brand research

Thursday, 12 November 2020 10:22

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement.

Measuring and evaluating the performance of your brand and marketing activity is critical in ensuring your organisation is delivering accountability for your business objectives and brand strategy. 

As business decision making continues to be plagued with uncertainty, and as economic conditions continue to waver, being able to demonstrate certainty and assurance and in your brand strategy is essential.

Our new e-Book, the Guide to B2B Brand Measurement, is designed to help you gain a better understanding of brand measurement and evaluation methods, as well as how they can empower organisational growth and business strategy across organisations.

The guide will:

  • Outline the key differences between B2C and B2B brand measurement.
  • Define the unique challenges B2B organisations face when evaluating performance.
  • Provide insight into the various methods to measure and evaluate brand health.
  • Clarify the parameters for successful brand measurement initiatives in the B2B context.
  • Highlight the benefits of ongoing measurement of your brand.
  • Explain what you should expect when you actively measure your brand’s health.
Wednesday, 28 October 2020 11:01

It’s not uncommon for us to hear a simple lament from senior marketers and decision makers within B2B organisations: “We need to understand our clients better, but we simply can’t justify a big, expensive market research project”.

Heightened by the ongoing turbulence in markets and economic conditions, the purse strings of marketing extensions continue to be tightened and more closely monitored, meaning the function needs to do more with less and constantly justify investment to C-Suite executives.

So, what can they do to accurately understand their clients and shape their strategy going forward?

Well the good news is that, contrary to popular belief, high quality and well-articulated brand and market research doesn’t always have to be expensive. There are a multitude of techniques and methods that can be deployed to gather relevant, tangible and compelling insights into your market and clients, without requiring an extensive budget that is traditionally associated with a research program.

In order to explore these individual costs further, we have looked to break down the main elements that determine the price tag of contemporary research projects.

Capture

 

If you would like more detailed breakdown of these project elements, or a deeper understanding of some of the research options available to you, feel free to download our free Guide to Brand Research: 2020 Edition.

So how can organisations apply these impact and potential savings to produce the most cost effective and high-quality outputs? We will begin by exploring what not to do, and then provide some techniques to maximise the cost efficiencies within a contemporary research project.

What to avoid when looking to save money on research

As a rule of thumb, there are two clear areas that costs need to be retained – at the beginning and at the end of a brand or market research project.

And if we were to quote the great Albert Einstein…

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”.

Now when we apply the above quote to brand and market research, it is highly likely that by taking the time and tangibly allocating resources to planning at the start of the process, that you will gain significant savings in the overall project in the long run. By approaching your unique situation with a thorough and well-articulated brief for your research provider, you are likely to be provided with insights that are more actionable and more aligned to business strategy. This also means the recommendations have more longevity as the research is received well internally, which further binds the subsequent strategic decisions that are made in accordance with the implications.

Likewise, when clients are looking to save money by cutting the hours spent on analysis and insights distillation at the end of a project, the efficacy and quality of the findings is undermined. Given the turbulence of traditional markets and operating models, there are very few organisations that have been able to continue unaffected and are currently operating in contexts that are uncertain. So, once you have made the practical and strategic business decision to invest in research to address this uncertainty, why cut corners on the elements that will guide strategy going forward? Simone Blakers from Rapp said it best…

Data is an expense, but insight is a bargain”.

The very best data, measurement and evaluation metrics are fundamentally limited if a research partner does not have the time to apply their objective analysis to make sense of them. What does it all mean, how can the business use the information to address a problem, grow the business, change the strategy, make a difference… the list of outputs are highly variable and completely bespoke to an individual organisations circumstances, it is not a one size fits all approach and that obviously comes with some additional expenses..

The best techniques to apply when looking to save money on research costs

Beyond these two main areas to avoid, there are some clear and realistic methods that organisations can apply to save money on a research project. Once again, this comes down to the ability to plan and prioritise accurately and efficiently.

At BrandMatters, we typically consider and apply these five cost saving techniques, depending on the whether they are appropriate for the circumstances and requirements of each individual client.

