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5 overlooked B2B market research methods for understanding your customers


Buyer behaviors and how brands react to them are constantly evolving, so how do you keep up? Brands need a continuous source of trustworthy market and audience insights to stay in tune with the nuances and intricacies of an ever-changing market landscape.

Social-driven business-to-business (B2B) market research insights help you respond to market dynamics swiftly and foster stronger, more targeted cross-functional decision-making.

According to The 2023 State of Social Media Report ™, 95% of business executives feel it’s imperative to prioritize social media data for informed decision-making beyond marketing. They’re using it to anticipate industry shifts and address customer pain points head-on to build trust and solidify their company’s position amidst tough competition.

This article explores how B2B market research enables better decision-making, including overlooked methods and social data that will help you explore new depths in audience insights.

What is B2B market research?

B2B market research encompasses collecting and analyzing data about what businesses are looking for and need to improve their operations. This includes the engagements between a company providing a product or service and the businesses it aims to reach as prospective customers.

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B2B research involves both qualitative and quantitative research such as ratings, surveys, customer experience (CX) analysis and social media listening. It provides decision-makers with actionable insights into key areas like industry trends, competitors and macroeconomic factors, which impact a sale, purchase or partnership between two companies.

B2B market research is different from general or business-to-customer (B2C) research because it involves a more complex decision-making process. For example, in contrast to B2C interactions, the B2B buyer journey usually involves multiple stakeholders with different roles and interests in the buying process.

B2B sales cycles are typically longer than B2C ones too. This is because B2B purchase decisions need careful deliberation on factors like contract negotiations, alignment with regulatory bodies, specific needs of the customer and tech stack considerations.

What are the benefits of B2B market research?

B2B market research gives a company in-depth insights into its business landscape and evolving customer behavior. This helps you fine-tune your sales, marketing and product strategies. You’re also able to develop more effective go-to-market (GMT) plans that meet the specific needs of your prospects and differentiate your brand from competitors.

These insights also enable you to strengthen your brand positioning, improve strategic relations with partners, and resonate with current and potential customers better. The trick to ensure your research helps all these elements is that it’s fresh, relevant and in tune with the market. And that’s by conducting continuous research.

So now that we know how B2B research can help you strengthen your market positioning, let’s look at how exactly your teams can use it to their advantage while building strategies.

An image that mentions the top 6 ways in which B2B market research benefits businesses. The top three being, planning goals more strategically, identifying growth opportunities and understanding evolving customer needs.

1. Plan goals strategically

Set realistic business goals, prioritize resource allocations more effectively and build well-calibrated partnerships. Regularly running research helps you measure brand perception and get insights in near real-time, which enables you to refine your positioning and product offering so they’re aligned with market shifts.

2. Identify growth opportunities

Capitalize on emerging trends and innovations to identify growth opportunities such as new customer segments, product/service offerings gaps or ways to increase customers’ lifetime value.

3. Understand evolving customer needs

B2B market research will also help you track customer preferences based on their evolving needs and recurring pain points. Use this knowledge to tailor your brand messaging and improve products and services to meet client expectations more effectively.

4. Gain a competitive advantage

Regularly monitor the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of your competitors to make your brand more differentiated and gain a competitive edge. Monitoring their social media activity and customer interactions will help you benchmark your company’s performance against industry standards and identify areas for improvement or innovation.

5. Prepare for potential challenges

Prepare for challenges caused by market fluctuations such as geo-political factors, foreign exchange rates or environmental policies that can affect your business. Proactively address these hurdles with nuanced insights from cutting-edge machine learning (ML)-powered social listening and data analysis tools that can meticulously extract actionable insights from millions of data points across various social and online channels such as X (formerly Twitter), blogs, forums and news articles, in near real-time.

Thus, giving you the tools you need to make strategic decisions in an uncertain business climate with confidence and nurture trust among stakeholders and customers.

6. Optimize marketing and advertising strategies

Tailor and pivot marketing and advertising strategies as needed for maximum impact. Insights from continuous market research help your teams develop targeted content and engagement initiatives that resonate with your B2B audiences.

B2B market overlooked research methods

Let’s take a detailed look at some potent but underutilized B2B market research strategies that can give you a competitive edge.

