Is research in B2B marketing a missed opportunity?
With a recent survey showing that research spend by B2B brands is dwindling, Andrew Dalglish, director of Circle Research, argues that it suggests something of a missed opportunity
In its latest report on the state of the market research industry, trade body ESOMAR estimates that just 4% of research spend is on B2B studies. That’s shockingly low. I took a sample of 400 companies which represent the UK business landscape:
- The 100 companies on the FTSE 100 Index
- 50 random companies picked from the FTSE All Share Index
- The 100 companies on the #AIM100 index
- 50 companies from the Grant Thornton Fast Track Index
- 100 companies randomly picked from Companies House.
This reveals that 45% of UK companies operate in B2B markets (and many more have some B2B component to what they do). Yet despite this, B2B accounts for less than a 20th of total market research spend. So why is this?
First off, the data may be distorting the true picture a little. The 4% figure relates to the percentage of market research spend, not market research projects. As B2B research requires smaller sample sizes than B2C studies, this tends to make them less expensive, which means that the proportion of B2B research projects may actually be greater than 4%.
But in my experience, market research is less common in B2B markets and three cultural reasons seem to underpin this.
One, B2B purchases are seen as ‘rational’, which can lead to the mind set that ‘it’s obvious what customers want, so we don’t need to ask’.
Two, B2B companies are often ‘engineering’-led. This can lead to a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality and an internal focus.
And three, in B2B markets customer numbers are limited and relationships with sales teams close. This can lead to assumption (‘I know my customer’), subjectivity (‘I’ll ask them next time we speak’) and protectiveness (‘That’s my customer’), none of which are conducive to conducting objective market research.
Disappointingly, it seems that these attitudes are becoming more entrenched. The 4% spend on B2B research reported has halved from the 8% recorded in the previous year. It’s time that B2B companies woke up to the importance of listening to their customers and invested in market research.
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