1. Use existing mailing lists and data bases

Finding and accessing the most appropriate people can be one of the most challenging and expensive components of a research project. These concerns are naturally heightened in the context of B2B organisations, who operate with smaller sample sizes, unique respondents and niche audiences. This cost can be substantially reduced if you have access to your internal audience databases and mailing lists.

2.Explore online methodologies

A large volume online quantitative survey can be shared to external clients and stakeholders as a mechanism to engage multiple audiences cost effectively. Hosting platforms represent a high value for money and with increasingly tight budgets have effectively supplemented expensive online research communities for small/mid-tier organisations.

3. Be disciplined and focused

Despite the best intentions of maximising research outputs, organisations need to make sacrifices by being specific and prioritising areas/target audiences. Unless you adequately resource your marketing function, there wont necessarily be the budget available to address everything you want to cover. Questionnaires and interviews need to be focused and disciplined to get the best value out of them.

4. Minimise travel with video conferencing

In the B2B context, qualitative research costs can escalate quickly if a researcher is required to travel and be face-to-face with multiple stakeholders. Combat these costs by integrating high quality video conferencing software, where there is increasing parity in quality and levels of acceptance with senior leaders.

5. Utilise existing insights and information

Desk research remains a critical, cost effective component of a well-defined research methodology. Without properly understanding and defining the current market and status quo with existing research insights of publicly available information, questionnaire and discussion guide development can be compromised.

Partnering with the right supplier

In summary, with careful planning and prioritisation it is entirely possible to achieve a deeper understanding of your market and clients with brand and market research on a tighter budget. Partnering with an experienced and objective supplier ensure the quality of your research is not compromised by shortcuts in cost cutting measures. An expert research partner will build carefully designed qualitative and quantitative research programs that will set your organisation up for sustainable growth.

If you would like to discuss your unique circumstances, feel free to get in contact with BrandMatters.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 16:54

 

Brand research is more vital than ever in this era of rapid change.

With all that has happened this year, now more than ever, organisations need to develop a new understanding of their customers, the market and competitive landscape in order to survive and thrive. 

Brand research is a powerful tool in uncovering the important consumer and market insights that will reshape your brand strategy and drive your business forward. 

Our new e-Book is designed to help you gain a better understanding of brand research as a vital first step in building a successful brand for the future.

The guide will:

  • Provide insight into the power of brand research in growing your brand.
  • Outline the research methods available and the benefits of each.
  • Help marketers understand the questions that can be answered using brand research.
  • Delve into the role of brand research in formulating a brand strategy.
  • Explain how brand research can be used to refine and organise your brand portfolio.
  • Articulate how insights gained from brand research can influence your brand strategy, design and execution.
  • Highlight case studies where brand research has transformed brands and helped them grow and thrive.

 

Brand architecture remains one of the most complex components of brand strategy.

Throughout traditional B2B business, organic additions to both the product and service portfolio can occur, and these additions can simultaneously (and unwittingly) strengthen and weaken an organisation’s alignment towards its key audiences. They can help customers and clients navigate the scope of a company’s offer, but also undermine their confidence and confuse them, meaning they often then seek out alternatives.

Brand Architecture is the way you organise, manage and present the portfolio of brands that sit within an organisation; much like a family tree. Sounds easy, yet this external summation and presentation of the organisations business strategy is frequently fraught and highly complex. This means it often becomes a challenging and sometimes daunting task for even senior marketers and those in the C suite. As organisations evolve and grow, there are often products and services that are built or acquired that can compete and cannibalise each other, just as there can be products and services that have very little alignment to the overall brand strategy.

As is often the case, specialist advice is required to cohesively, comprehensively, yet succinctly develop a sustainable brand architecture strategy. Especially considering the entire brand portfolio may require realignment, restructuring, reorganising or reinventing. Therefore, the process of developing a concise external-facing brand strategy and understandable navigation for your audiences is a key strategic task and not something that can be half done.

In such a complex and crucial task, without properly understanding the current composition of each brand within a portfolio, the level of risk is significantly heightened. So, what is the most effective tool that can mitigate this risk for B2B organisations?

