

Additionally, B2B buyers are sometimes more challenging to locate and recruit. For example, finding a large sample of data scientists who work in healthcare with three years of machine learning experience is likely going to lead to a relatively limited pool of potential respondents.

On the B2C side, however, finding 50-year old males who like baseball for a consumer study that Major League Baseball is conducting will likely have no trouble finding enough people for a study of almost any size.

B2B Product Complexity

B2B products and solutions tend to be much more complex than B2C solutions. In B2B, it is common for more than one product to make up the many different components of a solution. These solutions can often even be customized for particular verticals or company sizes. As a result, any B2B focused research effort needs to dig deep into these differences.

How is B2B Market Research Conducted?

These are the ways in which B2B market researchers conduct studies from start to finish, including how they recruit respondents, gather responses, and analyze the data collected.

Recruiting Respondents

Recruiting business professionals to be respondents in a B2B research study is much different than recruiting a general consumer. The business professionals needed for a B2B study are typically high-level, low-availability experts or executives in their field. They tend to be more difficult to locate and recruit.

Additionally, careers can change quickly, which makes recruiting the right participants for a B2B study difficult, as B2B Brian explains.

To effectively recruit participants for a B2B study, some strategies include finding potential respondents through: LinkedIn, Twitter, industry events and conferences, training centers, or online forums.

Examples of the types of professionals that a B2B tech market researcher might target include title such as:

  • Chief Information Officer
  • Vice President of Marketing
  • Director of Market Research
  • Director of Product Development
  • Brand Manager
  • Chief Technology Officer
  • Director of Data Scientist

To incentivize participants of a B2B study, rates often need to be a bit higher than for a B2C study. While it is relatively easy to find consumers willing to answer a survey for reward points, a drawing, or a small cash incentive, business professionals value their time differently. Considering the industry, professional level and incidence rate is necessary when deciding on incentives.

Overall, the recruitment process shouldn’t be rushed, and having the right participants involved is just as important as asking the right questions. Learn more about recruiting the right respondents for a B2B study in B2B Market Research Recruiting: How To Get a Superb Sample.

Gathering Responses

Both B2C and B2B tend to use a mixed methodology in their research studies. Either at different stages of the project, or interspersed throughout, both qualitative and quantitative research methods are commonly used to uncover research questions.

In B2B, quantitative methodologies like surveys and questionnaires are used quite frequently as a way to collect and aggregate large amounts of responses. B2B quantitative surveys are a great way to measure or validate certain ideas, thoughts, or questions you may have.

It should ask questions such as:

  • Which products are buyers using?
  • What buying criteria is more or less important?
  • Where does my brand rank compared to competitors?
  • How satisfied are my customers?

More information about quantitative methods of a B2B study can be read on B2B Quant: Not Your Average Survey.

Qualitative methods like focus groups and In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) are also used quite frequently, often in conjunction with quantitative research. Qualitative research allows companies to dig deeper and collect more in-depth information like key themes, drivers, and motivations. With some research, it’s critical to not skip the qual, and to go beyond quant to get the right insights. Some questions B2B researchers may ask during an IDI are:

  • Who do you think the market leaders are in the X space? What’s your impression of what they do well and what they don’t?
  • What does the vendor selection process look like at your company?
  • Walk me through the ways in which you currently use X product.

Questions like these can lead to a great deal of discovery and insight for a company. While quantitative research helps companies collect responses to more straightforward questions, qualitative research can uncover deeper context surrounding those answers.

Analyzing the Data

Once responses from both qualitative and quantitative data have been collected, market researchers must then analyze the data, draw conclusions based on that data, and present the findings.

For quantitative research, B2B market researchers can utilize a diverse toolset to analyze the data a quant study returns. Excel has many features that enable this process, including the use of pivot tables, slicers, and sorting and filtering. SPSS is another tool that can offer market researchers more advanced data analysis for surveys with larger sample sizes.

For qualitative research, market researchers must review transcripts and recordings of past IDIs, focus groups, and more to search for commonalities or themes that have been presented throughout. It’s helpful to have project goals and Key Intelligent Questions (KIQs) in mind while reviewing the transcripts and recordings.

Once data is analyzed and findings become clear, B2B market researchers must then find a way to present that data in a way that is ethical and responsible. It’s also important to incorporate visuals and graphs while telling a story throughout the report. B2B market research findings typically start with an executive summary then dig deeper into the research findings.

B2B market researchers can then show clear recommendations for a company based on those research findings.

What are the Types of B2B Market Research?

Different B2B market research studies can be conducted for companies, depending on what their specific goals are. Below are some common types of B2B research studies. For a comprehensive list of all research types offered, visit B2B Market Research.

B2B Buyer Persona Research

Buyer personas are research-based representations of who a company’s buyers are and how they make their buying decisions. This research provides a blueprint to understanding the real people that are being targeted by sales and marketing efforts.


