In an earlier post, I discussed the merits of quantitative and qualitative data. Building upon that “qual/quant” theme, this article discusses best practices for collecting qualitative and quantitative data in Business-to-Business (B2B) research.
Collecting Quantitative B2B Data
When collecting quantitative B2B information – data that’s numeric, or numbers oriented – the following techniques are recommended in B2B markets so that respondents have the best experience and researchers collect the best information:
- Capture quantitative data online to make the process faster and more efficient for respondents.
- Include “Unsure” and “Other” categories in “Yes/No” answer options to give respondents more choices if they don’t fall into predetermined categories.
- Similarly, when including a “pick-list” of answer choices, include an “Unsure” and “Other” option to allow respondents to include additional possibilities you may not have considered.
- Always include a request to “please specify” when respondents choose “Other.”
- If you see enough “Other” responses that are similar, you’ve spotted a new trend and can include this choice in your pre-defined pick list.
- Ensure ratings scales are appropriate for the questions being asked. Typically, firms collect B2B information on a 0-5, 0-7, or 0-10 point scale, depending on the degree of detail required.
- While no survey taker likes long surveys, B2B respondents are generally more willing than B2C respondents to answer a longer set of questions, due in large part to the longer timeframes, higher purchase prices and greater energy they’ve invested during the evaluation process.
- Consider including text boxes after each survey question so respondents can include additional detail and context if desired. Make sure text box responses are optional so that respondents aren’t forced to include additional comments in order to move onto the next question.
- Put pricing questions (or any questions that are especially sensitive) into the online survey, if possible, and allow the respondent to “refuse” or “decline” these questions. Tucking sensitive questions into an online survey, especially if the questions relate to competitors, allows the respondent to gracefully decline to provide input, especially if the individual is under a Non-disclosure Agreement.
Collecting Qualitative B2B Information
Qualitative data seeks to understand the nuances and context around a respondent’s input and is typically open-ended in format. To get the most from qualitative B2B data collection, researchers should follow the following guidelines:
- Collect qualitative data in person or over the telephone to get rich information about the respondent’s experience.
- Use probing questions that drive toward greater clarity and understanding of the issues, asking necessary follow-up questions to ensure actionable intelligence.
- Follow the respondent’s lead when deciding the order of the questions. While it’s tempting to go in the exact numeric order as outlined in the interview guide, this can break the flow of the respondent’s input and can be jarring, especially if the individual touches upon a later question early in the conversation and the researcher doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity at the appropriate time.
- Look for themes in the feedback. Respondents typically return to two or three key themes in their responses – high and low points of their experience that are especially noteworthy in either a positive or a negative way.
- Identify trends in feedback between different respondents. What patterns are emerging from the data that are common across different buyers?
- Ask individuals to comment on key findings discovered earlier in the research process. Does the current respondent agree or disagree with the input of previous respondents? What can they add to the earlier discourse to make it even more relevant and interesting?
- Be mindful of respondents’ time and energy levels. Conversations that last 20-30 minutes are typically ideal in complex discussions of B2B markets. While technical issues may require more time to thoroughly vet, make sure to ask the respondent for permission to continue beyond the allotted time or consider scheduling a follow-on conversation.
- Record the interviews so that the focus remains one of active listening, not mad scribbling. Ask the respondent for permission to record the discussion at the beginning of the conversation.
By adopting these tried and true practices, you’ll be on your way to collecting first-rate customer, competitor and market intelligence – whether it’s quantitative or qualitative – from B2B respondents.