Finding market research data to answer your business questions is easier than you think. Irrespective of what market research methods, tools or techniques you’re using, these accessible B2B data sources will help you better understand and, ultimately reach, your B2B prospects.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many are readily available and quick to access. Some are downright staring you in the face. And many are free.
Use this Ultimate Accessible Checklist of B2B Market Research Data Sources.
Organized in a modern format these market research data sources considers; where data resides in organizations (of all sizes), and where you can learn in this digital world. (The traditional way of organizing market research by the type of data collected is included for reference.)
Remember “all is data”. There is learning hidden in many corners, some of which are in full view.
1. Your Internal Brains
This is one of the richest and most readily available sources of research data. It doesn’t require a budget; only time and the ability to ask.
Customer service, technical support and sales colleagues are familiar with customers questions, influencers and more. Each group has it owns nuance; none represent your typical customer persona. Technical support, for example, never talks to happy satisfied customers. So ensure you note the information source.
Ask each department/person where additional information is to be found. You may well discover previous projects, systems, and data repositories you never knew existed!
Who within your organization engages with customers and prospects?
=> Go and listen to them.
2. Digital Research Data Sources
With so much digital data available, this is a rich data source. While it may not answer exactly how many roads you need to walk down, people underestimate what questions can be answered by internal existing data sources and third party internet data.
This is a great shame as it’s typically faster and less expensive to use existing data sources.
a). Internal Research Data Sources
- Your Website Analytics
As the single most important sources of learning and research for marketing communications, this is where the rubber meets the road. It answers many questions including:
- how are people finding your website
- what do they do when they’re on-site
- which aspects of the website are most valuable
- how are your marketing campaigns performing
- and much, much more.
Data sources within web analytics include:
- Website analytics clickstream data: while there are others Google Analytics provides a rich source of trended data. It’s free and more than adequate for most website.
- Heatmaps are also useful for website with heavy usage
- Experimentation & Testing Data; such as A/B testing, and conversion rate optimization software ‘does what it says on the tin’.
- Technical Support & Help Desk Analytics help you learn what answers are most frequently sought
- Marketing Automation Tools; these integrate into your website provide a wealth of info, particularly for known prospects. (Make sure your cookies and GDPR are up to date).
- For SaaS offerings, review your in-product feedback options. At a minimum there should be a ‘feedback form’.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Very useful for helping you understand what the situation is with leads and existing customers. Strong teamwork with your sales folks is critical here.
- Finance, Sales and Order Tracking
- Other Business Intelligence Tools
- Department-specific IT tools and resources
- Marketing Automation Tools now often integrate with or are bundled together with a CRM tool.
With the proliferation of Software as a Services (SaaS) offers for all sorts of business challenges, you may well find data sources you never even knew existed already in use.
b). Third Party Market Data Sources
As with learning from your colleagues and team, using this market research data source doesn’t require a budget; only time, imagination, and smarts.
To help you explore the breadth, variety and quantity of searches real people are doing online, there are keywords, or rather keyphrase, planning tools. These are wonderful sources of secondary data for all stages of understanding and reaching customers.
If you choose only one, let it be Google AdWords Keyword Planner. I also love Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool.
Official Public Statistics
Almost every country has a central statistics office with excellent quantitative data that uses rigorous best practice in data gathering and analysis.
There are lots of sources of excellent governmental public data; in my experience this is the single most underutilized external source of market research information. It may not be exactly what you are looking for but is typically of the highest quality prepared by professional researchers.
Industry, Trade & Governmental Research Reports
Google “open data” <your domain/industry/knowledge-gap>. The search capabilities within these data sets is improving all the time.
Not only the public website but also financial, marketing, sales and support materials are easy to obtain and fast learning vehicle.
Product Analysis Pro Tip: read the user’s manual / help. What is well explained, quick and intuitive? What’s painful?
Tip: To search within a single site type use this ↓
- For example to search for “jane morgan” on the 3xe digital site type: site:3xedigital.com jane morgan .
Industry and Mainstream Publications, Magazines and Forums
What are the main stream publications in your market sector?
If you are not familar with these, go back to step one (internal brains) which will shed light on same. Wikipedia has a nice list professional and trade magazine by business sector.
Social Networks as Research Data Sources
Consider not only your own social media analytics but also the public social network research capabilities.