Who can benefit from buyer persona research?

  • Sales leaders
  • Marketing leaders

Buyer persona research sets the foundation to ensure marketers and salespeople are delivering messaging that resonates with the right people. Without buyer personas in hand, here are some of the mistakes B2B marketers make.


What kinds of questions should B2B buyer persona research include?

Companies should ensure that they are not just given a buyer profile, but that it also goes deep into addressing how a buyer makes their decisions. B2B buyer personas need to be presented in a way that companies can actually use them. Any buyer persona effort should include such questions as:

  • How many different buyers and influencers need to be addressed through marketing and sales outreach to generate a typical sale?
  • Which persona(s) generate the long list of initial vendors?
  • Which persona(s) decide on the shortlist and the eventual winner?
  • Do we need to add a new buyer persona?
  • What tasks does our solution need to accomplish for each buyer persona?
  • How do different personas interact when completing jobs-to-be-done?
  • What are each buyer persona’s top technical priorities for the year? Top business priorities?
  • How do buyers and influencers describe their business or technical problems? What specific words and phrases do they search for when seeking solutions?
  • How do buyers educate themselves on offerings that might meet business or technical needs?
  • Which vendors are considered leaders by buyers and influencers? Which vendors are perceived as being behind?
  • What virtual and in-person communities do buyers typically engage with?
  • What relevant thought leaders, blogs, social media accounts, and publications does each buyer persona read?
  • What sales approaches resonate best with each buyer persona?
  • What emerging trends (business or technology) are influencing buyer’s decisions?

What types of people are typically recruited and interviewed for buyer persona research?

  • Current customers
  • Target customers
  • Competitors’ customers
  • Influencers

B2B Buyer’s Journey Research

Buyer’s Journey Research helps companies understand how buyers search for new vendors and what motivates them to move forward with their selection process. While buyer persona research identifies each person in a decision-making process and how they all interact with one another, buyer’s journey research shows the path that they take to arrive at that purchasing decision. The two research offerings are often purchased by companies simultaneously.


Who can benefit from buyer’s journey research?

  • Sales leaders
  • Marketing leaders

Buyer’s journey research can help sales and marketing leaders discover reasons B2B prospects “swipe left” instead of reaching out, or if their current B2B sales tactics are derailing the customer buying journey.


What kinds of questions should buyer’s journey research include?

  • How does each potential buyer describe their search process for new vendors and solutions?
  • Where do our potential (and current) buyers look for information, vendors, and new solutions to existing problems?
  • What role do influencers (analysts, industry experts, etc.) play in the buyer’s journey for a given product or service?
  • What role do marketplaces play in a particular buyer’s journey?
  • What criteria does each buyer persona leverage to develop an initial list of vendors/providers?
  • What criteria does each persona use to narrow down a long list to a shortlist?
  • What role does social media play in each buyer’s journey?
  • What type of content do buyers want at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
  • What content leads to discovery, advocacy, and selection?
  • What are the best content, landing pages, and campaigns we can develop to reach our target audience?
  • What buyer personas should we target first with our content marketing and campaigns?
  • What buyer personas do we need to include as additional decision-makers and influencers?
  • What key buying criteria is each buyer persona focused upon?
  • When do target customers prefer to be interacted with during the buyer’s journey? Is our sales team doing a good job of this? Do competing sales teams do a good job of this?

What types of people are typically recruited and interviewed for buyer’s journey research?

  • Current customers
  • Target customers
  • Competitors’ customers
  • Partners

B2B Competitive Landscape Analysis

Competitive Landscape Analysis helps companies identify their competitors and put them into proper perspective. While buyer personas and buyer’s journey research take an in-depth look into prospective buyers, competitive landscape analysis focuses more on competitors to give a more complete view of the current marketplace landscape. Clarifying Competitive Intelligence can provide additional insight.


Who can benefit from competitive landscape analysis?

  • Product managers
  • Sales leaders
  • Marketing leaders
  • Venture capitalists, private equity firms, and large enterprises considering an acquisition

Competitive intelligence research can highlight what kind of sales, marketing, and product initiative a company should launch based on gaps in the marketplace.


What kinds of questions should competitive landscape analysis include?

In addition to the 11 Market Research Questions for B2B Customers to ask a prospective customer who just chose a competitor, or 26 B2B Market Research Questions for Your Competitor’s Ex-Sales Reps, competitive landscape research should also ask:

  • Which upstart competitors should we keep tabs on?
  • Are any long-standing competitors becoming less of a threat?
  • What does each competitor fear the most?
  • How much does each competitor fear us?
  • Where do competitors excel at selling and where do they struggle?
  • Who are our competitors’ ideal customers?
  • What are the key buying criteria for the customer base of each competitor? Is it similar to our customers’ key buying criteria?
  • What business and technical challenges does each competitor try to address with their product development, marketing and sales efforts?
  • How often do competitors engage with their partners?
  • Which of our key partners also work with competitors?
  • Do competitor customers have buyer’s remorse?
  • How are we perceived in our competitive landscape — leader, follower, laggard?
  • What kind of sales, marketing, and product initiatives should we launch based on gaps in the marketplace?

