Statistics show that doing research can have a positive impact on the success of a B2B business. Firms that conduct frequent research (at least quarterly) grow almost 12x faster and are almost twice as profitable as firms that do no research.
Companies will often use research to measure customer satisfaction, to discover how they are perceived in the market, as well as measure the appetite for new products.
But the opportunities for B2B research don’t end there.
For B2B companies engaging in an inbound methodology and hoping to grow their customer base, incorporating research into your strategy can offer enormous benefits.
Here’s how B2B research can help you along your inbound journey.
1. Create more comprehensive buyer personas
For any business using an inbound marketing approach, defining your buyer personas is an essential first step.
By taking the time to invest in developing comprehensive buyer personas you will have a better chance of creating content that resonates with your ideal customers.
While your sales and marketing teams will be pivotal in defining your buyer personas, the best way to really understand your ideal customers is to speak to them. That’s the only way to get the unfiltered, unedited truth about their needs and wants, fears and aspirations.
Reach out to your existing customer base with a short survey or telephone call. Ask about their job role, what a typical day looks like, what challenges they face, who they consider thought leaders in the industry, what blogs they pay attention to. Find out how they first heard about your company, what their first impressions were, what concerns they had about buying from you, why they selected you over other solutions and what factors influenced their decision.
Here, customer research will help you to create more meaningful and insightful buyer personas to guide your sales and marketing.
2. Create compelling content
B2B companies are faced with the challenge of creating content that will stand out and make an impact in an already saturated market. But there's one form of research that has the power to stand out above the rest - and that's new, original research.
Research that provides answers to unanswered questions on a topic interesting and relevant to your ideal customers will undoubtedly draw their attention. If content is about storytelling, then research wears the golden crown. It gives an insight into what’s happening at a specific point in time and can be revisited over and again. And you can continue the story by repeating and sharing new research year on year.
For a B2B company, sharing new, original research demonstrates thought leadership and will position you as an authoritative voice in your industry.
In the marketing world, consider the likes of Orbit Media Studios’ Annual Survey of 1000+ Bloggers. It’s become a much-anticipated source for the latest blogging and content marketing trends.
The best thing about doing your own research is that the opportunities for content are limitless. Collate all your findings into a written research report and use it as an offer to convert people into leads. Take one powerful statistic and base a blog post around it. Create videos, animations or infographics that present findings in a more interactive and impactful way. Set up a podcast to interview industry experts for their take on the findings.
Just one research project can set you up for a whole library of content that will increase your chances of attracting prospects, and turning them into leads and customers.
3. Improve your website
Your website is the face of your company. When people look you up it’s the first thing they’ll see of your brand, and first impressions count. If the copy isn’t doing enough to connect with visitors, if the page is too crowded or the site too difficult to navigate, you’ll turn people away.
If you’ve invested in a digital or design agency to build a website, the chances are it’s going to be user-friendly. But how tailored is it to the needs of your target audience? How do you know, if you haven’t asked them?
The only way you can really be sure your website is working as hard as it could do is to ask your customers and prospects.
This starts with usability testing to find out how easy your website is to use. Common usability testing methods include lab tests, where respondents are asked to navigate to a certain page and see how easy it is to do, and eye tracking, which measures a person’s gaze and the motion of the eye as they view a web page.
You can also go one step further and interview your customers and prospects about their experience of using your website. Or if you’re still in the design phase, you can explore their reactions to your site before it goes live, giving you the opportunity to make any improvements before you hit the publish button.
Interviewing your customers and prospects will help you to answer questions like:
- What do they want to see/find out from looking at your website?
- Can they find this information?
- Is the website doing enough to convince them of your expertise/products/services?
- How engaging is the copy/imagery/design?
- What would they like to see more/less of?
- How could it be better tailored to their needs?
You can then use this feedback to make improvements to your website, either as a one-off or as part of a growth-driven design (GDD) programme.
There are many options for carrying out this research, from interviewing customers either over the phone or face-to-face, or holding focus groups or online groups - which can be a cost-effective way of speaking to a large sample size spread out geographically.
4. Increase conversion rates
The inbound methodology is all about converting strangers into leads, customers and then advocates of your business. While all the things we've listed above will help you to do this, there are more subtle things you can do to improve your conversion rates. For instance, changing the position of a CTA banner on your website, or using different language or imagery on a landing page.
This is where A/B testing can offer value.
A/B testing is a useful research method that compares two versions of the same conversion path - be that an email, a call-to-action (CTA) or a landing page - in which one is changed and tested against a control (the original). Subjects are shown one of two variants simultaneously and at random and statistical analysis reveals which variant performs better.
Most marketing software will be able to facilitate multivariate testing to some capacity. Here are a few ideas for features you could test:
- form length
- form fields
- email subject lines
- email sending time
- colour of CTA button
- position of CTA
- call to action size
- imagery of an ad
You can find out more about how to run an effective A/B test in this blog post.
The pressure is on more than ever for B2B companies to take a customer-centric approach to everything they do. It’s your only chance to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
B2B companies need to recognise that research is the lynchpin of a customer-centric approach. The needs and behaviours of your customers and prospects should be heard in every decision you make.