Featuring Janet Rubio, CMO, True Influence
If we only had the time and money, most B2B marketers would do a lot more structured market research to see how they stack up in the increasingly competitive business landscape. Just checking on the heath of your brand a couple of times each year can be a powerful asset in planning marketing strategy and tactics.
But designing trustworthy surveys can be complicated and time-consuming, and contracting with a professional research firm is expensive. Therefore, research has often taken a back seat to creating content, implementing nurturing programs, and keeping the sales pipeline full of quality leads.
Do it yourself Market Research Tools Mature
That is changing, however, due to the emergence of increasingly sophisticated DIY market research software platforms, most of which can cost as little as a few hundred dollars a year, depending on your needs. These SaaS tools provide templates for a wide range of market research, as well as audience panels that guarantee you’ll get a statistically valid group of respondents who meet the demographic requirements of your survey.
In my career, I’ve typically relied on professional market research companies, and thought of the first wave of DIY platforms as more applicable to smaller businesses. But recently, I kicked the tires on three of these DIY research toolsets, and I have to say I was impressed.
Specifically, I examined:
- SoGoSurvey, a relatively new, value-priced option.
- SurveyMonkey, an established name in the space due to its close ties to the MailChimp email marketing platform.
- Qualtrics, a more advanced system with a core focus on business and market research.
Many DIY platforms offer free versions for mom-and-pop operations, but as a B2B marketer you’ll likely want to sign up for a paid plan to get must-have features, including custom thank-you pages and question and answer piping. For most B2B marketing teams, a $99 dollar enterprise-level plan is well worth it for unlimited responses, reasonably advanced analytics, and the ability to fire auto-campaigns based on question responses.
Overall, I found these services’ templates to be solid for most common B2B research, including Brand Awareness and Net Promoter Score surveys. All the key issues are covered in sample questions, and of course they are easily modified with your own preferred brand and product language. More importantly, I was happy with the logic and flow of the surveys. They avoided the common mistake of skewing survey results, by asking a leading question or asking questions out of sequence. You can’t rush a respondent to tell you how much they like your product – there’s a science to this stuff. The tools also support A/B testing and personalized follow-up messaging.
Customization options are more extensive in more expensive solutions, as you’d expect. But again, I found the built-in expertise of the survey templates to be a major selling point; I am less interested in building a survey from scratch.
To be clear, I will still use professional market research for questions that have “bet the farm” risk levels for our business here at True Influence. At some point, it’s worth the investment to trust the experience of the pros, particularly if you are evaluating a key strategic decision or find yourself wanting to create a lot of custom questions or survey logic.
But, I do think that these DIY tools have matured to the point that you can rely on them to keep your core market research touchstones up to date. These DIY marketing research tools give marketers their own technology and tools to execute these surveys – you can develop research skills within your team and make this part of your quarterly planning routines.
Growing Your Survey Audience
I’m also impressed by the audience panels these software providers have developed and now offer on a per-response fee basis. Firmographic data is fairly extensive, and the ability to accurately project cost will keep your research budget in line. Typically, you’ll want to mix these per-response resources with your own direct contact lists and other respondent resources, for the most valid results, but it’s definitely a nice safety net.
For B2B research, you’ll also want to use intent signal monitoring services, such as True Influence’s InsightBASE, to tailor recipient lists around current interest levels in your specific products and services. In this era of highly personalized marketing communications, you want to be able to evaluate Brand Awareness among users in an active buying cycle, as opposed to someone who has simply expressed interest in your segment at some point. Every bit of respondent data can drive meaningful analysis of survey results.
Applications of Market Research Benchmark Surveys
With the DIY tools I reviewed, I’m confident a B2B marketing team could increase the frequency of these key survey types.
Brand Awareness – You should be doing these surveys at least once, if not twice a year. You may also want to launch a supplemental Brand Awareness survey in the wake of a key product launch or market development. These surveys are a prime use case for intent signal data and pay-per-response markets to grow the reach of your research beyond customers who are already engaged with your company.
Net Promoter Score – I’d suggest sending NPS surveys to your house list quarterly. Knowing how happy your current customers are is essential to narrow-funnel marketing strategies – remember, 83 percent of customers say an endorsement from another customer is the most compelling form of advertising. Knowing the NPS Promoter, Neutral, or Detractor rating for your leads will help you personalize content effectively.
Product Research – The optimal frequency for these surveys depends on your product release cycle. If your product or service is extremely technical or niche, you may want to turn to a professional research firm for key feature research. An online survey will likely be only a part of this research effort, but it can be a useful benchmark.
Web site / tool usability – Feedback loops should be built into your site, but the occasional web-based survey, particularly using A/B testing, is a great way to evaluate navigation or other site changes. Being able to cost-effectively launch these surveys, either by the Marketing or UX teams, allows for necessary trial-and-error before rolling out a change to a customer.
Ease, Cost Brings Research In-House
I’m encouraged by the advances in DIY market research tools – I’m in favor of any technology that lets marketers take control of key team activities. Professional market research will always have its place, but being able to quickly support a strategy or refine a nurturing program with valid market research should make marketing teams more confident and nimble.