B2B marketers must come to grips with one reality of our unique space: adequate, let alone comprehensive, market research often doesn’t exist. Why? Small, nuanced markets and indirect sales channels are the nature of the B2B world. Nevertheless, marketers still need information to help them make the tough, timely decisions that produce positive results. But how?
First off, you have to deal with it. There’s no magic wand that will make B2B research appear. You must roll up your sleeves, bust out your thinking cap and do the research yourself. Figure out what you do know and what you’re missing, and then dig in to fill in the gaps.
At Tartan Marketing, we’re no stranger to what we’ve dubbed the “B2B research dilemma.” Here’s how we’ve helped clients overcome this challenge in three common marketing scenarios they face.
Problem #1: You need to reach your target audience, but you don’t have a contact list, and there isn’t one available to buy.
Solution: Do the grunt work yourself or task an intern to do it. Build your list prospect by prospect, starting with the must-have accounts.
Building a list from square one seems overwhelming, but it gets easier when you break it down into smaller steps. Start by prioritizing your prospects, and identify the top 50 accounts you’d love to have and the key decision makers you need to influence.
Dive into their websites, hop on LinkedIn and scour business listing databases for names and email addresses. You can even pick up the phone and make some old fashioned phone calls. When you have the information you need, move on to the next subset of prospects.
Problem #2: You’re crafting a marketing campaign but don’t know what messages will hit home with your audience.
Solution: Tap your sales team for their first-hand insights about your customers’ businesses—and turn those insights into messaging.
You may have a hunch about what will strike a chord with your audience, but you must validate this hypothetical messaging before it’s implemented into your marketing. Your salespeople and customers hold the insights you need. You just have to pull it out of them. Use voice of the customer insights to determine if your marketing is on target and if it addresses your customers’ biggest pain points. A/B test your messaging, too, with emails, direct mails and telemarketing. Track which tactics work best, and take steps to tailor and enhance your messaging for each medium.
Problem #3: You’re stuck at a crossroads and can’t pick your next step.
Solution: Look at the upsides and downsides, and just make a move. Plan ahead if you’re wrong. Learn from your mistakes.
When you’re facing a big opportunity but don’t know whether to act, take the leap. The key is to be comfortable in your uncertainty. Your homebrew research won’t be perfect, and much of your data may be qualitative not quantitative. Make the most of the knowledge you have, and don’t expect to have 100% of the information you need.
Instead, adopt the 80/20 rule. When you’re 80% confident, or are missing 20% of the information you’d like to have, just act. Don’t miss the opportunity. Not making a decision is still a decision—and doing nothing may, in fact, turn out to be worse than taking a calculated risk that ends up being a little bit off. The next time you need to make a similar decision, you’ll have the insights to choose the smarter, more strategic option.
Puzzling over your next marketing decision? Contact us for help in creating the research and generating the insights you need to make the right move.