One of the most challenging aspects of B2B market research is that we frequently need to hear from very rare populations. While it is fairly straightforward to execute research which asks office workers about general workplace trends given a large, diverse and well-managed sample, we often have to solve much more complex business problems that require input from hard-to-reach individuals.

There are four major considerations to help simplify and successfully execute complex B2B projects:

  1. Who exactly am I trying to research?
  2. How do I reach this audience?
  3. How do we construct an appropriate survey and reward experience?
  4. Are the right people getting into the survey? Do we have a screener process which properly identifies the target universe?


  1. Defining Your Target

As a B2B researcher, you need to understand exactly who you are trying to reach. What perspective does this research require? What types of roles, responsibilities and experience would lend insight to the topic you are researching? You also need to consider whether the target audience can be defined simply by title / role or whether it requires further definition.

  1. Contacting Your Target

We must often use every communication channel we have available to make it simple and easy for these populations to participate. When the target universe is very small we probably cannot rely exclusively on e-mail as the mode of contact and must consider things like SMS text, telephone calls and even postcards to pull people in. There are trade-offs in using multiple modes of contact rather than just one, and specific pros and cons for each mode.

  1. The Right Rewards

Having identified and contacted your target B2B audience, how do we persuade them to complete the questionnaire? What is a fair reward for their effort? Rewards for B2B participants are often different from those we might offer for a consumer audience. “Fun” rewards might be offered to consumers that we wouldn’t necessarily offer to a B2B target. Busy business professionals have different motivations from those taking consumer surveys and it is important to keep those motivations in mind and offer a range of appropriate rewards for B2B participation.

  1. Interviewing the Right People

Without precise targeting, we risk sending the wrong people into the survey. These are good people, but they will give poor-quality data in the questionnaire because they don’t have the experience or expertise to answer the questions. People want to be helpful, so instead of dropping out of the survey, they try to answer the questions to the best of their ability.  The result is a poor experience for them and poor-quality data for the researcher.


To successfully deliver on the most complex B2B research projects it’s key to use all these components:

  1. Analysis of audiences and locations, to determine where and how to employ the proper mode to reach this large, diverse, geographically dispersed audience.
  2. A multi-faceted approach to profiling, based on an understanding of the true dimensions of the group we were looking for.
  3. A variety of incentives to maximise participation.
  4. Leveraging previously-collected targeting data.
  5. A robust screening section at the beginning of the questionnaire.

The key to success is to take time up front before the project launches to carefully plan sourcing, sample selection and data collection methods and to construct an accurate, thorough screener.

Author:  Sarah Fennelly, based on a recent whitepaper created by Research Now SSI