Qualitative research is the study of people’s direct experiences. Most researchers are used to saying that within qualitative research things are going to be “natural” when the interviewee is speaking, and the interviewer listens and keeps records.

This research tool is extremely popular in the business-to-business (B2B) market, as it can reveal the thoughts of managers, business owners, and directors. Qualitative research can show the reasons behind decision-making and express ways of thinking.

Decision-Making Processes Tend to Be More Ambiguous in B2B

Most business executives base their decisions on their vast experience, analytics, and professional expertise. Hence, besides the immediate decision to buy or sell something, your partners and competitors do a lot of work internal to their businesses.

The behaviour and reasoning of decision-makers are hard to investigate with quantitative tools, as they usually provide prepared answer options. Quantitative research is suitable to gather information from a wide target audience with a large number of respondents.

When we are talking about B2B research, it is obvious that there aren’t too many B2B respondents. That is why qualitative research is more valuable in this particular case. Open questions, that are qualitative in nature, allow for collecting deep reflection and insights regarding specific topics.

There is More Complexity in B2B Markets

As a rule, B2B markets are more complicated than B2C (business-to-consumer) markets. B2B products and services are complex and structured, they involve multiple decision-makers with different backgrounds, skills, and knowledge.

Therefore, B2B research isn’t focused on a large number of customers with similar features, but on small groups of people with relatively diverse characteristics. For example, you may interview different departments within one organization: the marketing department, financial department, product development department, supply department, and communication department.

Detailed and well-prepared B2B research may reveal in-depth information about market performance, product features, or business decisions. However, if you feel like the research questions you’ve prepared didn’t bring desirable data, you would have to tune them immediately during the research process.

It’s Common for B2B Decision-Makers to Do Things Their Way

To sum it up, B2B research uses qualitative methods, usually in the form of focus groups or face-to-face interviews. Quantitative methods would rather be ineffective as they can’t reveal executives’ and managers’ thinking by asking them closed-ended questions.

Qualitative research within B2B research is efficient as it allows respondents to use their own words, which are directly related to their experience and expertise. The latter can create value, so it may be quite pricey. Remember, the higher the skills level of respondents, the higher the cost of research.