What types of people are typically recruited and interviewed for competitive landscape analysis?

  • Partners
  • Former employees of competing companies
  • Former members of rival sales teams
  • Competitors’ customers
  • Competitors’ partners

B2B Market Opportunity Research

Market Opportunity Research allows companies to better understand their opportunities within the marketplace, including which markets are worth going after and which are non-starters. While competitive landscape analysis takes a deep dive into your competitors, market opportunity research focuses more on the opportunities that have arisen out of the current competitive landscape.


Who can benefit from market opportunity research?

  • Product managers
  • Sales leaders
  • Marketing leaders

Product, sales, and marketing teams can all take away valuable insights as a result of market research that forces them to demand evidence and think critically. Those insights should provide the clarity needed to drive change; otherwise, what’s the point?


What kinds of questions should market opportunity research include?

  • What is the total addressable market (TAM) that could be a fit for this solution?
  • What is the serviceable addressable market (SAM) for our solution?
  • Which industries and company sizes should we target within our Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)?
  • Is this TAM, SAM, or SOM, growing, shrinking, or staying about the same? At what rate is it changing?
  • Do organizations in the target market have the problem our solution is trying to solve?
  • How likely are buyers to purchase a solution for this problem?
  • Have the decision makers in those organizations already tried to solve their own pain
  • points? What proportion of the market has tried?
  • When do organizations see their needs evolve? Are there certain “graduation points” to mark this?
  • What budgets do organizations set for solutions like ours? For adjacent solutions?
  • For organizations to consider our solution, what price range would it need to be in?
  • What’s the broader competitive landscape in this market? Which segments are most vulnerable to competitors?
  • What headwinds and/or tailwinds will industry competitors face in this market?

What types of people are typically recruited and interviewed for market opportunity research?

  • Business decision makers
  • Technology decision makers
  • Channel partners
  • Former sellers of competing firms

B2B Brand Research

Brand research can inform companies how the broader market perceives their brand – before, during, and after buying from you. While buyer personas and buyer journey’s research helpinform companies of the people buying their products and the path they take to purchase them,and competitive landscape analysis provides an overview of the state of the overall marketplace, a brand research study focuses more on how that marketplace views your specific company.


Who can benefit from brand research?

  • Marketing leaders
  • Sales leaders

What kinds of questions should brand research include?

Instead of just churning out standardized research with basic dashboards, metrics, and brand funnels, your brand research should address these dos and don’ts. It should highlight your unique context and most pressing key intelligence questions, including:

  • How does each potential buyer describe their search process for new vendors and solutions?
  • Where do our potential (and current) buyers look for information, vendors, and new solutions to existing problems?
  • What role do influencers (analysts, industry experts, etc.) play in the buyer’s journey for a given product or service?
  • What role do marketplaces play in a particular buyer’s journey?
  • What criteria does each buyer persona leverage to develop an initial list of vendors/providers?
  • What criteria does each persona use to narrow down a long list to a shortlist?
  • What role does social media play in each buyer’s journey?
  • What type of content do buyers want at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
  • What content leads to discovery, advocacy, and selection?
  • What are the best content, landing pages, and campaigns we can develop to reach our target audience?
  • What buyer personas should we target first with our content marketing and campaigns?
  • What buyer personas do we need to include as additional decision-makers and influencers?
  • What key buying criteria is each buyer persona focused upon?
  • When do target customers prefer to be interacted with during the buyer’s journey? Is our sales team doing a good job of this? Do competing sales teams do a good job of this?

What types of people are typically recruited and interviewed for brand research?

  • Prospects
  • Current customers
  • Decision-makers
  • Influencers
  • Partners

How Can B2B Market Research Work For You?

B2B market research can provide value to a number of different roles within an organization. In 101 B2B Market Research Questions, we present some of the top questions that different personas ask of their B2B market research. Below, we’ve further broken down how B2B market research can work for different job functions.

Marketing Leaders

B2B market research sets the foundation and provides the data that marketers need to make well-informed business decisions. As a result, marketing leaders are one of the most frequent stakeholders in B2B market research efforts.

B2B market research can answer a number of questions for marketers. Different types of B2B market research studies can provide the answers to different questions marketers may have. For example, buyer’s journey research helps marketers to determine which persona they should be targeting at which time throughout the purchasing process. Brand research can help marketers determine the best content and marketing campaigns that will reach our target audience.

