Cheap B2B Sample? Um…That’s Expensive Consumer Sample in Disguise.

By Lisa Wilding-Brown

New Blog Series: Truth Bombs in Research

A behind-the-scenes discussion on some of the sample industry’s best kept secrets. Join Innovate’s Chief Research Officer, Lisa Wilding-Brown as she exposes some of the industry’s unspoken truths.

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In our new blog series, ‘Truth Bombs in Research’ I will be discussing some of the not-so-savory truisms of the sample industry. As a research veteran, I’ve grown tired of the lack of transparency, disregard for the participant experience and indifference to sample quality. All these factors have contributed to a heightened element of cutthroat competition. Ultimately, basement pricing and CPI compression have ensued.

Recently, I was chatting with a long-time market research client who told me our pricing for B2B sample was too expensive. “I can buy an ITDM (IT Decision-Maker) for 2/3 of what you are charging me” she said.

My response: “How?” 

The sample space has become a highly commoditized segment of the research industry and our instinct is to drop the price when our clients push back. In fact, many of my competitors do just that. Unfortunately, this is not a viable long-term option, and it doesn’t produce honest behaviors (from the participant or the sample firm). As a buyer, you are making trade-offs that will have a negative impact on your study, not to mention the participant universe.

Which brings me back to my question to our same long-term client: “how?” How are they getting ITDMs for 2/3 our price?

You aren’t really buying B2B sample “at competitive prices.” You’re buying consumer sample cloaked as B2B sample. 

So, the question remains, are you really buying B2B professionals or are you engaging with professional survey participants disguised as ITDMs, C-level executives or small business owners?

Here comes the truth bomb.

I don’t know any B2B professional willing to take a survey for $2, even $5. These are not B2B professionals, but rather consumers who will do whatever it takes to qualify. Some survey participants are beyond frustrated by our industry’s tactics. They have zero loyalty or obligation to provide thoughtful and honest answers. Instead, they are over-endorsers who will do what it takes to get into your B2B survey. I’m not talking about the entire participant universe (there are some good eggs out there), but you have to tread lightly friends.

Further, global cyber-fraud is at an all-time high with Forbes predicting it to cost over 2.9 Trillion by 2019.  B2B surveys are often the target for fraudsters who see these types of studies as an easy target to reap a high relative payoff for their misdeeds. It’s dangerous out there. 

5 Questions to Ask Your Sample Provider

So how do you stop this from happening? How do you protect the integrity of your survey data? Here are some questions to ask your sample provider that can help you see through the proverbial B2B curtain:

How is your B2B audience vetted and recruited and what specific online sources are used for recruitment? 

Context: truly valid B2B panelists are sourced from websites/lists that have been shown to have a concentration in real business professionals such as financial-related content sites, business-oriented loyalty programs, and business-focused news sites. Procuring panelists from more general sites produces a wide funnel whereby non-business professionals join panels and disguise themselves as business experts.

What information is collected among your B2B audience?

Context: Ask to see the B2B-oriented questions used to profile panelists (firmographics). Is this screening done at registration, throughout a panelist’s lifetime, or via a pre-screener (on-the-fly prior to survey entry)?  Thorough vetting should be conducted at registration and throughout a panelist’s tenure. Waiting to screen until the last minute before being delivered to your survey is a recipe for disaster and will result in false positives. Further, ask to see the specific questions used to ensure these are not leading in nature and there are mechanisms in place to terminate over-endorsers. B2B specific red-herring questions are a great way to test authenticity and business expertise.

How is your B2B audience incentivized?

Context: Gain an understanding of how panelists are motivated. What is the average incentive offered?  How are incentives provided and at what frequency?  Are participants rewarded when they don’t qualify? Essentially, these questions can help you understand if there are conditioning behaviors being generated to help maximize margin on the sample sale. To offset learning effects, panelists should be rewarded properly, consistently and terminating experiences should be managed suitably to avoid dishonesty and attrition.

What is the frequency of contact for your B2B audience? How is your B2B sample frame balanced?

Context: Gain an understanding of how often panelists are participating. Does this frequency seem reasonable or overenthusiastic in nature? As a business professional yourself, call into question the likelihood of someone participating more than 1-2X/week. A high survey cadence can produce respondent fatigue as well as produce over-zealous behaviors.

What mechanisms are in place to mitigate poor quality?

Context: Your provider should have several layers in place to prevent a wide spectrum of negative behaviors such as blatant cyber-fraud (scripted bots, click farms, hackers), as well as other undesirable behaviors (i.e., dishonesty, lack of expertise, over-endorsement).

B2B Research Done Right

B2B Research can be an arduous road with many pitfalls and threats along the way. If you are finding exceptionally cheap and cheerful sources of B2B sample, you are probably overpaying for consumer sample. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Get specific, be relentless and leave your naiveté at the door. Recruiting real B2B professionals is an investment and as such, sourcing this audience for your survey requires an investment on your end too.  As I’ve said before, buying high quality B2B participants isn’t expensive, it’s simply priceless!

Are you interested in learning more about Innovate’s B2B recruitment and panel management expertise? Check out our resource library here.  Or, better yet, email us today to schedule a discussion with Innovate’s Chief Research Officer and resident panel expert, Lisa Wilding-Brown at: lisa@innovatemr.com.