Editor's note: Alan Hale is president of Consight Marketing Group, Chicago. 

There have been claims that B2B marketing research is really no different than B2C research. While there are some commonalities, our firm wholeheartedly pushes back against this and believes there are far more differences than similarities.

The primary purpose in B2B voice-of-the-customer (VOC) research is to obtain the required insights as input into crafting actionable strategies and tactics. The goal is to achieve success in terms of new products, new markets and making key customers “raving fans,” to use the term made popular by Sheldon Bowles and Ken Blanchard’s book of the same name.

This article will offer guidelines for how to conduct more effective B2B research while addressing some major differences between B2B and B2C, along with some implications on the research design. 

Conduct research with a strategic perspective. Using a strategic perspective is important in B2C but it is more critical for B2B in our opinion. B2B research is like a jigsaw puzzle, piecing together different bits of information to make a complete picture. How will the client use the research? What are they going to do with the information? Is there a commitment from senior management to act upon the research findings?

In terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty, it is creating a story for each major account. For entering new markets, the issues are: How does this market work? What are the dynamics of the market? And, what are the key levers for success? For branding research, it is: What does your brand mean and how is it differentiated from the competition? 

Focus your research efforts. In the B2B arena, there is almost always an 80/20 rule. This is defined as 20% of your accounts accounting for 80% of your revenue. This concentration of revenue is much higher than B2C. Optimizing your wallet share in these accounts will g...