If you’re about to embark on marketing research with a business-to-business population, there are several challenges you will need to address, not the least of which is sampling. While traditional consumer samples are difficult enough, B2B samples bring additional complexity.
Depending on your research objectives, you will need to answer these three questions to structure your sample correctly:
- Employee Employer. Are you asking the respondent to answer for themselves (e.g., as an employee) or on behalf of the company (as the employer)? If you are asking for employee’s opinion, you may be able to use a traditional consumer panel for your sample, depending on the type of employee you are looking for. (Panel members are typically employed by larger companies, and at lower levels in the organization. So if you are looking for corporate decision-makers, keep looking!)
- Location vs. Enterprise. And if you want to ask questions about the company, should you sample at the unit level (individual location) or the enterprise level? So, do you need to survey the manager of every Home Depot location, or should you target Home Depot’s Corporate managers to answer your question? Obviously, the answer to this question will have a big impact on sample size as well as source!
- Franchisee Franchisor. Is the business a franchise organization? And if so, what elements of the business are under the control of the individual franchisee as opposed to specified by the franchisor. For example, are the marketing programs corporate or local? Are human resource policies set at the local level? Are service standards specified by the corporation or by the local franchisee? Depending on your research objectives, you might prefer one level of the organization or the other.
While answering these questions won’t solve all of your B2B sampling challenges (after all you still need to get the sample itself) they will go a long way to making sure you have the right respondents. Think carefully through your sample issues, as they are the foundation of B2B marketing research success.