Understanding your customers and their needs is critical to creating better experiences and products. When your customers are other businesses, it can be a little more challenging to get the right people in the room.
For the past 15 years, our team has worked in close partnership with our clients to better understand B2B customers. We’ve conducted hundreds of studies with a variety of businesses, from enterprise to one-person upstart companies in industries ranging from financial services to technology to logistics. We know the added nuance of working with B2B customers and understand the importance of getting every step right along the way.
We’ve helped our clients answer a number of B2B research questions, including:
- How have payment behaviors changed now that there are so many P2P and B2B options?
- What do marketing professionals need from a marketing analytics tool?
- What’s a day in the life of an IT administrator and does our current platform meet their needs?
- How do we better meet the needs of our Program Administrators that manage our corporate card programs?
- How do we help our clients increase conversions from mobile traffic so they continue to invest in and see value in mobile advertising? Read the case study here.
The true complexities of these studies lie in the early stages of research: Research Operations and recruiting. Once your participants are in the research session, it’s like any other study.
Our research operations process for B2B research
B2B research requires a careful approach to logistics and research operations. Start your study by developing a deep understanding of who you’re looking for and why. These audiences are often nuanced, so understanding the product, the experience, and the role inside and out is a great place to begin.
Reaching your audience
Recruiting the right audience takes cultivating a range of tools and resources for reaching people. One way we do this is through recruiting partners who specialize in B2B audiences and are familiar with our team and processes. With complex audiences like this, we’re very intentional in cultivating personal relationships with the right partner and having clear conversations about delicate recruits.
Sometimes it takes a little longer to get traction when recruiting these groups due to necessary networking steps or difficulty reaching certain roles within companies. Build in some extra flex time into your timelines to ensure you have the space to get the right people. Don’t be overly concerned or raise a red flag too fast if you’re not seeing responses as quickly as you would for other types of recruits!
Our team has recruited a wide variety of business audiences with varying levels of nuance and specificity, including:
- Advertising and media buyers
- Data architects and scientists working with data integration platforms
- C-suite members and executives
- Minority small business owners affected by COVID-19
- Corporate credit card holders
- Employees who ship and receive packages for business
- SMB owners who make purchasing decisions on their business software
- People making strategic decisions about the content that lives on their platforms
- Businesses looking for a small business loan or who have specific types of accounts
Writing your screener
Screeners for B2B research have different needs and best practices from your typical project. When communicating with business owners or employees, be mindful of their time at work, keep screeners short, and omit any unnecessary questions. For example, household income isn’t relevant to their job responsibilities or business, so there’s no need to ask. To ensure we’re getting a diverse recruit, we always capture ethnicity, gender, and age, but otherwise, we keep our questions focused on business goals.
Definitions of small, medium, and large businesses range depending on who you’re talking to. To ensure there’s no confusion, include a couple standard questions about company size and revenue. When it comes to complex screeners like this, a significant benefit of working with AnswerLab is every document and screener gets peer reviewed multiple times. Not only are you getting the expertise of your Project Manager, you’re also getting the expertise of their teammate.
Digging into your recruit
Getting some of these participants on the phone can be difficult with busy schedules and limited free work hours, so we make an effort to do a lot of our screening via email and save the nitty gritty for a follow-up phone call. Follow-up calls also allow you to make sure you’re getting articulate participants. Be mindful of what you ask them and when. Being respectful of their time will only make them more inclined to respect yours in return.
Experiment with what days and times you communicate with participants. We tend to reach out to prospective participants in these groups more heavily during business hours, maximizing our efforts to align with our business audience. Especially with busy executives, you often have to jump through a couple hoops before getting on their calendars, and weekends just don’t work as well.
As a part of recruitment, we use cross-checking methods to verify our participants and ensure quality. Be aware that the study requirements for B2B audiences are often quite nuanced and require a closer eye to make sure you’re getting the best-fit people. For example, we might include a question in the screener that only the person who really has the required responsibility or qualification would know the answer to. This helps you weed out anyone who might not have the exact knowledge you’re looking for.
To make sure you get the best fit respondents in the room, consider who you’re recruiting (or not recruiting) and why to help build a holistic case for why certain participants should be included. When reviewing screener responses, think critically about their company, industry, and other answers. Are you excluding participants because of older standards or out of date screener practices? Is there someone who might not fit the exact profile of who you’re looking for but might offer a unique perspective?
Scheduling your participants with flexibility
For audiences with limited availability, we recommend offering an altered schedule to be more flexible with their time. Instead of scheduling only during business hours, try offering larger parameters to include evening session times or spread sessions out over more days. For example, we might offer session slots anytime between 9am and 9pm, but schedule no more than 6 participants in a day. That way, you’re not overwhelming your moderator, and you’re allowing for variations in schedule. As an added benefit, having more time in between sessions gives you a little extra room if a participant is running late. If possible, we always schedule alternates instead of floaters for these sessions—asking someone to be available for a long time block to cover no-shows isn’t as feasible here!