In today's competitive business landscape, contract manufacturers (CMs) constantly strive to gain a competitive edge and meet the evolving needs of their B2B customers.
To succeed in this dynamic environment, they need a deep understanding of their target market, a keen awareness of their competitors, and the ability to tailor their services and marketing strategies accordingly.
This is where B2B research comes into play. By investing in research initiatives, CMs can uncover insights that guide their decision-making and drive business growth.
But conducting research without clearly defined objectives is like embarking on a journey without a destination in mind. CMs must set clear research objectives to ensure their efforts yield relevant and actionable insights.
In this blog post, we explore the rationale behind B2B research and outline four reasons why setting clear B2B research objectives is paramount.
The case for B2B research
Market sizing - finding your potential
B2B research allows you to gather data and insights to assess the size and potential of your target market. Understanding the Total Addressable Market (TAM) helps you determine the overall market opportunity and the scope for growth and expansion. It provides a realistic estimate of the market demand and aids in making informed strategic decisions.
Market understanding - unleash the insights you need
B2B research provides valuable insight into your target market, including customer needs, preferences, and behaviours, and helps you develop distinct buyer personas. You can leverage this information to align your marketing efforts with your ideal customers' specific demands and expectations. Understanding market dynamics and trends can help you position your services effectively.
Competitor analysis - outsmart the competition
B2B research helps contract manufacturers gain insights into their competitors' strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and market positioning. By understanding your competitive landscape, you can identify areas where you can differentiate yourself, develop unique value propositions, effectively communicate your competitive advantages in the market and stand out against other CMs.
Service development - tailoring for customer delight
B2B research provides valuable feedback and input from potential customers regarding their specific service requirements. Contract manufacturers can leverage this information to tailor their services, ensuring they align with the market needs and preferences. This knowledge enables you to create solutions to improve the customer experience and boost customer satisfaction rates.
Targeting and segmentation - hitting the bullseye
B2B research helps identify and segment the target market based on factors such as industry, company size, geographic location, and specific needs. CMs can use this information to determine their ideal customer profiles and develop targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with each segment, building brand awareness and engagement. By understanding the specific pain points and challenges different customer segments face, CMs can tailor their messaging and solutions accordingly.
Marketing strategy and communication - crafting messages that resonate and convert
B2B research assists CMs in developing effective marketing strategies and communication plans. It provides insights into their target audience's most impactful marketing channels, messaging frameworks, and content marketing preferences. Contract manufacturers can optimise their marketing efforts to drive better results and ROI by understanding how potential customers prefer to be engaged and influenced. It also helps them identify relevant content topics and a unique tone of voice.
Industry trends and innovation - staying ahead of the curve
B2B research plays a crucial role in helping contract manufacturers make informed decisions by providing valuable insights into market trends, technological advancements, and emerging customer needs. By actively monitoring and analysing the latest developments in their industry, contract manufacturers can stay ahead of the curve and proactively adjust their marketing strategies and offerings to meet the evolving demands of the market.
Setting your B2B research objectives
Research objectives are set at the very start of a project to guide the research. Their main role is to ensure you gain relevant and useful insights.
First, you should determine your primary research objective. This summarises the main aim of the research – what you want to find out. It should be a neutral statement with an infinitive verb such as 'to explore', 'to understand', or 'to identify'.
Your primary objective could be 'To determine the challenges manufacturers face in building a digital presence' or 'To explore the buyers' journey when choosing a new service provider'.
You should then define several specific research objectives. These indicate the topics or issues the research plans to investigate to achieve the primary objective.
In the case of exploring the buyers' journey, specific objectives may be 'To explore the needs, behaviours and decisions made at each stage of the journey', 'To identify key moments of truth' and 'To understand what factors are important from a provider'.
Your objectives should be set with your business goal in mind, which underlines why you are doing the research in the first place. When developing your objectives, ask yourself, 'What do I need to learn to help guide me to achieve my business goal?'
Why are research objectives so important?
You'd be forgiven for thinking setting research objectives is quick and easy. But it's important to invest appropriate time to think them through properly.
Here we outline the four main reasons why clearly defined objectives are vital to B2B research success.
1. Providing focus and direction
Setting research objectives is essential because they provide focus and direction for your research efforts. Without clear objectives, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly without a sense of purpose. It's like going on a journey without knowing the destination or how to get there.
Research objectives act as a roadmap, guiding you towards achieving your primary aim and ensuring that you gather the most valuable insights possible. They help you define the specific goals and outcomes you want to achieve through your research. By having well-defined objectives, you can concentrate on obtaining specific information and addressing key research questions.
Research projects that lack clear objectives often end up going astray. Unclear or vague objectives can lead to irrelevant data or superficial insights that lack depth. With well-defined objectives, you have a clear target and can ensure that your research remains focused and on track.
2. Informing survey and discussion guide design
Depending on your chosen research methodology, you will need either a survey (for quantitative research) or a discussion guide (for qualitative research) to help you collect your data. Your research objectives will help guide the development of these tools. You'll know what you want to find out from your respondents, so you can create relevant and meaningful questions that align with your objectives.
Your research objectives ultimately guide you in determining the topics and themes you must cover. They help you identify the specific information you need to collect and the areas you need to explore. With clear objectives, you can tailor your survey or discussion guide to elicit the insights that will help you achieve your research goals.
3. Helping to engage and align stakeholders
Gaining support and buy-in from stakeholders can be challenging when conducting B2B research. Senior team members or financial decision-makers may have concerns about the costs or may not fully understand the value and need for research.
This is where your research objectives become valuable. By clearly articulating your objectives, you can demonstrate the importance of the research and how it will provide valuable insights to support overall business objectives. They will help you communicate the specific knowledge and outcomes you intend to achieve, making it easier to engage and align stakeholders with your research initiatives.
4. Ensuring impartiality
Research objectives also play a role in ensuring impartiality and minimising biases. You may have pre-conceived ideas of what the research will show based on previous experience or personal beliefs. Or you could have a vested interest for the results to turn out a certain way; for instance, if you are testing appeal of two new services and one is more financially viable. These biases may unwittingly (or not!) lead you to interpret the data in a way that fits your expectations or best interests.
Objectives, unlike hypotheses, are neutral statements that do not propose any specific explanation or outcome. They help keep you on course for analysing data objectively, free from the influence of confirmation bias or other prejudices. By focusing on the objectives, you strive to gather and interpret data without being swayed by personal preferences or preconceived notions, ensuring a more unbiased and accurate research process.
Best practices to follow
When setting your B2B research objectives, bear these best practices in mind:
- Consider your wider business objectives and make sure they align
- Be specific
- Prioritise the key questions that will address your main research objective
- Consider the feasibility of your objectives in terms of resources, budget, and timelines
- Keep your buyer personas in mind
- Collaborate with stakeholders
- Regularly review and refine your research objectives
B2B research provides contract manufacturers with valuable market insights, competitive intelligence, and customer understanding. Leveraging this information allows you to develop targeted marketing strategies, create tailored solutions, and effectively communicate your value proposition to your target customers.
Research objectives provide focus and direction to your research efforts, guide the design of surveys and discussion guides, help engage stakeholders by demonstrating the value of research, and promote impartiality by minimising biases. Setting clear objectives increases the chances of conducting meaningful and impactful research that yields reliable insights.
But conducting B2B research and defining clear objectives is only the first step. Research insights are valuable assets, but their true value lies in their application and impact on your business strategies and decision-making processes.
Editors note: This blog was originally published in July 2017 and has since been updated for optimal accuracy and relevance.