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September 08, 2021

Using Effective Market Research to Inform your B2B Messaging

Written by Shawn Smajstrla, Content Strategist. Research by Jeff Vining, Director of Research and Market Analysis

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Successful organizations understand the importance of market research. Thriving companies recognize the rewards of effective research that informs their marketing messaging. 

Companies launch more than 30,000 new products each year, and about 80% of those will fail. It's generally not from a lack of marketing support. B2B companies alone spend more than $9 billion annually on digital advertising.

What many of these failed launches have in common is an oversight in their market research. General market analysis offers actionable insights on customers, competitors, opportunities, and risks. But where many companies fall short is failing to use market research to inform positioning and messaging. Effective market research provides a clear understanding of what the market wants, and savvy companies will translate that information into pragmatic, buyer-centric messaging.

Swimming in a sea of commoditization

Companies frequently struggle to grow brand awareness and differentiate their product offerings in a global marketplace filled with ever-increasing competition. Many business marketers fail to adequately demonstrate their products' value, how they solve problems, and how they improve buyers' lives. 

Focusing attention on the company and its products is a common contributor to this unproductive marketing. In fact, 88% of B2B marketers admit their homepages primarily talk about their companies, products, and services. Compounding the problem is that many businesses fail to build persuasive arguments to win over buyers by falling into the trap of generic or jargon-filled terminology. It creates a sea of the same: the same products and the same messages.

But this is where marketing + effective market research = success.

Answering the key questions

Effective market research answers critical questions that ultimately identify significant differences between perception and market reality. Companies can develop impactful value propositions and marketing approaches by realistically capturing known buying behaviors and understanding established competitive environments.

Effective market research adequately answers questions such as:

  • What can we sell where we are, with what we have?
  • How can we sell it? 
  • What are existing competitors selling, how much they are selling, and why?
  • Are we ready to compete or just duplicate others?
  • What are our potential customers struggling with?

Answers to these questions help direct product and business development but also can provide a foundation for tailoring the right content to the right segments — to create messaging that will reach and resonate with the right audience. Insights from this research unveil the who and why needed for impactful market positioning and messaging.

Not just more content ... better content

Content marketing is a critical component of modern B2B marketing. More than 80% of B2B marketers surveyed say content is important to helping them achieve their goals. However, almost half of them (48%) label their content marketing as "ineffective" or "somewhat effective."

A primary reason marketers are unhappy with their content is a lack of insights. In the same survey, 30% of respondents cited "content insights, data, and analytics" as their most desired new capability. In other words, marketers believe they can connect to their audience in a more impactful way when armed with effective research that answers key questions about those ideal and prospective buyers. 

When ineffective research gets it wrong

Conducting research doesn't guarantee success. It's a matter of turning the insights into impactful actions. It's not always as simple as it might sound, and even some of the biggest brands on the planet have had their share of missteps with ineffective research. Consider these three (highly simplified) examples:

  • Ford did extensive research before launching the infamous Edsel line of cars in the 1950s. But then the company tried to appeal to all different kinds of potential buyers. It utilized the research too broadly. By not focusing on a particular segment, the Edsel ultimately appealed to no one.
  • In the '90s, McDonald's conducted research that revealed adults wanted a "grownup" hamburger. So, the chain developed the Arch Deluxe and heavily marketed it. The Arch Deluxe was a colossal flop — in part because the research focused on people who weren't in the core market for McDonald's and therefore were never likely to be customers anyway.
  • As digital photography took off, Kodak (despite having developed digital camera technology) continued to focus on selling film. Research indicated the market was shifting toward digital, but Kodak stubbornly ignored the underlying market forces. In 2012, it filed for bankruptcy.

These are consumer examples, but the lessons can easily be applied to B2B marketing. The companies failed to let important elements of their research inform how they went to market.

Businesses know market research plays a critical role in identifying opportunities and challenges, but effective market research also helps businesses overcome gaps such as failing to fit the specific needs of customers or failing to understand why customers might hesitate to use a product or service.

A vital element of effective market research is employing it to inform market positioning and messaging — to help the business reach potential buyers. The insights gained can help companies develop unique value propositions, and with those details in mind, marketing will speak to prospects through messaging that demonstrates an understanding of what the market genuinely needs and wants.

 

Sources

Statista, Market Research Industry -Statistics and Facts, August 27, 2021.  

Statista, Market Research in the U.S, August 27, 2021

ClickZ, 48% B2B marketers admit content is only “somewhat effective” or” ineffective”, August 13, 2019.

Hello-adience.com,What is B2B research? A guide to B2B market research methods and approaches, September 2, 2020.

Ironpaper, 30+B2B Statistics for 2021, January 20, 2021. 

DataDiggers, Biggest marketing research fails of all time, December 16, 2019.

Grandviewresearch.com, Business-to-Business E-Commerce Market Report Scope, June 2021.

Forrester, Customer-Centered Messaging Helps Boost B2B Revenues By Motivating Buyer Action, October 2019.