Deploying well-defined brand research to uncover insights to optimise brand architecture strategy

Brand research is an effective and often underutilised asset that can significantly appease this risk. Powerful and well-articulated brand research will uncover and deliver insights that will help an organisation optimise their brand architecture portfolio.

When considering the most appropriate architecture of the brands, products and services in your organisation, there are several considerations that must be taken into account. These considerations are likely to be intrinsically linked to the brand strategy of your organisation and need to consider not just your current portfolio, but acquisitions or divestments you may make in the future.

By considering the wider brand implications through the brand architecture process, you will be able to build a robust and evidenced approach that has considered the pros and cons of each separate architecture option. These options are detailed below and more regarding these options can be found in our ebooks The Introductory Guide to Brand Research and The Guide to Brand Research for B2B organisations

How many brands are appropriate for your organisation and how strong are they?

What internally may be perceived as strong brands with clear differentiation from each other in the marketplace, may not be equally perceived by target audiences. Brand research is essential to understand the market perceptions and attitudes towards an organisation’s portfolio. Brand research will uncover the role and relevance of each brand within the portfolio from a customer or consumer perspective.

Avoiding market confusion, and blurred lines between each brand within the portfolio from a positioning and value perspective will help organisations avoid cannibalisation within an organisation’s own portfolio. Making a well-informed decision on the most appropriate brand architecture model is critical to successfully drive the business forward.

Types of brand architecture considerations answered through brand research

There are several considerations when determining the appropriate architecture for your organisation. Below are some of the typical questions a well-articulated brand architecture research program will address:

  • How are your brands currently being perceived in the market?
  • Is the market clear or confused by your organisation’s offer?
  • Where does brand equity reside, in the parent or at the product/service level?
  • Is there an opportunity for sunset or divestment of specific brands within the portfolio?
  • Are there any gaps in your portfolio that may satisfy the audience’s needs and wants?

More specifically, when considering longer-term strategic mergers and acquisitions to the product portfolio, brand research can help answer:

  • What is the long-term cost/benefit of the organisation’s current assets, including brand reputation and value?
  • What is the current position, strength and value of each brand in the newly formed organisation’s brand portfolio?
  • Considering what the newly formed organisation looks like, what is the new strategic direction? What are its long-term goals?
  • What are the customer expectations and how will the M&A impact the loyalty of existing customers?
  • How does/do the newly acquired brands fit within the existing architecture?

If your organisation requires answers to the questions such as the ones above, or if the conditions for a brand architecture review are relevant to your business, then that is a decisive indicator that it is time for your organisation to research your portfolio and rethink the brand architecture strategy of the business.

Please feel free to reach out to the Insights and Strategy team at BrandMatters if you have any other questions about brand research and brand portfolio strategy. We have a wealth of experience and case studies and can prescribe a bespoke approach that is suitable and aligned to your organisation’s unique situation.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020 15:05

Brand research is about uncovering the insights that will lay the foundation for your brand’s development.

We love to solve complex brand challenges for our clients. Brand research allows you to build a deep understanding of your customers, the market and your competitive landscape from which to build your brand strategy and set your brand up for success.

Brand research is incredibly important for discovering the truth between what you want your brand positioning to be and what your clients or customers feel your brand stands for. Online research communities are a great way to get some honest opinions and in-depth feedback on your brand. We’ve been using online communities for some of our latest projects and it is delivering some fascinating insights.

What is an online research community and what does it involve?

An online community is an evolution of traditional qualitative focus groups and in-depth interviews. This method takes inspiration from social media and other online platforms to elicit comprehensive and deep responses from clients or customers in a forum that is often more familiar and convenient for respondents

Typically, this approach uses a specially designed platform for a closed group of respondents, in most cases we’ve found groups of around 10-30 is most effective. The community is active for an extended period of time, often 10-12 days, and asks respondents to carry out a variety of exercises (eg diaries, video blogs, mood boards) and moderated discussions over that period.