1. Understand B2B customers through keyword research

Keyword research is a tactical market research methodology in the early stages of the buyer journey, where the intention is to explore brands and businesses that match a company’s needs. And B2B buyer behavior is significantly changing in this aspect. As a recent report showed, B2B buyers are exploring more avenues outside of vendors, especially third-party resources, to make a purchase decision.

Commonly used keyword research tools include search engine optimization (SEO) tools like Google Trends, Answer the Public, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and Google Keyword Planner.

Discovering how businesses seek solutions online (for instance, mentioning pain points or searching alternatives to your competitors) can help you build a more holistic business strategy to deliver hyper-relevant information to your target audience. This will significantly improve your brand visibility and attract more marketing-qualified leads.

2. Analyze industry and brand-relevant social conversations

Analyzing social listening data for industry and brand-relevant conversations provides you with timely and relevant B2B market research insights.

It gives you an insider view into customers’ opinions, experiences and their sentiments towards your business. You get a real-time reflection of current trends and discussions and use them to identify emerging topics, new trends and evolving customer preferences.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's listening tool showing data on various metrics such as customer conversations, themes, engagements, keywords and more.

Also use these insights to align your content marketing strategy with what your audience is discussing to enhance engagement and develop a more targeted B2B social media strategy.

This research doesn’t need to be a passive process. Engage in discussions in industry forums and thought leader groups to gauge industry trends and the competitive landscape. These discussions enable you to learn first-hand what audiences think. They’re also great for promoting a higher brand recall and adapting your strategies to influence customers and stall attrition.

3. Examine competitors on social media

Social listening can also provide you with a transparent view of how your target audience perceives your competitors. Analyzing conversations around competitors will reveal their strengths and weaknesses, and yours too, contextually.

This granular competitive intelligence is valuable for refining your go-to-market strategy and brand positioning. It’s also crucial for content planning and your larger marketing strategy because it highlights topics that resonate (or don’t) with your ideal customers.

4. Dig into ratings and reviews

Traditional B2B market research methods such as customer surveys and focus groups are time-consuming and don’t capture real-time data—unlike social insights that provide instant feedback and insights.

Analyzing customer opinions in reviews forums enables you to go beyond typical review metrics like star ratings and net promoter scores (NPS). Gather qualitative data around customer pain points (and what they love about your brand), so your team can proactively address and respond to their needs. This will build customer trust, encourage engagement and improve brand recall.

Your teams can analyze data on forums and review sites like Reddit, G2 and Capterra to glean insights from unbiased ratings on user satisfaction, features, price and other key factors. App reviews are another great source to understand how businesses use your software and collect information that may even inform the product’s direction.

Sprout Social's G2 Reviews Profile that shows user ratings on different parameters, review filters and popular mentions of Sprout capabilities such as social listening, analytics, community management and others.

5. Analyze industry influencers

Trust is a significant factor in a business relationship and most prospects trust third parties more than vendors. This makes influencers a great source of audience insights. Use social listening to identify the influencers and advocates within your industry to see who is influencing discussions in different domains and driving conversations.

Analyzing their content will give you a better understanding of your brand perception, the competition and emerging market needs. This research will also enable you to explore possibilities to collaborate with the right influencers for your brand to amplify brand reach and credibility.

How to use social media to conduct B2B market research

B2B market research involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods that include surveys, interviews, customer data analysis and industry monitoring. Social-driven B2B research and analytics enable all of this at a fraction of the cost and time, so you can supercharge your marketing strategies including customer care requirements and brand management.

Here’s a look at how a powerful social media management solution will bring your data to life and enable you to leverage the methods noted above efficiently.

Monitor market trends by tracking keywords and hashtags

Use social listening for real-time B2B market research by tracking keywords and hashtags in customer conversations. This will reveal insights on competing brands and upcoming trends in your industry.

For example, Sprout’s Listening solution, with our AI-powered Query Builder, enables you to apply a keyword search on thousands of social conversations across networks to gather targeted insights on your brand and business environment.

Your teams can customize searches by including or excluding keywords most relevant to your business and analyze results to discover what’s top-of-mind among your customers. Thus, your teams have access to a significant sample size for market research without being overwhelmed.

Watch this video to see how the Query Builder helps research teams glean targeted information from social data.

A screenshot of a Linkedin video of Sprout's social listening tool in action, as it cuts through three million social conversations to extract only those relevant to hashtag Barbie.

