B2B customer research

Editor’s note: Sascha Eder is CEO at market research firm NewtonX, New York. 

B2B customer sentiment analysis plays a key role in the success of your business. Understanding what customers think and what they want will help you improve your product and operations, prioritize investments, enhance marketing and sales programs, and better respond to competitors. Conducting this kind of market research isn’t easy. These tips will help you better understand the voice of the customer and drivers of customer satisfaction.

B2B customer sentiment analysis

1. Go beyond talking to existing customers for better context.

Existing customers can give you limited customer feedback when it comes to customer sentiment analysis. You also need to talk to former customers to understand why some are no longer buying. A competitor’s customer can tell you why they didn’t choose you. Potential customers can provide insights into unmet needs that can close a deal. Get a complete voice of the customer perspective by including each of these customer groups.

2. Mix quantitative and qualitative methods.

Relying on a few customer interviews and reviews or a focus group does not give you a complete and statistically reliable picture of customer sentiment. A survey alone doesn’t give you an in-depth understanding of the drivers behind the statistics you gather. Consider starting with qualitative research to understand context, follow with a large quantitative study, then wrap with a deep-dive second qualitative study to explore the meaning of the findings. 

3. Don’t rely solely on feedback from your sales team.

While customer-facing employees provide a valuable perspective, it is likely a biased one. Invariably, you will hear that your prices are too high or that you need more features to compete. Salespeople may not want to talk about mistakes they made in providing customer service. The voice of the customer filtered through the voice of the sales rep can be distorted.

4. Be aware that customer review feedback is biased and limited.

Anecdotal feedback from reviews is often the result of extreme views. You hear from very happy or very unhappy customers about their specific experiences. You don’t get neutral customer feedback that provides larger context insights.

5. Recognize the limits of third-party research.

Research reports from Nielsen, Forrester, IDC and Gartner have their place, but they only tell part of the story. These reports often support a narrative that is good for these consulting firms’ businesses. Methodologies and primary data sources are oftentimes unclear. Information may be outdated. Use these data sources to provide context and to spark ideas for deeper inquiry when you conduct your own B2B market research.

6. Work with a B2B market research specialist.

It is helpful to have someone on staff or work with a market research partner that specializes in the intricacies inherent in B2B market research. Recruiting and incentivizing a high-level C-suite respondent for an in-depth voice of the customer study is quite different from recruiting a consumer product user to complete a simple online survey.

7. Take advantage of advanced market research techniques.

Work with a market research partner who brings innovation to your customer sentiment analysis project. Innovators are using technology like AI for precise recruiting and improved market research survey and interview completion. 

Best practices for B2B customer sentiment analysis 

The growth and profitability of your business requires you to have an accurate and useful customer sentiment analysis program. Individual methods and data sources each provide perspectives, but it takes comprehensive B2B voice of the customer feedback to inform important strategic decisions for your company. These seven tips will put you ahead of the game. When you can understand what drives value today and what will drive value in the future, you will have an enduring competitive edge.