The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the world of business into a state of extreme uncertainty. Continuing difficulties with supply chains, rising costs, and unpredictable demand together impose a heavier burden on management than almost ever before. Moreover, with all the potential changes required to meet the challenges of global warming, it’s unlikely that anything is going to get easier.
So, what are the implications of these facts for B2B market research?
Firstly, it is evident that businesses will need access to reliable data and in good time to make the right decision, therefore there should be plenty of opportunity for research suppliers, at least for those who are able to provide insight obtained from the right respondents.
On the other hand, time is on nobody’s side, so the key will be to focus the research on the issues most likely to contribute to an improvement in performance. This is as important for the respondent to any B2B survey as it is to the end client.
So, now is a good time to reconsider the question of respondent engagement, bearing in mind that the keyword is ‘benefit’. Business people need to understand how their participation will benefit them – either now or in the long run. Of course, one way of providing a key benefit is to offer a tangible reward, but the problem with that reward is that it will also encourage participation from persons who are not actually qualified for the research. This can be a particular problem with online studies, where it is considerably easier for respondents to claim they are eligible for a survey than it is for those surveyed by telephone. For both modes, the quality of the sample is of paramount importance. Yet, whether recruiting for an online survey or completing a telephone interview, whenever a suitable, qualified sample is not available, using a trained telephone interviewer to screen the sample is preferable.
What other incentive may be of benefit to the respondent?
Hopefully, the right respondent will have genuine interest in the research and, therefore, a feedback report might be of value to them. The problem, however, with such an ‘offer’ is that it represents an intangible reward without a more detailed description of the research. So, the real key to respondent engagement is just that – a brief description of the research. Indeed, it remains the case that if business respondents can see a tangible benefit to the end client, then they will participate, even if the benefit to them is less tangible.
So, what can we say about the research and the client that will encourage the right respondent to participate? Traditionally, researchers have avoided mentioning their client on the grounds that it could bias responses. Whilst this is a very important consideration for any awareness and attitude surveys, it can be less relevant in the case of behavioural studies. Regardless, it can be helpful to explain to potential respondents that you will let them know who your client is at the end of the survey and to include the client’s name in the feedback report. In fact, revealing the client’s name at the end of an interview can ensure that further insight can be obtained which will be of value to the client.
Even if you are not able to reveal the name of the end client, it is important to explain to potential respondents why the research has been commissioned and why their participation is valued. Within that context, a feedback report will be a more tangible offer. Most important of all, in this time when COVID-19 has created havoc among education and training programs throughout the world, skilled staff are more difficult to find than ever before. If your study needs to speak with skilled people be sure to only ask necessary questions!
Header Image: Igal Ness, Unsplash