B2B research: How to fish for insight

We’re all floating on a big ocean of ones and zeros. Intrepid B2B adventurers. And with the right tackle, we can haul in the correct solution to any conceivable problem. Right?


In B2B markets, where paths to purchase are often extremely complex, marketers cling to cold hard data because they offer welcome solidity. But numbers rarely tell the full story.

Which leads us here:

A captain walks into the galley. His twenty sailors are finishing their supper, but three of them are being sick into their caps. The captain calculates that 15% of the crew have been upset by the food. He reprimands the cook. In fact, despite the lack of any true insight into the cause/s of the problem, he makes him walk the plank, then brings in a fancy new chef at considerable expense. 

“Aaaaarrr,” he thinks, “I acted on the data… so I did.”

Quantitative research can indicate how a percentage of your audience will react to a given set of circumstances. And don’t get me wrong, that knowledge is crucial. But what it can’t tell you is why. And crucially, why the ones that don’t, don’t.

That’s why we employ a specialist B2B planning team who are experts in devising strategic advice based on more than just data alone. Their work is always supplemented by genuine insight, gleaned from qualitative research.

This means actual human beings, skilled researchers, trained to spot and probe for what’s not being said; loaded silences, body language, nuance.

Often the treasure is buried in the subtleties that don’t make it into the datasets.

For example, sales performance data will tell you a lot. What it probably won’t tell you is how and why opportunities to up-sell are being missed. That kind of information rarely makes it into the data, where the act of reporting it reflects poorly on the individual.

Why wasn’t the opportunity spotted? Or if it was, why wasn’t it acted upon?

An experienced researcher, embedded in your organisation over time, having built rapport with staff and clients, is trained to work out what’s missing, to identify exactly this type of insight and answer these types of questions.

Clever algorithms can’t do this… yet.

As marketers, we’re in the behaviour-change game. We absolutely need data. But the over-reliance on hard figures risks decisions being made without genuine insight into the subtleties that underpin these behaviours.

Motivations, fears and annoyances are not numbers.