Track B2B competitors across key performance indicators (KPIs)

Analyze social media data, such as customer conversations, trending topics and hashtags, to identify top competitors within your industry, including direct competitors or companies offering similar products or services.

This approach also gives you insights into what social media networks your competitors are most active on and if there is a gap that you can fill. For example, you may notice your competitors have become more active on LinkedIn vs. Facebook.

Sprout Social’s Competitive Analysis Listening tool gives a comparative analysis of key metrics across social such as audience sentiment, total engagements and share of voice. Monitor competitors’ follower growth and engagement on their social media profiles.

Also identify which types of content generate the most interaction in your target audience and how they react to it.

A screenshot of Sprout Social’s competitive analysis features such as total engagements, total unique authors, total potential impressions, and average positive sentiment.

Analyze sentiment to improve customer experience

Conducting social media sentiment analysis enables you to see how B2B audiences feel about your brand, products and services as well as your competitors’. For example, Reddit has a reputation for being a place where people share unfiltered opinions. Mining insights from threads related to your industry can help you map gaps in brand perception that may not have been on your radar.

Similarly, your teams can dive into the comments and brand mentions across social channels to gauge customer sentiment and identify recurring themes, common feedback and issues customers may be facing. This kind of qualitative research provides valuable insights into what your customers actually think about you.

Sprout’s sentiment analysis solution powered by natural language processing (NLP) and named entity recognition (NER) helps you explore positive and negative sentiment in brand mentions and conversations about you effortlessly. Get rich insights into what your customers like about you, or what product features are most popular amongst your customers and why.

These findings will help you optimize marketing strategies, spark product improvement ideas and improve the customer experience.

A screenshot of the sentiment summary in Sprout's social listening solution. In the middle of the report is a chart that shows how much positive and negative sentiment there is for the brand. On the right side of the report are messages and their assigned sentiment type. This empowers you to explore what messages and customer feedback is impacting your brand's sentiment.

Identify influencers to build your brand

Build your brand by researching influencers such as industry experts, analysts or thought leaders within your B2B niche. Actively engaging with these social influencers by participating in webinars, events and discussions will boost your company’s share of voice significantly.

This not only gives you access to fresh perspectives on relevant industry topics but also opportunities to observe unique perspectives and best practices.

An image depicting Sprout's Influencer marketing solution that shows influencer performance and growth metrics.

Sprout’s Influencer marketing solution helps you collaborate with verified influencers that best appeal to your brand so you reach new audiences on the social platforms they use most.

Keep a close eye on the conversations and discussions initiated by your chosen influencers. Your teams can use the“People View” within Sprout to discover and organize profiles that interact with your brand to manage VIP lists and view conversation histories with these influencers.

Sprout's People View. Several VIPs are listed on screen.

Also analyze comments and responses from their followers to get additional insights into industry trends, challenges and customer sentiments. Influencers are an investment in your brand awareness, so assess the impact of influencer collaborations on your B2B market research efforts by tracking KPIs such as engagement, reach and the quality of insights gathered through these initiatives.

Integrate social insights with your CRM data

Integrate your social media market research with your customer data in your CRM tools to better understand your B2B customers and improve the customer journey for a smoother partnership. For example, use Sprout’s powerful Saleforce integrations to leverage your social data to tailor sales and marketing campaigns to your customers for faster decision-making.

A screenshot of Sprout Social within the Salesforce Service Cloud console

Similarly, Sprout’s Tableau Business Intelligence (BI) Connector enables you to aggregate insights from multiple systems to get important metrics from all stages of your customer journey. Track brand mentions and competitive share of voice and map conversion rates to your sales data.

Stay focused, relevant and informed with B2B market research

Knowledge is currency. And when it’s timely and targeted, it’s the foundation of informed decision-making.

Your social data is not just information—it’s the catalyst for innovation that can help your business reach new heights. So take advantage of this treasure trove of potent market wisdom to foster continuous growth and alleviate growing pains.

Use precise, social and AI-driven intelligence to double down on customer-centricity and help your brand exceed market expectations. You’ll empower your teams to unearth timely opportunities and forge stronger partnerships across the org with meticulously crafted insights.

Download the guide to turn your B2B social data into a revenue driver and bring your vision to life.

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