The benefits of an online research community summarised:

  • Respondents can talk more openly given the anonymity of online vs a face-to-face focus group.
  • We can select tasks for each respondent separately or open up and moderate group discussions. 
  • We have access to respondents over a period of time which creates far richer insights as we build a more comprehensive view of each potential client or customer.
  • We can talk to more respondents within a convenient timeframe compared to scheduling individual interviews.
  • Gives you and your audience more flexibility - because online communities unfold over time, are flexible and interactive, respondents will have time to reflect and share more considered, detailed and nuanced answers. 

Things to think about when deciding if this approach is right for your brand:

  • Typically, this style of research can be more expensive than a standard focus group as it runs over a period of days. 
  • Ability to moderate the group can be tricky, however, an experienced researcher will facilitate and moderate to gain the most out of the group.
  • Often a difficult (or less appropriate) method for engaging larger business owners, specialists, ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or senior managers. For these stakeholders, we recommend in-depth interviews as a more effective way to gain insights from this group as it is more intensive, one on one and takes up less of the respondent’s time.

Some of the clients we have worked with using online communities include:

 

NARTA (National Associated Retail Traders of Australia)

“Australasia’s largest retail services group, focused on providing sustainability for retailers, efficiencies for all partners and promoting product & technology and increasing choice for consumers.”

  • We recruited 18 respondents to an online discussion platform where we were able to moderate both individual and group tasks/discussions over a 10 day period.

  • We covered off 6 topics which included; shop visits, capturing and uploading content, video diaries, customer journey mapping, evaluating touchpoints (websites, catalogues, print).

  • Respondents were incentivised for completing all tasks but we also ensure engagement throughout by building in prize rounds

To find out more about this work, see our case study on NPR

Caruso's Natural Health

Caruso’s Natural Health offers a comprehensive selection of holistic, natural health products.

  • We recruited 31 respondents to an online discussion platform where we were able to moderate both individual and group tasks/discussions over a 10 day period.

  • We covered off 6 topics which included; shop visits, capturing and uploading content, video diaries, customer journey mapping, evaluating touchpoints (websites, catalogues, print).

  • Respondents were incentivised for completing all tasks but we also ensure engagement throughout by building in prize rounds

Caruso’s case study coming soon.

 

BrandMatters' Director of Brand Strategy, Kylie McNamara, discusses the biggest challenges for B2Bs in measuring their performance.

 

While brand tracking is valuable for all organisations, business to business (B2B) organisations face unique challenges when it comes to measuring their performance. Selling to other businesses is very different than selling directly to consumers. In B2B transactions, the stakes are frequently higher, and getting the sale can be a more involved process. Traditional thinking is that B2B is more about relationships than brand, so in the past very little brand measurement has been performed. However, defining and tracking relevant metrics for a B2B organization should look at both the performance of relationships and the role of the brand. 

Increasingly brand is being understood to have an important part to play in guiding decisions. As humans our ability to process all the information available has a limit, and the majority of the time we use heuristics, often referred to as cognitive shortcuts, to help us make ‘safe’ decisions. Our professional lives are no different. Brands signify what type of employees you are likely to have within the organisation and therefore what type of relationships will occur (refer to our previous blog on employee branding). Therefore, as with any organisation, whether your clients are consumers or businesses, it is important to have well-defined brand strategies and strong, disciplined measurement through brand tracking. Brand tracking for any organisation ensures accountability and guidance moving forward.

What are the biggest challenges for B2B organisation tracking? 

Smaller, more niche target audiences

Firstly, the size of the client base is usually smaller. Instead of reaching hundreds or thousands of consumers some businesses could have handfuls of business clients and a very niche audience. So it is common for many B2B organisations to have business clients that are hard to reach and difficult to get feedback from. 

Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

When it comes to B2B organisations, you’re not just dealing with one person making a personal decision, you have to be able to take into account a range of stakeholders calling the shots and a lot of others influencing the purchase decisions. So, you need an approach that enables you to understand all of the diverse behaviours, needs and attitudes of your business customers. 

Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles, like relationships, websites, conferences and events

The way B2B organisations communicate to their clients can be more complex and often rely on a mixture of different methods targeting the same client but at different levels in the organisation. An organisation might choose to target frontline staff through training initiatives whereas c-suite decision makers could call for a more personal and direct sell. Brand tracking for B2B organisations needs to account for these different levels of activity in order to ensure efforts can be held accountable and ultimately enhanced where needed. 

What are common misconceptions about B2B tracking 

Emotional benefits and messages are only important in B2C

Some may argue that purchase decisions in businesses are commonly more rational than purchase decisions made personally. We would argue (with clear support from neurological studies on the role of emotional processing in decision making) that in either case, whether professional or personal, decisions are never devoid of some emotion and therefore brand tracking needs to look at capturing both elements as much as possible. 

Relationships are more important than brand in driving sales

While we agree that a good client relationship will usually help sales, we would argue that who your employees are and how they deal with their customers is a large part of the brand identity. For more on this topic please refer to our previous blog on employee branding.

How to approach the unique challenges of B2B brand tracking?

Challenge 1: Smaller, more niche target audiences

To reach smaller and at times very specific audiences it’s important to be flexible when it comes to research methodology. It might be more effective to try a hybrid approach to research. For instance, you could have in-depth one on one interviews with existing customers to understand your brand’s performance but also a category read of the general business population using a research panel to uncover perceptions of your brand at large. 

Use client lists. In other words, if you have an email database of existing and ex client contacts you can utilise this to collect feedback by sending out a survey. Research can be expensive if you’re trying to recruit very niche respondents so effectively using what is already at your disposal is vital. 

Accept smaller base sizes. While it may feel more comfortable to make a decision based off 5000 responses, B2B organisations need to do more with less, so accept the feedback you do receive and collect it as often as possible.

Challenge 2: Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

We know that there is a lot of complexity when it comes to collecting feedback from multiple stakeholders across each client. However, one of the ways we believe in to tackle this issue is about being research agnostic. By this we simply mean that we think research should look at incorporating different approaches for collecting feedback, both quantitative options (i.e. online surveys) and qualitative methodologies. It’s important to consider different ways in which your customers want to give feedback. For some a quick online survey is fine, for others who may be more senior and receive hundreds of emails a day a personal one-on-one phone call or meeting might be the better way to go. 

Challenge 3: Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles

It’s important to create the right questions to cover off the different ways the brand is being communicated to your clients. Whether it be delivered through a confidential survey or included in a discussion guide, knowing how to ask and what to ask shows the importance of having the right insight into the brand activities and the experience of crafting the right questions.

Given that B2B brands are also more likely to be heavily reliant on client relationships it’s also important to include questions that address these relationships, whether that be satisfaction ratings, or recommendations. Where possible it helps to link methodology to customer experience measurement. 

A final area to take into consideration is that many research companies have limited experience working with B2B brands and little understanding of how brands work in the B2B space, so insights may not be relevant or actionable. It’s important to work with an agency with deep knowledge of B2B. 

Please speak to our team at BrandMatters if you have any other questions about B2B brand tracking.

BrandMatters' Director of Brand Strategy, Kylie McNamara, discusses what simple steps businesses can take to gain understanding of their customers.

 

To say that it’s important for brands to understand their customers is stating the obvious. 

But for many brand owners the idea of “understanding customers” is daunting. It’s often associated with big, complex and expensive research projects which feel out of reach for many businesses, particularly in hard economic times when managing budgets is paramount.

So, should we file customer understanding in the too-hard basket? Perhaps put it off for another day, when conditions are less challenging and we have more time?

Or are there ways that businesses can gain valuable insights without huge budgets?

As much as I love to run large scale market research projects, I love uncovering useful insights about customers and markets even more. And I firmly believe that gathering rich, useful insights is in reach of any business with a little thought and planning.

There are two broad approaches to consider if you are looking to build your customer understanding, but the coffers are slim or even empty:

• Gathering insights about your customers without formal market research
• Looking for more cost-effective ways of conducting market research

Today I want to cover how you can gain insights without research. I’ll cover cost-effective market research in another blog.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to uncover insights about your customers without research is to make a subtle attitude shift. Take the time to slow down, absorb information and believe that insights are all around you, and you may be surprised at just how much you can find out. 

