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B2B Market Research: Exposing the Truth


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Market truths aren’t always self-evident. In fact, a few organizations actively resist the truth, in spite of the consequences. Some organizations believe in multiple truths and never settle on a single one. In other organizations, decision makers across different teams, from marketing, sales, and product development roles, might claim their truth is the reality at any given moment.

Fortunately, B2B market research can make market truths self-evident. High-quality market research can also come with well thought out conclusions and recommendations. These can push market truths into any room, discussion, zoom call, or boardroom, thereby helping any organization make wise decisions.

The Three Stages of Truth

Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, posited that there are three stages of truth: ridicule, violent opposition, and acceptance as obvious. Although he lived more than two centuries ago, this is something we still see today in all aspects of life. People often reject the truth until it is impossible to deny, especially if it contradicts a previously held belief .

There are many examples of this in history. Perhaps, the most famous was when Copernicus discovered that the sun and all other planets did not orbit the earth. Rather, he found that the earth and all other planets orbited the sun. Fearing ridicule from nonbelievers, Copernicus didn’t publish his theory until nearly thirty years later, just before his death.

It took a century for people to begin to accept the heliocentric idea of the universe. In the meantime, scientists like Giordano Bruno were accused of heresy and burned at the stake for teaching Copernicus’ ideas. Even 60 years later, Galileo was placed on house arrest for the remainder of his life for proposing new evidence to support the theory.

In a B2B tech market, we’re rarely discovering fundamental, universe-altering truths. However, the same sentiment applies. If a marketer hypothesizes that their organization has been targeting the wrong buyer persona, they are likely to meet with some degree of ridicule or opposition from stakeholders. To gain acceptance, they’ll need to provide stakeholders with some compelling data and research that back up any claims.

If  Schopenhauer’s theory is true, somewhere between violent opposition and acceptance is where market research comes in. Clients procure B2B market research to find truth in a situation. Whether that truth exposes an unfulfilled niche in a market or a new buyer persona, B2B market research can gather evidence to help convince even the most skeptical stakeholder.

Using B2B Market Research to Expose the Truth

It can be challenging to share with colleagues how you believe your market or customers might change – especially when ridicule and opposition may be the only commentary you receive in return. To avoid this fate, don’t argue for your position from a single point of view, which is no wider than that of your colleagues. Come armed instead with a market wide view, something that B2B market research excels at providing.

What follows are just a few examples of how B2B market research can provide that more expansive perspective.

Sometimes the Problem is Right at Your Feet

The context: A major software company wanted a granular view of how their marketing compared to specific competitors in three sub-verticals of an industry.

While they went into this study focused on competitors and conversion rates from new customers, the research surprised stakeholders. It actually revealed a problem with their current customer base — overall product awareness was very low. Raising awareness with current customers, for all their offerings, was a quicker fix than reaching brand new customers.

The takeaway: Sometimes, market research uncovers findings you never anticipated could be a problem. Going into this study, the client thought that a key growth opportunity was with net new customers. The research revealed that there was potential for an easier path within their own customer base. If they hadn’t pursued market research, they would have never known this opportunity existed.

Sometimes the Problem is Behind You

The context: A large value-added reseller was in the process of launching a new initiative, but was unsure of the best way to position their messaging around this offering. As a first step we planned to draft key messaging stimulus and then conduct a few focus groups to test and refine the messaging.

During an initial workshop with their product development team we realized there were some differing opinions as to what this client’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) should be. While some stakeholders wanted to target a specific audience with their offering, others wanted to open it up to a broader audience. In the end, they made the decision to go broad rather than narrow for this company’s ICP.

During the initial messaging testing effort however, it became clear that a broad based ICP would not work, and that our client should focus instead on targeting their offering to a much more narrow audience.

The takeaway: Market research can sometimes reveal deeper truths than was first intended. In this case, a workshop and a focus group initially designed to test messaging shed light on the client’s poor choice of an ICP. Given the development of a valid ICP is a prerequisite to great messaging, this insight allowed the client to turn around and focus on this first step before they jumped to the second step of developing a solid messaging framework.

Go Beyond the Basics

The context: A global software provider wanted to know how their marketing stacked up against their competitors. To determine where they were excelling and where they were falling short of their competitors, we put together a hybrid research project that consisted of more than 100 in-depth interviews with ex-sellers and customers of all companies. We also conducted an experiential review of competitor and client marketing efforts at over one hundred different product/solution intersections. This experiential effort included reviewing content marketing efforts, analyzing customer engagement strategies across various channels, and determining typical response times for customer inquiries.

During the experiential phase, we made sure to include screenshots, web page addresses, and sales outreach emails that would corroborate our findings. These pieces of evidence proved to be one of the most valuable parts of the study for our client.

The takeaway: Take advantage of every opportunity you have to highlight the truth of a situation. Rather than only sharing what interviewees are telling you, take the opportunity to show stakeholders visceral proof of the market feedback. It’s much harder to deny what can be seen right in front of you.

Broaden Your Scope to Reveal the Full Truth

The context: An international data management company wanted to learn more about the personas that would be interested in their backup and recovery services. Additionally, they wanted to know how to best target these personas via new messaging.

Some stakeholders hypothesized that the market for backup and recovery had evolved, and that the company’s messaging needed to change to reflect it. Other stakeholders felt the company’s current messaging was still relevant.

The research revealed that both groups had valid points. First, the backup and recovery market had indeed evolved. Clients and prospects revealed that they didn’t have a dedicated backup and recovery team. Rather, they distributed responsibilities to a lower, less centralized level in the IT organization. However, in spite of these changes, the company’s core message was still resonating and did not need to be updated.

The takeaway: Sometimes, truths can complement each other. Both sides in an argument might have some accurate points. Broadening your scope to gathering as much information as possible is your best bet to get the complete truth. In this case, our client was able to get a more accurate depiction of the whole truth by including message testing alongside buyer persona research.

B2B Market Research Will Set You Free

James Garfield said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” We know this to be true. After all, we’re in the business of giving bad news to good people.

Sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow, which explains why people are so violent in their opposition to it. However, when the truth is presented with proof points drawn from a well-executed market research study, the transition to acceptance is much smoother. And once a market truth is accepted, smarter decision-making and better outcomes are sure to follow.

If you’re looking for the truth in a situation but are afraid of any potential opposition, give us a call. We can help arm you with the data-backed truths that will set you free.

This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about how we can help you discover the truth? Our B2B Market Research can help.

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Alexis Ford

Alexis Ford

Latest posts by Alexis Ford (see all)

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell is the CEO of Cascade Insights, a competitive intelligence and market research firm for B2B technology companies. A 20-year technology veteran, Sean oversees the health of the firm, drives the company’s thought leadership efforts and maintains relationships with key clients.

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell

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Raeann Bilow

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