Anyone who underestimates or doesn't believe in the power of market research is seriously mistaken. Especially in the B2B world, where customer relationships mean everything, having feedback and data directly from your market sector can greatly influence your marketing and sales strategy. Usually when B2B sales are low, managers will start saying there is a need to better understand the client. This is not done through instinct, but through solid market research and analysis.
Market research can also be expensive - telemarketing surveys, organizing focus groups, incentives for participation, etc. Good thing the Internet came along!
Below are three ways to conduct market research using digital marketing techniques. Keep in mind that doing research digitally does not excuse you from implementing best practices:
- Define the market research question/issue you want to answer
- Define which digital tool will work best
- Collect the data and analyze the results
A survey is perhaps the most obvious market research tool that can be done online. A classic example is to create a survey using SurveyMonkey - customize it to fit your company's branding - and distribute via various marketing channels. However, in a B2B marketing strategy we know that content marketing is everything. Make sure your survey is not just fluff or an obvious ploy to follow up with a sales call.
Define industry specific questions that only a true professional would be able to answer and test the survey on your colleagues.
Once the content is perfect, think about the best way to distribute the survey. Social media tools like LinkedIn and Twitter are an obvious platform to introduce your survey to the public, but people might be hesitant to click on surveys that are advertised publicly. Look to share in LinkedIn private groups or sending the survey via InMail on LinkedIn to a select group of participants.
SurveyMonkey will track your data, including how the participant got to your survey, so it's another great market research tool to see how your target audience sees your content.
Webinars as the new Focus Group
The webinar is a fantastic tool for B2B marketing, and recently I've discovered it can be discretely used to organize a focus group. In terms of marketing, the webinar can be used in B2B to showcase your company's expertise and collect new leads.
However, webinars can be formatted to include an open discussion after the lecture. This usually leads to participants asking the instructor questions about current projects they are working on or current challenges they are facing in the industry. Participants usually end up volunteering valuable market research information.
Marketers should not only organize B2B webinars, but either participate as webinar facilitator or be sure to record and listen later. Structure is key to your webinar/focus group success. Schedule about one hour for the actual lecture (so participants stay interested) and then 30-45 minutes for Q&A or an open discussion. Let participants know they will have a chance to interact with the instructor after. However, if you are going to use the webinar as a focus group, keep the participation to a limit and send out exclusive invites.
Personal Feedback via LinkedIn
Another valuable market research tool has generally been personal interviews - especially for post-sale feedback and determining client satisfaction. Finding the time to schedule personal interviews can be difficult. There is also a cost burden in organizing and carrying out these interviews.
LinkedIn is practically a virtual office space for B2B colleagues. A LinkedIn premium account is also your golden ticket to connect with people who aren't even in your network through personal InMail.
Check in with potential clients and even current clients on LinkedIn to see how things are going in their company. Write an email without even requesting a meeting, just to see how things are going. Ask them if they've seen the latest trend or hot topic in your industry and what they think.
This type of qualitative research allows you to understand the mindset of your customers and how to approach them.