More specifically, here are some of my favourite ways of learning about customers:

1. Draw knowledge from your people

Your people can be an amazing source of knowledge. People who interact regularly with customers, those who have been in your company or industry for many years or even those who have recently come from an adjacent industry or competitor can bring valuable and diverse perspectives. 

The biggest challenge with this form of insight gathering is to remain objective and to draw out useful implications from simple observations. This is why it can be helpful to use an external person to help facilitate this process, to provide structure, objectivity and importantly to give the team confidence. 

Workshops with key members of your team can be a great way to spark off each other and share observations. A workshop facilitator will be able to design exercises and activities to make this process as easy and productive as possible.

2. Review previous research

Many companies have shelves and hard-drives full of research reports that haven’t been looked at since they were delivered. While these reports may not be able to specifically answer your current questions, they are highly likely to contain useful clues and information that can inform your thinking. So before lamenting a lack of budget to conduct new research, it is well worth looking at previous research, even if it is a few years old. You may be surprised what you can uncover!

3. Review other sources of data

Formal market research is unquestionably the best way to answer specific questions. However, like a good detective, clues about customer behaviours and attitudes can be found in a range of data sources. Some areas to think about include:

• Customer reviews, both formal and informal
• Customer satisfaction surveys
• Customer comments and communications

4. Search for publicly available information

In this data rich era, information is everywhere, and a simple google search can uncover reams of information to help you better understand your customers. Some of my favourite sources of information include Harvard Business Review, McKinsey and even LinkedIn. There is also plenty of useful syndicated research which can be purchased for considerably less than it would cost to undertake research yourself. Some great examples include IBISWorld Reports and WARC.

Of course, the trap with all this information is sifting through everything that is available and working out which information is credible and valuable. This is where working with a good consultant can help.

5. Talk to others in the industry

Experts in your field can provide informed, insightful perspectives that can be enormously helpful in understanding your customers. Consider industry leaders, journalists, academics, industry bodies, think tanks and more. A number of one-on-one interviews, facilitated by an experienced interviewer, with these types of opinion leaders can furnish you with a rich understanding of your category for a fraction of the cost of a larger study.

6. Be a good observer!

Get into the habit of keeping your eyes open whenever you are interacting with or exposed to customers. You never know when your observations will be helpful.

So, if you want to understand your customers but your budgets are limited, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways of uncovering useful information and insights without having to spend a fortune. If you’d like some advice on how to go about doing this, please contact us at BrandMatters. We’d love to help!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020 10:19

We’ve come a very long way since the time Lord Leverhulme famously lamented: ““Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don't know which half.” In this era, measuring performance is increasingly important and commercially savvy marketers are required to clearly demonstrate how their marketing investment is working to build sales and meet business objectives. Accountability and effectiveness are key for all brand and marketing activities.

While brand measurement (often referred to as brand tracking) is a valuable way for all organizations to demonstrate this accountability, business to business (B2B) organisations face unique challenges when it comes to measuring their performance. Selling to other businesses is very different than selling directly to consumers. In B2B transactions, the stakes are frequently higher, and getting the sale can be a more involved process. Traditional thinking is that B2B is driven by relationships rather than brand, so in the past very little brand measurement has been performed. However, defining and tracking relevant metrics for a B2B organization should look at both the performance of relationships and the role of the brand. 

Increasingly brand is being understood to have an important part to play in guiding decisions. As humans our ability to process all the information available has a limit, and much of the time we use heuristics, often referred to as cognitive shortcuts, to help us make ‘safe’ decisions. Our professional lives are no different. Brands signify what type of employees you are likely to have within the organisation and therefore what type of relationships will occur (refer to our previous blog on employee branding). Therefore, as with any organisation, whether your clients are consumers or businesses, it is important to have well-defined brand strategies and strong, disciplined brand measurement. Brand measurement for any organisation ensures accountability and guidance moving forward.

What are the biggest challenges for B2B organisation tracking? 

