Covid-19: why there’s still a place for B2B research.
Businesses are adapting in different ways and the range of experience is huge.
Before the Covid-19 situation exploded into all our lives, we saw something of a positive bounce in business confidence following the UK General Election. All that now seems a distant memory as companies face up to the challenges of the moment.
In a time of uncertainty our natural response as human beings can be to despair and down tools. Unfortunately, in some sectors that Walnut Unlimited work with – including holidays and travel – this might seem a fair response for the moment, pending better news and a change in government advice.
But other businesses, like food retail and home delivery services, are busy, while still more are adapting in a variety of ways in order to meet present day challenges. This ranges from restaurants reconfiguring as takeaways and retailers ramping up their web channels, right through to companies in a variety of sectors who have retooled quickly to be able to manufacture much-needed hand sanitiser, PPE, and ventilators.
And finally, behind the news stories, there are a lot of quintessentially B2B companies in sectors such as IT services, telecoms and logistics which are quietly doing their bit to keep critical services moving and ensure that we all stay connected.
In a time like this, research becomes crucial.
As businesses adapt to survive, researching B2B audiences has never been more important. Of course, some businesses will be putting big decisions on hold, but others are having to move quickly to adjust to new realities, for example to ramp up their ecommerce capabilities or reach their customers in different ways.
So, it’s a key time for businesses with a B2B focus to be talking to their customers and trying to make sense of what’s happening in the short term, and to understand the likely implications for when everything returns to some kind of normal. But that’s not to say it won’t be without its difficulties.
Online B2B research provides quick agile access to decision-makers.
The current situation has created challenges for researchers, making some methods more difficult than others. For example, telephone research with businesses is trickier than normal with so many offices closed. But this opens opportunities to do more surveys online, with online surveys fed by specialist B2B panels providing a critical route to key decision-makers. It might even be an ideal time to consider moving long-standing telephone-based trackers online!
Across all the online B2B projects we’re running, whether UK or international, trackers or ad-hoc, we’re finding that business decision-makers have never been keener to share their views, whether that’s small business owners, or CEOs and CFOs of multinational corporations. Having more time at home is allowing for greater reflection on their business goals, whether those are immediate and COVID-related or longer-term.
Getting clarity in uncertain times.
Making sense of what has changed in the crisis versus the many underlying values and needs which have remained unchanged is tricky. We often use a technique rooted in neuroscience to provide us with clarity as to what audiences are really thinking.
Reaction Time testing can help cut through the uncertainties of the moment. We know that people can find it difficult to articulate their decision-making process and often over-rationalise their actions. Reaction Time testing helps us get beyond what business decision-makers might be feeling in the heat of the moment, to what their real attitudes and feelings toward brands and services are.
Reaction times are about associations and memories built throughout our lifetime. The faster the reaction time, the more accessible the attitude from memory, the stronger the level of emotional conviction. It is these fast/strong links that facilitate our unconscious business decision-making process. So, Reaction Time testing, when applied correctly, can help cut through the uncertainties of the present time.
Applying the power of behavioural science is also critical. We know that in an environment characterised by uncertainty, there will be key behavioural science heuristics impacting on decision making and research needs to take account of these, both in the way that we frame the questions we ask, the way we present propositions and ideas to be tested and the way that we analyse the resulting data.
For example, the framing of questions is particularly crucial as it will be important to ensure respondents are in the correct headspace to answer questions accurately. At a time like this, research into any previous behaviour or expected future behaviour will be incredibly difficult to conduct as current circumstances are top-of-mind and difficult to ignore. Questionnaires will need to be more thoroughly thought through to ensure that they are chunked and sequenced appropriately, enabling participants to give reliable and robust responses, as opposed to ones which are defined entirely by the current context.
The power of behavioural science.
In terms of communication with customers, we should consider leveraging Social Proof. At a time when both businesses and the individuals who run them will be looking to the government, competitors, and their customers for guidance on how to conduct themselves. Providing examples of this guidance assuring them that others are behaving in a certain way is likely to generate a positive response. Similarly, businesses are likely to be particularly sensitive to Loss Aversion at a time like this, where risks and their consequences feel extreme. Altering the language used, and the frames applied will have a profound impact on comms.
We use techniques from neuroscience and biometrics to test your comms to ensure that they are standing out, cutting through, and delivering the right messages. These techniques will help you understand the key visual or verbal cues which can either drive engagement and positive feeling towards your brand or unintentionally, cause your key audiences to withdraw and switch off.
But aside from all the techniques, keeping it human, engaging, and empathetic also matters! Behind the decisions on investment and staffing levels are ordinary people dealing with the stresses and strains of working from home, managing endless video meetings, and dealing with the kids being at home 24/7. Business decision-makers are human beings first and foremost and a human touch should be central to all B2B Surveys. Walnut Unlimited is the Human Understanding Agency and we believe that all business research needs to be as fun and engaging as it can be, providing a feel-good moment in days which can be long and stressful.