Alan Hale is president of Consight Marketing Group, Chicago. He can be reached at alanhale.consultant@gmail.com.

I have spent 40 years in marketing consulting and research for business-to-business (B2B) across a wide variety of products and industries. I have seen some excellent voice-of-the-customer (VOC) practices and some that were not so excellent. Based on my experience, I have outlined a process for identifying and acting on B2B VOC research insights.

This article will address several areas, including: how B2B research is different from business-to-consumer (B2C) research; the importance of having and creating raving fans; how to use VOC research to identify insights; Net Promoter Score; and what to do after the research process.

Every now and then, I will see people express the view that B2B marketing and marketing research are similar to their B2C counterparts. After all, this thinking goes, both are human-to-human, person-to-person.

Nonsense.

Let’s define B2B. B2B is not selling to consumers. It is selling to businesses, contractors, OEMs or to distributors, wholesalers and other channels who sell to the end-user market.

There are multiple stakeholders in the B2B buying decision. An example could be engineering, purchasing and marketing for a bottle manufacturer. It is a long selection process heavily influenced by a range of financial criteria. The sales process can last months or even years. Pricing can be very high, even in the millions of dollars.

There are the concepts of risk, credibility and trust that must be managed. If you buy the wrong toothpaste, no big deal. If you buy the wrong car, your spouse could get mad. But if you buy the wrong solution in business, you could be fired.

An existing vendor has the implicit trust because they have proven themselves; they have a track record. It is very difficult to replace a current vendor. Switching to a new o...