- 1 Understanding B2B Customer Research
- 2 Why is customer research crucial to your success?
- 3 Keys to successful B2B customer research
- 4 The Buyer Roundtable approach to B2B customer research
- 5 How does it work?
- 6 FAQs about B2B Customer Research:
Have you noticed that every time you share a tidbit of B2B customer research everyone leans in to hear what you’re saying?
Whether you’re in sales or marketing (or product even), knowledge of your customers’ needs and frustrations is indispensable to doing your job successfully.
The problem is a lot of the customer insights you get come in drips and drabs. A nugget shared during a discovery call here. A few questions that leads asked during the last marketing webinar.
What if you could get a group of leads and customers to tell you exactly what they’re thinking and doing in 1 hour? Would that be useful to your sales efforts?
The answer is not a webinar, it’s not a focus group, it’s not a survey. It’s an Buyer Roundtable and in my experience it’s the best way to achieve that goal.
Understanding B2B Customer Research
You can pay a customer research consultancy to do all kinds of B2B customer research for you. Or you can organize an internal project to carry out things like:
- Focus groups
- Usability studies
- User experience workshops
- Customer interviews
- Buyer journey mapping exercises,
and a lot more.
But pulling these things off without introducing your own bias so you get useful results is hard.
Finding and using a company to get you your money’s worth in a big customer research project is beyond the scope of what we’re going to talk about here. If you want some more details about that, check the FAQ at the bottom of this page.
Why is customer research crucial to your success?
What we’re talking about here is how to get a ton of insights and quotes straight from your customers and leads. You can use those insights to generate more leads and close more deals.
Nothing is going to cut through the noise of cold calls and cold emails and non-stop ads and distractions like a message crafted by you, based around actual insights into what your leads and customers really think and really want, in the words of your ideal customers and leads.
What you want is B2B customer research insights you can use to get leads and close deals.
Keys to successful B2B customer research
1. Segment your audience
CFOs will have different needs than VP Sales. Manufacturers will have different expectations than software developers. North American companies will have different regulations than European ones. When you’re digging for insights, segment your audience into groups that have something in common with one another from their point of view.
2. Questions are powerful
Ask a question, then be silent. This isn’t about showing them how much you know. It’s about finding out what you don’t know. Your credibility will help get them in the room, but this is not about convincing them of anything.
3. People want to hear from their peers
Your buyers are overwhelmed with content and distractions. Luckily, there is still one thing they want to hear about: their peers.
Ask yourself what would you prefer? A webinar where a vendor tells you about their products that claim to solve your problems? Or a chat with other VP Sales like you about the problem?
Your customers are the same.
4. Gather up and distribute the insights
Insights are useless if they’re not shared and used and tested. Get it done, get it documented, and get it out in the real world. Share it with marketing so they can create better content. Use it on your next call so you can fine tune it.
5. Build momentum
Once you have their attention, keep going. Use the insights you get to give more value to your leads and customers. Then ask them for more insights. It builds on itself.
The Buyer Roundtable approach to B2B customer research
Imagine hosting an Buyer Roundtable, an event carefully crafted to guide your customers and leads through a meaningful conversation about the problems they have and that your business addresses.
Here, peers engage in purposeful discussions about what matters to them. They share their successes and failures. They talk about what doing nothing has cost them. They share resources and lessons learned with each other.
When the’ve re-discovered the value of solving these problems, they naturally turn to you for the solution.
With the insights you’ve gathered in the Buyer Roundtable, you are better positioned than ever to help them. Finally you have a B2B customer research method that is pragmatic and designed to drive sales and marketing success.
How does it work?
When you’re looking for sales strategies and tactics that put the customer at the heart of your activity, you owe it to yourself to find out more about this approach.
I’ll be happy to tell you how it’s worked at other companies so you can decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for you.
The entire Buyer Roundtable process takes about 6 weeks to promote the event and 1 hour to run it.
I do the work for you, and you get results, guaranteed.
That’s right, I guarantee results.
All for less than the cost of a typical webinar.
I’m always happy to tell you more.
FAQs about B2B Customer Research:
What is B2B customer research?
Customer research is the practice of understanding your customers’ needs, preferences and behaviours. If your customers are other businesses, this B2C-centric definition is recast in terms of the needs, preferences, and behaviours of not just the individual employees who you sell to and work with at your target market companies, but the way the companies themselves behave.
We always want to test what we do against what the customer really wants, needs, thinks, and feels. There are a lot of ways to develop the kinds of B2B customer insights that help us do more effective B2B marketing and B2B sales.
On the more formal end, we have things like focus groups where you can get a set of people who are representative of your target market and ask each of them a questions about your product or service, or about their needs and goals.
On the more casual and ad-hoc end, we can have hallway conversations with colleagues about things they may have overheard while working with customers.
They key thing is to make sure the work we do is informed by our customers’ reality, and to measure and test our understanding of this reality as often as possible.
What are the research methods for B2B?
You can see an outline for a B2B customer research program at this D&B article for which you may choose to hire a B2B market research company.
We advocate here for 2 quick ways to get a much deeper understanding of your customers so you can align your sales and marketing activities with them.
The first is the Buyer Roundtable, which we have described in detail here and throughout this site.
The second is to make it a habit to involve your sales and marketing teams in a conversation about what impact of your outreach.
In practice, this could look like the following example:
1. Run an Buyer Roundtable to learn about your customers’ buying process.
2. Speak to sales to determine what steps in that process deals get stuck.
3. Work with marketing to create tools to unblock those obstacles.
4. Train sales to use those tools in the field.
5. Gather insights from sales and from your customers about how well those tools are working so you can continue to improve them.
How do you research a B2B audience?
There are a lot of resources that can give you an overview of general B2B audience research.
We like to focus on immediate steps you can take to get insights on your B2B audience, as we outlined in the FAQ above, titled “What are the research methods for B2B?”
What are some forms of B2B Customer Research?
Some popular modes of B2B customer research include:
1. Surveys and Questionnaires: This is where your old friends like SurveyMonkey come into play. You can also run surveys during events like webinars and Buyer Roundtables.
2. Interviews: Pick up the phone and schedule one on one interviews with leads and customers. Don’t overlook lost leads who decided not to buy from you. You can get a lot of insights just by asking them to share their pros and cons with you.
If you think your customers might not be open with you for any reason hire an outside consultant to run some of the interviews. You might be surprised how much customers open up to outside consultants because they don’t have an ongoing relationship with them.
I run interviews like this and my clients are routinely amazed at the insights that even long-time customers share with me that they have never shared with them.
3. Focus groups: Get a group of target market representatives into a real or virtual room and ask them some questions. The difference between this and an Buyer Roundtable is that in a focus group, the attendees are answering your questions and talking to you.
In an Buyer Roundtable or any other peer conversation event, the goal is to get them to answer one another and talk with one another. Which I have found leads to much richer conversations.
4. Customer analytics: This is where you analyze data generated either from your own platform or from third party platforms like Google Analytics.
What is the importance of B2B customer research to sales and marketing?
1. You can better tailor your solutions
2. You can better target your marketing and sales efforts
3. You can improve the customer experience, and the lead experience. Sometimes the winner is the vendor who’s easiest to buy from. You might have the best product, but if buying from you is perceived as being difficult, that can cost you the deal.
4. You can improve your sales strategy. Oftentimes we think the customer or the lead is stuck for one reason, and later find it was something else entirely. If we, as B2B salespeople, are to get the support we need from teams like marketing and product management to remove the obstacles to sales, it’s obviously important to know what exactly those obstacles are, from our customers’ point of view.