Information is key in the business world. Do you want to find out more about your commercial customers and your competitors? Do you want to study your supply chain and distribution channels? Do you want to know if your branding and marketing strategies are working? Then business market research is just what you need.
Business market research takes a systematic approach to get you the answers that you’re looking for. This usually involves a process of setting an objective, gathering data, analysing results, and using those findings to reach your goal. But because it concerns businesses and third parties critical to your operations, it is far more complex than consumer market research and can be challenging to carry out.
How do you go about gathering data? You can do primary or secondary research, or both. Primary research involves collecting new information, while secondary research relates to existing data from third party sources. If you can, find out first what information is readily available and then conduct your own study to gain specific insights.
They may be traditional, but face-to-face interviews are still often used for a number of reasons. You are more likely to get in-depth, clear and more accurate responses. Respondents have time to explain their answers and can access records for reference or call a colleague for confirmation, if the interview is at their workplace.
Conversely, interviewers can ask respondents to clarify any points that were raised and if necessary, present relevant materials such as samples, logos, and print advertisements. Plus, the confidentiality concerns usually associated with telephone interviews are addressed by being face to face with the respondents.
However, the speed and low cost of phone interviews make them suitable for business market research as well. You could complete five or six interviews with managers in one day, each lasting about 20 minutes. With face-to-face interviews, you might only get one or two done in a day.
To gauge customer and staff satisfaction and obtain feedback on products and services, many businesses today use online surveys. Internet surveys are often preferred over self-completed postal surveys because they are not costly nor time-consuming and generate more accurate data, thanks to automatic routing.
Online surveys are easy to carry out, too. For instance, you could send an e-mail invitation or notification containing the web page where the questionnaire can be accessed or simply post the link or even the survey itself on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Just make sure that all e-mail addresses or accounts are accurate and that your respondents have internet access in their daily workplace. And remember to keep the questions concise so that the survey can be accomplished in no more than 10 minutes.
Although not as popular, postal surveys are still conducted and are advisable when you are confident that respondents will be highly motivated to fill out the questionnaire.
To gain access to your target market, you can also get in touch with the Chamber of Commerce, the Census Bureau and other government agencies, or join trade organisations that connect business-to-business sellers worldwide. And of course, don’t forget to go online and visit relevant websites and directories.
Helpful Tips in Conducting Market Research
Business market research is complicated, and there are various issues you might have to address. One of the most common challenges is dealing with hard-to-reach professionals who are often busy and hesitant about participating or opening up. How can you address this?
- Plan and start early, and arrange the interview at a time that is convenient for the respondent. Also take into account scheduling contingencies.
- If allowed, provide an incentive. An honorarium may take the form of cash, free software, travel coupons, or charitable donations.
- If you’re conducting a survey, keep it as short as possible. You’re bound to get better response rates.
Business market research can help you in more ways than one. With the right method and approach, you can understand your target market, identify new opportunities, minimise risk, gain a competitive edge and ultimately boost your sales.
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