With B2B market research in hand, marketers can then go on to create effective messaging that resonates with prospective buyers on a deep level.

Sales Teams

Sales teams play a critical role in a business’ growth. That’s why it’s crucial that they are equipped with up-to-date market research that gives them the ability to say the right things to the right people.

For example, buyer persona research informs sales reps how they should be tailoring their messaging to the CFO vs. an IT professional during a meeting. Likely, a sales rep should not get into the weeds with an executive. However, they should engage thoroughly with an IT profession’s questions around configuration. A successful pitch would carefully address both persona’s concerns.

An Open Letter to B2B Sales Leaders addresses many of the common mistakes that salespeople make. A number of them can be avoided with more effective B2B market research.

Product Managers

Product managers are a typical stakeholder for market research efforts. As the people responsible for making sure that a team ships a great product, product managers need to be sure that every decision they make is backed by data. B2B market research can inform product managers with a good understanding of what the market wants, where it’s going, what customers want, and even what competitors’ customers want.

Understanding customers’ key buying criteria is crucial for product managers. This can answer such questions as: What features are those customers going to rave about one year after purchasing the product? Which ones will they rarely ever use? What features of competing products will they wish were included? B2B market research can answer all of those questions for them.

B2B market research can also help product managers see where the next market opportunity is going to be. Without solid market research guiding them, product managers risk failure to launch syndrome.

Partner/Channel Managers

Sometimes, the partners matter just as much as the product. Partners drive sales and generate new opportunities. To help identify weak spots in partner programs and strategize how to keep those relationships healthy, partner managers can use B2B channel research to boost their B2B channel strategy. They can also use B2B partner enablement research to further optimize your channel and fast track your partner readiness.

Partner-led organizations can better understand the partners they have by asking these nine questions for your channel. Some questions that can open the door to a better partner program include:

B2B channel research can help partner managers better understand their partners, leading to new opportunities for visibility of your products and services. In turn, your partners may be more willing to facilitate that visibility and drive more sales for both of you.

Market Researchers

Some organizations have internal B2B market research teams. Essentially, this is a professional services firm embedded within a larger firm that sells products and services. When larger projects arise or different methodologies are needed, they may reach out to an external vendor to assist in completing certain projects. These teams may also conduct research initiatives themselves such as running focus groups, launching surveys and analyzing the results, and conducting in-depth interviews.

C-Level Suite

B2B market research can inform many high-level business decisions made at an organization. For example, a recent merger with another company may have C-level executives wondering if they should rebrand to better align their two companies. Brand research can show that most of their customers feel an existing loyalty to their current brand, so the merging of brands should be done strategically and incrementally.

Although the C-level suite isn’t typically involved in the day-to-day operations that surround procuring and working with a B2B market research team, the results of the study can deeply impact the trajectory of the company as a whole.

What Kinds of Companies Can Benefit From B2B Market Research?

Whether you’re at a small startup, a mid-sized company, or a large enterprise, B2B market research can provide the insights you need to make smart business decisions.

Enterprise

As the established titans in their field, large enterprise companies have a lot at stake. B2B Market Research can ensure that enterprises are equipped with the information they need to retain their market share, their customer base, and their relationships with partners.

With startups and mid-sized companies threatening to gain market share, competitive landscape analysis can help enterprises identify which of these threats that they need to address. Enterprise organizations also may also use B2B churn analysis to improve customer retention, and B2B channel research to improve their relationships with key partners.

Small and Medium-Sized Business (SMB)

SMBs face a number of unique challenges. Mid-sized organizations often face issues such as tribal knowledge, unevaluated messaging, confusion within their price models, and more B2B mid-market challenges.

B2B market research is able to assist SMBs in addressing these challenges. Effective and targeted B2B market research can help combat many of these issues by inserting outside, objective information into business decisions.

Startup

Small startup companies must thoroughly understand the marketplace in which they are entering. Market opportunity research can help startups gain insight into how they stack up against the competition. It shows which markets are worth going after and which are non-starters. Concept testing lets startups evaluate whether the market wants what they’re planning to build before they invest. If it’s not a good fit for a particular set of buyers, this research will uncover if there is another market segment that it would fit. Finally, go-to-market research provides startups with a plan to bring a new solution or product to market.

Cascade Insights & B2B Market Research

Cascade Insights is a market research agency that works exclusively in the B2B tech sector. Visit B2B Market Research for more information.

“The decision to partner with Cascade Insights on recent B2B research projects has worked out very well. Their ability to quickly understand our industry and specific business challenges, combined with their strong project execution skills has quickly made them our preferred partner for B2B work. Specifically, I appreciate their collaborative approach in being open to conceptual research discussions, making field adjustments on the fly, and in making recommendations of their own during execution of the project. It truly is a pleasure to work with the team at Cascade!”

— Phil Panuela, Dir. Global Insights, Gogo

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