We often work with B2B businesses looking for answers as to how, what and who they should market to. I was recently working on a project for a client where the target of our research were leaders of finance departments of various organizations. Interviewing them was tough as they weighed each word, ensuring there would be no liability to them or their companies due to anything they chose to share. This is not unique to them, and is quite typical of other senior business people.
When we conduct research in various verticals, we typically speak with individuals that are in some way involved in the decision-making process– whether they are influencers or the ultimate decision makers. However, sometimes the insights come from the things we don’t find out about, rather than the things we do. This is especially the case in the B2B space. While many find that it’s hard to get good B2B research, it is key to understand that the methodology has to be different for this pool. You need to know what to look for, who and what to ask, and exactly how to ask it.
In the case of this particular client, a lot of our insights and related tactics came from understanding the patterns of the things that people talked about, as well as what they did not. Here are some key questions to think about as you are pursuing this kind of research:
- What do people/interviewees/research targets not talk about?
- What does the client or his competitor not do that might be an opportunity?
- What are their prospect clients looking for that the client doesn’t know?
- What is the client not asking about his own clients?
These are questions you need to ask whether you are working on a marketing plan or a business strategy in any scenario – always look at what’s prominent and what’s in the shadows.
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