Sampling business-to-business (B2B) audiences is hard. We explore ways to make it possible: Using your own CRM, website intercept, online panels, direct outreach, and traditional approaches.
Doing market research with business-to-business (B2B) audiences is harder than doing consumer research because of the difficulty of finding suitable respondents. Many methodologies (or specific configurations of studies) that require hundreds of participants are not feasible when the total population of target companies only number in a few hundred and each of those companies may have only a handful of relevant people involved in decision-making for purchase or usage of a particular product.
B2B audiences also require more careful verification than in consumer studies. That is because the risk of respondent fraud is higher, driven by higher incentives paid out to B2B respondents. Conjointly uses specialised screening questions and other ways to combat fraud and deliver high quality sample.
What are the ways to access B2B audiences?
1. Using your own CRM
Your own CRM will contain leads and your own customers. Using lost leads for product research is sometimes a good idea when your research questions are about new products or improvements aimed at wooing new customers and winning them back from competition.
Most commonly with this approach, you would be sending a link from your CRM (like HubSpot) or from your EDM solution (like Mailchimp). You can append a unique GET variable for each respondent to the end of the link, in order to identify who has responded to the survey. That information can be used to send reminders to those who have not responded.
We recommend that in your email invitations, you should explain how you acquired their email address and provide a way to unsubscribe from further survey invites. Conjointly does not offer functionality to send survey invitations from our servers because your respondents would not be familiar with our company and will treat it as spam.
Survey completion rate will vary substantially depending on the list. To provide some averages:
According to Mailchimp, only ~21% of mass emails are opened.
The Mailchimp click rate averages only 2.6%. That is, on an average list one can expect that <3% of respondents will open the survey.
On top of that percentage, it is very common in B2B studies to have survey completion rate of <30%. Most respondents will drop off either at the beginning or in the middle of the survey.
That means that, on average, survey completion rate is slightly less than 1%.
Your own CRM / EDM service will tell you average open and click rates for your own lists, which may be higher.
Providing incentives tends to work well in B2B audiences. Most common types if incentives are:
Gift vouchers (such as Amazon Gift Cards). The value of vouchers depends on the type of audience. If you provide vouchers to all completes, you may find that $20 is sufficient. The higher income your audience, the higher your incentives tend to be.
Raffles (e.g. you promise to give gift vouchers to two lucky winners out of a hundred respondents). If you are doing a draw, then perhaps a higher value like $300 is more suitable. Please check your local trade promotions laws, which may require you to get a permit for a raffle.
Charity donations. For example, you can say that you will donate $30 to a specific charity for their response, or even let them choose that charity in the survey.
Access to findings after the survey is complete.
Please check with your legal team about the appropriateness of these incentives for your audience. Anti-bribery laws may stop you from using some types of incentives.
2. Website intercept
If your website or app has sufficient traffic, you can include a pop-up window with invitation to complete the survey. A lot of the considerations mentioned above apply here.
3. Online panels
Online panels are a viable option for certain broad B2B audiences. They work best for professions that are larger than 1% of population. Examples include hospitality workers, construction workers, marketing specialists, food delivery contractors, small business owners, and trade professionals. In these instances, Conjointly sources respondents from consumer panels and screens them to find those who work in desired industries and roles. You can find a list of B2B predefined panels on Conjointly, identified by the briefcase emoji (💼).
However, using online panels for more specialised sampling is fraught with two risks:
- You will not find the right respondents, losing time to make decisions based on your research.
- Respondents, because of inattention, will incorrectly answer screening questions and thus qualify for your study even though they should not.
- The place of the right audience will be taken by fraudulent respondents who do not qualify for the survey and simply do it for the incentive.
4. Direct recruitment
If you need to survey more narrowly defined audiences (e.g. “agency-side managers in advertising, media-planning, and product marketing”), you need to perform direct recruitment of respondents for B2B surveys for an incentive. Since late November 2021, Conjointly can perform this service for you.
Our approach consists of several steps:
- We receive your requirements for target profiles of respondents, including their industry, title, technology stack, etc.
- We collate a sample of profiles that we can reach and present to you for confirmation along with a preliminary quote.
- Once confirmed, we reach out to a small set of respondents to estimate the response rates and confirm the quote.
- Afterwards, we proceed with full launch of the survey.
- After the survey is complete, we manually verify identifies of respondents and pay the incentive.
One of the key benefits of this approach is ability to recontact some of the same respondents for future research as well as peace of mind that your sample indeed consists of professionals appropriate to your field.
Conjointly uses public databases to search for survey respondents and provides incentives only via bank transfer or similar methods (rather than anonymous payment methods like cryptocurrency or vouchers) as an additional identity check.
Before the data collection begins, you can request to access the identities of survey respondents and we will inform respondents about this. In these cases, we will need to disclose the identity of research sponsor.
5. Traditional face-to-face and phone approaches
Traditional approaches like intercept at a conference or phone interviews still work, but they are often a last resort for B2B audiences because of their slow speed and high cost.
Considerations for specific audiences
Trade professionals in common occupations (like carpenters, electricians, plumbers) can be reliably targeted through consumer panels. The cost varies depending on location and specialisation and is usually between USD 10 to USD 30.
However, targeting more specific trade professionals, like Latinx carpenters in the New England region of the USA, is often not possible via consumer panels and instead requires direct outreach.
Healthcare professionals (HCPs)
Healthcare professionals (especially doctors and nurses) can be found on specialised panels, such as M3, Medefield, SurveyHealthCare, Sermo, and Reckner Health. Cost per response may vary from USD 20 to USD 1,000 depending on the specialisation and location.
If you want Conjointly to source HCP respondents, please note:
We will charge a fixed project management fee (on top of the PM fees charged by these providers). This fee is necessary because surveying doctors often requires a very substantial amount of work because every doctor’s responses is carefully looked after.
Because of the high cost of HCP sample, we will not assume the risk associated with these providers changing their rates during data collection. It means that we will pass the cost to you as per the bills from these providers.
It is not uncommon to have a fixed component of a quote (e.g. PM fee), which is payable regardless of the number of responses, and multiple variable cost components (e.g. incentives and access fees)
Decision-makers for enterprise software
A lot of software companies that want to test product features and pricing plans are working in B2B space and need to survey decision makers for enterprise software. These decision makers are often technical leads, product managers, scrum masters, senior developers. We have some recommendations:
Try to find these people on your own CRM first.
Try to broaden your sample definition. For example, do they have to be from the USA? Do they have to have a certain specific title within the company (or will involvement in decision-making for your product category be enough)?
Most importantly, do not trust online research panels that claim to find software decision-makers for your surveys. Most of the time incentives paid by the panels are not enough to attract and retain the right respondents for specialised surveys. Instead, try our direct recruitment approach.
CEOs, board directors, and C-suite executives
It is generally impossible to collect a decent sample of responses from CEOs, board directors, and C-suite executives of mid-to-large companies through online panels. These individuals are busy and do not have time for surveys.
There are occasional CEO surveys by management consulting firms and industry bodies who have personal connections to such individuals in sufficient quantities and who have their details in CRMs.
Please beware of any sampling providers who claim to have access to such audiences (either through their proprietary panels or via direct recruitment). It is too good to be true.