Did you know?
The value of the global market to sell the online B2B model in 2020 is about 6.7 trillion (1 trillion = 1012) dollars, which will constitute 27% of the total market trade. And, predicted sales in 2020 will reach 27.8 trillion dollars.
So, commit to making customer research a habit, and you’ll always create products that resonate.
Behind every successful Business-to-Business (B2B) product is a product team fueled by solid customer research. This comprehensive guide introduces essential tools and practical methods to acquire a more solid understanding of your market, customers, end-users, and competitors.
Companies due to market conditions becoming increasingly narrow specialized, in order to achieve a competitive advantage and B2B marketing is a link between the provider and the end-users.
B2B research can be a bumpy road compared to B2C research. B2B research can be more difficult to conduct. It might be hard to get in touch with your target customers and users. For example, your users could be working with highly sensitive information that they are not willing to talk with outside companies about.
Or your team cannot reach users directly but must go through several stakeholders within the same organization before an opening is possible. You can’t just show up anytime anywhere and expect to run into your target customers. You must do a little more research before you contact and approach your potential customers.
Needless to say, before you conduct any customer research, you need to know what problem you are solving, who you are solving it for, and have a product idea.
The three levels of customer research
Customer research can be done on three different levels: Macro, meso, and micro.
1. On a macro level, you’ll learn more about:
1.1 Market segment
Market segmentation is a method of determining market size. For example, you might offer a product that helps small company owners manage their expenses via a mobile app. Small company owners is quite a broad audience. So to make sure you start realistically, divide the market into different segments and choose one segment that you would like to target to begin with.
1.2 Market size
You will probably find a large number that tells your market x is worth $x billion. While this may all sound great, you need to figure out what the realistic market size is for your product idea. Take up the bottom-up approach: Look for the price that competitors charge your target customers today and estimate what your share of that market could be. For example, look at how many customers you will be able to win within the first few years. You’ll get a more precise and realistic number because you know what customers are paying already for a similar service.
1.3 Overall market trends
In addition to figuring out the market size and deciding on a specific market segment, find out which trends are evolving within the prospect market space. Read industry-leading blogs and subscribe to industry newsletters. Take note of which themes repeat themselves within the material you are reading. Take part in online discussion forums to have a better understanding of what makes your target customers tick.
2. On the meso level, you’ll look into:
2.1 Buyers and user personas
For B2B products, the users and the buyers are not always the same people. Try to figure out who will buy your product vs. who will use it.
2.2 Online user communities
To gain an even deeper understanding of your target audience, try to think like them. Ask yourself: Where would my users go to gain new knowledge or share his or her professional interests with likeminded people? You will learn more about what they struggle with and what they need. You’ll begin to learn the language of your users as you see what terms are used most frequently.
2.3 Competitor analysis
In addition to learning more about your target audience, researching competitors is another must in customer research. Potential competitors might become more indirect or direct competitors in the future, so they are worth keeping an eye on.
Related Read: 8 Ways B2B Commerce Software Improves Customer Service
On a micro level, you’ll gain more knowledge from:
3.1 Customer interviews
Customer interviews are direct conversations with customers and end-users. They help shape your understanding of user pain points and needs. Interviews are thick data: You will use your interviews to extract qualitative data that communicate insights and stories from your target audience.
Surveying potential customers is another way to learn more about their needs and pain points. Keep in mind that surveys can be difficult to use for B2B research, as you might not be able to get direct access to many B2B users at once. Surveys are mostly useful if you can get a large number of respondents; otherwise, direct interviews will provide you with richer insights.
3.3 Industry conferences
In addition to interviews, observations, and surveys, industry conferences are another great way to meet your customers. More chit-chat sessions can help you quickly narrow in on what customers are focusing on or currently concerned about. Further, attending talks and discussions with industry professionals can fuel your understanding of major movements within your market.
Conclusion: Guide your product strategy with customer research
The insights you get from doing more solid customer research will guide your overall product strategy, and will inform your design decisions and your technical choices. On the contrary, if you don’t have these insights to inform your product decisions, you quickly end up swinging your imaginary stick countless times only to miss the target.
Customer research shouldn’t be done only in the beginning when you have an idea for a product; it should be done on a continuous basis. Your customer needs change as new requirements are enforced, or as competitors offer new features. You need to constantly figure out where the market is moving on macro, mesoc and micro levels.