Smaller, more niche target audiences

Firstly, the size of the client base is usually smaller. Instead of reaching thousands of consumers some businesses could have handfuls of business clients and a very niche audience. So, it is common for many B2B organisations to have clients that are hard to reach and difficult to get feedback from. 

Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

In most B2B organisations, a range of stakeholders are involved in decision making, either as influencers, users or final decision-makers. So, you need an approach that enables you to understand all the diverse behaviours, needs and attitudes of your business customers. 

Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles, including relationships, websites, conferences and events

The way B2B organisations communicate to their clients can be more complex and often rely on a mixture of different methods targeting the same client but at different levels in the organisation. An organisation might choose to target frontline staff through training initiatives whereas c-suite decision makers could call for a more personal and direct sell. Brand measurement for B2B organisations needs to account for these different levels of activity in order to ensure efforts can be held accountable and ultimately enhanced where needed. 

What are common misconceptions about B2B tracking? 

Emotional benefits and messages are only important in B2C. 

Some may argue that purchase decisions in businesses are commonly more rational than purchase decisions made by consumers. We would argue (with clear support from neurological studies on the role of emotional processing in decision making) that in either case, whether professional or personal, decisions are never devoid of some emotion and therefore brand tracking needs to look at capturing both elements as much as possible. 

Relationships are more important than brand in driving sales

While we agree that a good client relationship will usually help sales, we would argue that your employees and the way they deal with their customers is a large part of the brand identity. For more on this topic please refer to our previous blog on employee branding.

How to approach the unique challenges of B2B brand tracking?

Challenge 1: Smaller, more niche target audiences

To reach smaller and at times very specific audiences it’s important to be flexible when it comes to research methodology. It might be more effective to try a hybrid approach to research. For instance, you could have in-depth one on one interviews with existing customers to understand your brand’s performance but also a category read of the general business population using a research panel to uncover perceptions of your brand at large. 

Use client lists. In other words, if you have an email database of existing and ex client contacts you can utilise this to collect feedback by sending out a survey. Research can be expensive if you’re trying to recruit very niche respondents so effectively using what is already at your disposal is vital. 

Accept smaller base sizes. While it may feel more comfortable to make decisions based on 5000 responses, B2B organisations need to do more with less, so accept the feedback you do receive and collect it as often as possible.

Challenge 2: Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

We know that there is a lot of complexity when it comes to collecting feedback from multiple stakeholders across each client. However, one of the ways we believe in to tackle this issue is about being methodology agnostic. By this we simply mean that we think research should look at incorporating different approaches for collecting feedback, both quantitative options (i.e. online surveys) and qualitative methodologies (i.e. in-depth interviews). It’s important to consider different ways in which your customers want to give feedback. For some a quick online survey is fine, for others who may be more senior and receive hundreds of emails a day a personal one-on-one phone call or meeting might be the better way to go. 

Challenge 3: Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles

It’s important to create the right questions to cover off the different ways the brand is being communicated to your clients. Whether it be delivered through a confidential survey or included in a discussion guide, knowing how to ask and what to ask shows the importance of having the right insight into the brand activities and the experience of crafting the right questions.

Given that B2B brands are also more likely to be heavily reliant on client relationships it’s also important to include questions that address these relationships, whether that be satisfaction ratings, or recommendations. Where possible it helps to link methodology to customer experience measurement. 

A final area to take into consideration is that many research companies have limited experience working with B2B brands and little understanding of how brands work in the B2B space, so insights may not be relevant or actionable. It’s important to work with an agency with deep knowledge of B2B. 

Please speak to our team at BrandMatters if you would like to find out more about B2B brand measurement.

Making business decisions in times of uncertainty is difficult and disconcerting. The economic stakes are extremely high right now and for many this time of uncertainty will lead to a legitimate fear of calculated business risks. It’s understandable that many businesses panic when they see drastic changes, but the key is to remain as level-headed as possible, to make sensible decisions on factors that you can control and objectively evaluate data that can support your future success. 

So, whilst proactive efficiency drives are a commonplace reaction for businesses in a tougher economy, avoiding mistakes through understanding the market has never been more important. To do this, we believe that consumer research is more important now than ever. Understanding changes in consumer mindsets and decision making is critical to avoid market missteps and to ensure your business takes advantage of shifts in the market. This isn’t ‘business as usual’, and cooler heads will prevail.

