B2B marketing strategies are fundamentally different from B2C marketing strategies–and that has implications for how you conduct B2B market research.
All too often, however, B2B decision-makers struggle with market research approaches adapted from the consumer world. The result is incomplete data and untrustworthy conclusions. Today’s business environment demands that you have exceptional business intel, so the nuances of and effective B2B marketing strategy development matters.
We will take a deeper look at why B2B marketing strategies are different, what that means for market research, and how you can overcome the challenges of conducting B2B market research.
How B2B marketing differences affect research
- Audiences are specific, even niche. Unlike consumer brands targeting millions of people, B2B brands address specific industries, companies, and roles in those companies. That makes it harder to find, recruit, and verify enough people for a valid research study.
- Communications are real conversations. The bulk of communicating to consumer markets is done through one-way impersonal mass marketing, even with today’s innovations in segmenting and social media automation in social media. The stakes and economics are different when it comes to B2B marketing. You could not afford to sell and negotiate with every buyer of a $10 toothbrush, but it’s different if you are selling a $100,000 deal. Business brands engage in authentic, direct dialogue, person to person, that progresses to the give-and-take of negotiation. That means you need to conduct far more sophisticated messaging research that goes beyond a marketing campaign tagline. Ideally, you must find ways to listen to niche audiences at scale and craft messaging for conversations through the sales cycle.
- Selling is a long complex, multi-stakeholder process. Selling a consumer brand is straightforward. Get the item on the shelf or on ecommerce sites and wait for someone to decide to pick it up. B2B product and services selling is complex, often involving teams of decision-makers from multiple departments, in a multi-step and lengthy process. B2B research helps you identify who is involved, their roles, values, concerns, and needs, and what kind of information they want in the sales process.
- Relationships. While people might feel an affinity for a consumer brand, these brands do not offer a genuine person-to-person relationship. B2B marketing strategies, on the other hand, initiate and nurture rapport and bonds that can endure for years by building brand trust. B2B market research helps you understand and build these relationships and guide you in how you can bring new value to B2B buyers over the long term.
Five types of research that empower effective B2B marketing strategies
Creating and executing an effective B2B marketing strategy requires you to invest in quality research that directly ties to and supports business impacts across functions. Build a data-driven planning and decision-making culture. The following types of research can inform every level of your B2B customer journey.
You need to answer questions like this:
- In what industry and companies are they working?
- What is their background? What are their demographics?
- What professional roles do they play?
- What are their professional goals and values?
- What are their needs, concerns, opportunities, and challenges?
- What are their communication preferences? How can they best be reached?
Answering these questions and more will help you build a B2B brand strategy and reach your marketing goals.
Your B2B marketing plan must include detailed messaging that evolves as you build relationships with each member of your target audience.
- What messages work to attract attention, establish trust, and foster recognition of your company as experts?
- What information targets the needs of each member and role on the decision-making team?
- What media and content formats does your target audience prefer?
Thought leadership research
To move beyond a transactional relationship and establish your brand as a trusted consultant, you need to bring customers or B2B buyers valuable and unique insights about their industry and business.
- What new proprietary knowledge can your internal stakeholders analyze and transform the insights customers will value?
- How can you publish your thought leadership for a competitive edge and establish you as a valued business partner.
Brand tracking research
Conduct regular research over time to measure:
- How successful is your B2B marketing strategy?
- Where can you improve, expand and refine your marketing as time goes on?
- What is the best way to report business impacts to corporate leaders?
- How can you get a jump on new opportunities?
Current B2B marketing strategy trends and challenges
Every industry and business is facing changes and challenges. World events, from the pandemic, changing B2B customer expectations, supply chain woes, armed conflicts, the energy crisis, and more in a list that doesn’t seem to end, all add up to massive disruption. It is more important than ever that you keep your eyes and ears open–and that means investing in research that gives you fast, trustworthy, actionable insights. Top drivers of this need include:
Agility is a necessity. Industries and markets are changing dramatically, sometimes overnight. The ability to quickly adapt your marketing strategy depends on how quickly you perceive the challenges and opportunities in every change.
Use technology to power growth. Whether it is changing your operations, your product, your delivery methods or more, technology is opening new avenues for growth and profit. The key to your marketing strategy is knowing where to invest; where the risks are lowest and the pay-off is highest.
Customers demand alignment with their values and needs. It isn’t enough to provide a great product at a great price. A B2B customer expects to work with companies that share their ESG goals, that anticipate their needs, and that bring extra value. Switching is easier than ever. Once you’ve won the business, you’ve got to build your marketing strategy and define which B2B marketing channels to use, knowing what will earn customer loyalty every day.
Hiring and retaining diverse talent is a challenge. Every business today is struggling with staffing. Finding and keeping qualified people is nearly as tough as adding customers. Businesses need to know how their brand appeals to employees as much as it appeals to customers. Marketing strategies need information about both external and internal audiences.
Decision-makers demand better data. The stakes are too high to muddle through with incomplete, out-of-date, and fraudulent data. What is the cost of bad data? Companies that make decisions without reliable business insights and using bad data lose around 30% of their revenue annually. Working with a specialized, full-service B2B research provider is not only cost-effective, it also drives business growth and expands profit margins, even in a tough economy.