Magazine article Marketing

Using Your Commercial Intelligence

Magazine article Marketing

Using Your Commercial Intelligence

Article excerpt

Methods of research in the business and consumer sectors are similar. But, as Helen Clucas points out, the differences are in the nature of the markets themselves

Business-to-business research is actually quite similar to consumer research. Its ultimate aim is to enable you to make better-informed decisions, and thus to reduce the risk of getting it wrong. (It won't, of course, guarantee that you get it right.)

Although the principles are the same, there are some key differences. These stem from the differences between the markets themselves.

Business markets are more specialist and complex than most consumer markets. Purchase decisions often involve people from different functions within one company. The decisions involve large sums of money, so they are more rational and take into account more factors than in consumer markets.

The products may be highly technical, particularly in industrial markets. The actual number of customers/potential customers may be quite small, with a few of them accounting for the majority of the market.

So what does this imply for the way market research is done in business-to-business markets?

First, your choice of respondents may be quite narrow because of the specialist nature of the business. Perhaps there are certain key companies you must interview because they are so important or influential. You may need to interview several people within one company: the technical man wants the best product, but the finance man wants the cheapest.

In some business areas, such as IT and the medical profession, the finite nature of the audience means they are over-researched. This prompts the question of how you actually persuade busy professionals to talk.

A big inducement can be the knowledge that what they say will actually benefit them, because it will influence what you ultimately do. Or they may gain new information on products and services via the interview. Charity donations are a good alternative to cash payments.

The professionalism of the research company can make a difference, as can small things such as actually keeping to the promised interview length.

Having once been telephoned at the office for a "five-minute" interview on business travel, and suffered 15 minutes of mostly irrelevant and repetitive questions about the image of various hotel chains, only one of which I had stayed at five years ago, even I began to question the value of market research.

This brings me on to differences in methodology. Telephone interviewing is used extensively in business-to-business research, because it is so much cheaper than face-to-face interviews, particularly when your respondents are geographically scattered. …

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