Here are the main reasons why consumer research is vital:

1. Find your optimal target market

As capex and opex budgets shrink across the board, and consumer spending declines across many sectors, understanding who the most optimal group to target is important. It’s no longer effective to appeal to the mass market for either products or services. Knowing who to connect with and how you can reach them effectively is necessary for success and survival. Without understanding who your optimal target market is, a business has no way to effectively direct its resources to those customers with the highest potential for sales growth and loyalty to the brand. 

The most effective way to identify your target market is by asking questions of those within the market itself. Whether by quantitative or qualitative research methods, it’s useful to uncover what drives their purchase decisions, which brands they consider or are loyal to and which brands they might reject. The goal of any research method always centres around uncovering the underlying needs, attitudes and motivations of consumers to discover which areas align with your brand’s offer. 

2. Understand lapsed users 

For many businesses the value of consumer research not only is about looking forward at which consumers to target but also looking back at those who used to choose your brand and no longer do so. There’s always wisdom in learning from your mistakes and a business that fails to learn is at risk of continuing to make the same errors and therefore not evolve to survive. 

Understanding what might have driven consumers away, whether a more attractive competitor offer or a larger shift in consumer needs, is necessary for a business to move forward. By understanding why you are losing consumers, your business can make key strategic changes to your offer to bring them back to your brand. Without this understanding a business will have to continue making key decisions without data explaining how, and also importantly why, consumers are no longer choosing a brand. 

3. Find who the brand’s new users are

Some might say this point is the same as understanding your target market, because what could be more important in a target market than those who choose your brand? However, while there should be overlap between your target market and your current consumer base, there’s much that can be gained from taking a closer look at those new to your brand. 

Knowing how these new users heard about your brand lets you know which channels are reaching those new markets and are therefore worthwhile to continue investing in. Research also allows a business to uncover what attributes new users associate with the brand. This association gives key insights into what elements are working well for your brand and should be maintained when considering any other strategic, tactical or operational changes the business may decide to make in this time of uncertainty. In the end, research into new users allows you to ensure that the business changes you make tomorrow don’t alienate your newest and therefore least consumers. 

4. Create clear brand distinction in a sea of competitors

In times of uncertainty it’s common for spending to be down and therefore competition in the market to be more aggressive. For a business this means that understanding what gives a brand a competitive edge in the eyes of the market is even more critical. 

Consumer research takes the guesswork out of understanding what makes a business distinct and appealing. It’s not just assumptions made in a board meeting about what makes consumers choose one brand over another. It’s handing the question over to consumers and asking them, using direct and indirect methods, what it is about each brand that drives their purchase decision. Great risk lies in making the wrong assumptions about your brand’s distinctiveness and therefore spending valuable resources communicating the wrong message or even worse making changes that remove the reason existing users choose your brand in the first place. 

5. Make sure your marketing spend is accountable

Last but not least, consumer research during times of uncertainty helps to evaluate whether marketing spend is benefiting the business and what adjustments are needed to optimise the communications strategy. There’s no point in spending money on marketing that isn’t returning anything to a business. While some may argue short-term sales are the only measure of success, brands that build a platform in the current uncertainty are the ones that will foster long term consumer trust and loyalty for the future. And while this may not mean an immediate impact on the bottom line during high consumer uncertainty, effective marketing will assist a business in recovering faster than competitors who have stayed silent. 

In times of economic stability, where the market is strong, the rise of consumer and business spending can compensate for less than optimal branding, positioning, pricing, or segmentation. However, today’s market is anything but certain and the risks of making uninformed assumptions about consumers is very high.

Your business decisions during this crisis are important and making sure you have a clear understanding of your consumers is critical in ensuring you are making the right decisions. So while much of the current crisis is out of our direct control, ensuring you have the right information to make the most optimal decisions for your business is a big part in being prepared for the new world to come.

Please speak to our team at BrandMatters if you have any other questions about consumer research in times of uncertainty.

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