Editor’s note: Cox Automotive won the 2019 B2B Research Project and the Marketing Research Impact awards and was recognized for its achievements at the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards Gala. To learn more about the awards, visit quirksawards.com

If you’re an end-client researcher and interested in participating in a Q&A with Quirk’s, please e-mail me at emilyk@quirks.com. 

What is the most challenging aspect of conducting research in the B2B space? 

Katie RuizKatie Ruiz, research manager, Cox Automotive: At Cox Automotive, our vision is to transform the way the world buys, sells, owns and uses cars – and conducting B2B research among dealership staff is critical to helping us do so. I find the most challenging – and most rewarding – aspect of this space to be designing research that maximizes engagement with our dealer audience.

From a numbers perspective, engagement is important since there are limited dealerships available to be surveyed. Unlike consumer research where we have access to national online panels, our dealer participants are sourced from internal contact lists. We manage our dealer lists carefully, so as not to over-survey these dealers and create fatigue. 

In many cases, we survey key decision makers at dealerships – such as owners or general managers. Their feedback is invaluable, so it’s essential that they find the survey content relevant and engaging. In my experience as a client-side researcher, I’ve found the best way to do this is to take full advantage of the knowledge we have across Cox Automotive – from product teams who design our solutions, to marketing teams who create messaging for our dealer clients, to our sales team who are hearing about dealers’ challenges and successes firsthand. For more complex survey tasks – such as discrete choice – we find it especially helpful to conduct pre-tests among dealers to ensure that we’re speaking their language within the survey.

Having these conversations prior to and during survey design helps our research team become subject matter experts, creating research that engages dealers and ultimately leads to actionable insights for our business.

Brand Watch, Cox Automotive’s annual tracking study, taps into more than 12,000 in-market new-vehicle shoppers. What is the No. 1 tip you would give a client-side researcher looking to launch their first tracking study? Joe Skehan

Joe Skehan, research manager, Cox Automotive: I believe the most important step in setting up a research tracker is really just taking the up-front time to do your homework and become more knowledgeable about the area of focus. Sometimes the need or excitement surrounding the research to be collected can force us as researchers to move more quickly than we would like, which leads us to fall back on established questions or metrics that have traditionally been used in proven tracking studies but do not necessarily align with our particular company or stakeholder’s needs. For example, a brand tracking study for a well-established consumer packaged good may not look the same as one that is meant to track a more dynamic app-based service. 

I would emphasize taking your time to synthesize all of the industry specific information available from secondary research sources, prior primary research knowledge you may have collected, and any qualitative insights you can obtain by speaking with subject matter experts. This will benefit you in a number of different ways, such as solidifying whom exactly you should be talking to and how often – annually, quarterly, etc. Most importantly though, it will help you identify which metrics or key performance indicators you should include overall, and then which should be static for tracking purposes and which can be more dynamic in order to stay relevant in industries that see more frequent change. You essentially want to be able to nail down the long-term metrics so you do not have to frequently edit or change them between studies, but build in some flexibility so that your tracker does not become outdated.

How do you ensure research outcomes are seen as actionable by your team?   

Josh TownsJosh Towns, senior industry intelligence manager, Cox Automotive: Being on a team that works internally with parts of the business to help them achieve core objectives using customer insights, I believe it’s vital to have a close working relationship with clients and embed myself into those areas of the business as much as possible. This ensures that I have a good understanding of overall business priorities and key initiatives before getting into specific research needs. It also provides a great opportunity to collaborate with clients and determine what those key research outcomes should be before creating the plan to get there.

Once we have insights, there are a few things we do to ensure outcomes are seen as actionable. First, the overall story must always connect back to the business and tie into key initiatives or actions to be made. We also try to customize deliverables based on the audience. We’ve found that not all clients like to see detailed charts and tables. Instead, using more quotes, audio clips or videos to help tell the story can be much more impactful. In addition, we try to deliver results in-person as much as possible and have the right folks in the room when doing so. Ensuring that all stakeholders and relevant teams from across the business are represented drives good discussion and collaboration on next steps as well as a consistent view of the research throughout the business.

A good indication that insights are being leveraged is if we see movement in the business directly tied to the outcomes provided. We may also see specific takeaways integrated into broader internal or external communications. Finally, it’s always a good sign that things are going the way they should if there’s continuous demand from your clients.