B2B vs. B2C: Six Key Differences for Marketing Research
Stacy Williams, President of Prominent Placement, Inc. and Search Marketing Expert extraordinaire, sent a very well-considered email this morning about the differences in search marketing for B2B situations vs. B2C situations. As I thought about her email, B2B Versus B2C: 6 Ways Search Marketing is Different, it occurred to me that those same differences are true for marketing research to those audiences. With her permission, I am using it as the basis for this blog. The Marketing Dialog (TMD) comments on her insights are inserted in italics:
"Selling to a business is typically more complex than selling to a consumer. So it naturally follows that using search engine marketing to target the B2B buyer can be intricate.
TMD: Ditto for marketing research. B2B respondents are more demanding, more time-deprived and often more informed about complex products and services than consumers.
1. Decision By Committee. There are often multiple parties involved in a business purchasing decision. They may use search engines at different stages of the buy cycle - for example, the user may search using broad keywords when they're researching solutions. Later, the executive who approves the vendor may simply search on the brand name to check out the company.
TMD: This impacts your decision about who to include in the research. Who is the qualified respondent? Do you want the person holding the purse strings - or do you also want all the people who influence that person? Or do you want the end user?
2. Longer Sales Cycle. Business buyers often don't search, click on a site, and make a purchase in one fell swoop.
TMD: Longer sales cycles impact the timing of the survey. Do you want to measure along the sales process, or only once a decision has been made? Or do you want to measure implementation or wait a bit and measure actual usage?
3. Complex Products & Services. Consumers usually don't have to do a lot of research before deciding which brand of soap to buy. But a business buyer may have never bought, say, enterprise resource planning software before. In fact, they may be aware of their need, but have no idea what product may fill it.
TMD: This is a very important consideration for designing the survey instrument. How much do the qualified respondents actually know about the product or service? Are there other individuals in the organization who know more or at least more about certain aspects? How do you make sure that you are getting a good read about the organizations attitudes and beliefs?
4. Risk vs. Reward. Most of the time, consumers buy products for the reward they'll get in using that product. Alternately, B2B purchasers may not personally benefit from the product, and even if they do, it's likely not going to be as fun or exciting as some consumer products are (for example, compare the thrill of buying a copier to buying a guitar).
TMD: Nonetheless, emotion does come into play in B2B decisions and should be included in marketing research programs. Even if the emotion is pride in having made a good decision or relief that you get to keep your job another day, B2B respondents are still people.
5. Niche vs. Broad. Search marketing is often successful more quickly in the B2B space. It's all about being in a narrow, defined niche.
TMD: In both B2B and B2C marketing research, keeping the survey narrowly focused will yield better response rates and higher quality data. Throwing questions into a survey just because they will be "interesting" or "nice to know" is the wrong approach. By all means, keep it as narrow as possible. If you don't know what you will do with the information you get from a question, drop the question from your project.
6. Offline Sales. While there certainly are e-commerce sites aimed at businesses, often in a complex sale, the actual purchase takes place offline.
TMD: In marketing research it is important to consider all of the relevant behavior options in B2B as well as in B2C projects.
Search engine marketing and digital content strategies may be more intricate with most B2B offerings as compared to B2C, but it's worth the extra time and effort to provide each buyer with the information they're seeking, nurture them along their path, and measure your return on investment.
TMD: Ditto for Marketing Research!
Let's think of 4 more ways that B2B and B2C marketing research projects are different for an even ten!
Research LifeLine is a great resource for all types of marketing research!