Facebook Audience Insights, is great for market size and LinkedIn Search for getting a handle on job descriptions and more. There is also Twitter Advanced Search, and a myriad of social media tools and third party research offerings.
Read reviews. You will often glean not just product feedback and customer perceptions of your company too. These may be editorial sites in your business sectors or sites dedicated to reviews.
For dedicated software sites you might choose to consider; the categories; the criteria for each area and; the score. Here’s a selection of B2B software review sites.
- https://www.g2.com claim “software and services for your business based on 1,434,000+ authentic, timely reviews from real users”
- https://www.capterra.ie/ who aim to support you to “search, compare, and choose the right software with confidence
Tip: Make sure to read competitors’ reviews also.
It has never been easier to do surveys online. Once you know what you’re looking for and who to ask, this wonderful approach puts numbers behind the ‘discovered’, qualitative market research.
Unfortunately it’s terribly common to ask poor questions and to generate piles of useless, i.e. inactionable, data. Online surveys typically come after you’ve analysed the internal, (existing) digital and in-person data sources.
Very brief open-ended online questionnaire may well make up some of your early data sources. Only undertake larger scale surveys once you know what to ask.
Tip: If the first method of learning suggested is “let’s do a survey” be very nervous. Remember, asking “why” five times, is your best friend.
4. In-Person Market Research Data Sources
Get up close and personal
With so much digital information available, don’t forget to get out into the real world and talk to people. It takes more time (and sometime a significant budget) to undertake this kind of learning. But it also provides an opportunity to answer your very specific questions filling in the knowledge gaps.
It’s the ultimate primary data source. “Voice of the customer” is critical in new product development and exploratory understand. Talking to people allows you to “optimize on the fly”; or in other words ask, “why is that?” There’s more on selecting customer selection in B2B market research here.
Be well prepared with a solid discussion guide, then adjust your questioning as the conversation meanders into unknown and innovative territory.
Methods to collect data from in-person data sources include:
Face to Face Product / Website Usability Testing
Here’s a bunch of free resources and guidance on face to face usability testing.
Interviewing Disappointed Customers
A scary one? Unpleasant conversions with customers can be a rich source of ideas. There’s nothing like “hearing it from the horse’s mouth” or “walking a mile in your customers’ shoes”.
Buckle up. You’re a big girl/boy now.
Tip: Bring a notebook in case you need to frown at the page during particularly difficult moments :-(.
Conferences / Events / Trade shows / Meetups
A quick way to get familar with new market segments is to choose a few conferences and ‘walk the show’.
Tip: Don’t discount local conference and free meetups for information gathering on who’s respected in the industry, common challenges and additional data sources. It’s also nice to make contacts.
Voice of the Customer Interviews
Perhaps one of the richest sources of qualitative data discovery is available from well structured ‘voice of the customer’ research.
With so many market data sources that are easy to use, free, accessible, and rich, what are you waiting for? There’s no substitute for understand customers and your market place. Collectively these B2B market research data sources provide a rich tapestry aiding your understanding of customers and your market place.
Traditional Market Research Types
The traditional method of talking about market research includes the four complementary options below. While useful, they mix sources of data with data collection methodologies. For businesses, I have found the list of market research data sources above provides a faster, more accessible start to data collection.
Primary & Secondary Research Defined
Primary research undertakes examining a specific question using dedicated resources. It aims to generate new answers to specific questions; questions that may be unique to your organization.
Secondary research takes advantage of available data sources applied to a new situation; typically you explore the secondary information first because it’s less expensive (or even free), and already available.
Qualitative Research Defined
Qualitative methods examine the why and how of decision making as well as the what, where, when, or who.” Wikipedia.
Results are similar to case studies; specific detailed examples which paint a vibrant picture. Typically qualitative research ‘explores’ the space, and comes before quantitative research.
In marketing and business qualitative answers questions such as:
- why did customers click on the blue button?
- how do customers use alternative solutions?
- what does the customer environment look like?
- what do prospects look for on our website?
- what alternative to our solution do prospects consider?
Quantitative Research Definition
Quantitative research attempts to valid theories using larger representative samples. It’s about counting ‘how many’. It enables generalizations about similar groupings.
Following qualitative ‘exploratory’ research, use quantitative research to firm up theories.
In marketing and business it answers questions such as:
- how big is this market segment?
- how many customers fit this description?
- how many customers use this feature?
- which ‘call to action’ results in more sales?