Market Research as a Key Driver of Success in B2B
In this interview, we sit down and have an incredibly thought-provoking and candid discussion with Stephan Sigaud (EVP of Marketing and Development, Phase 5) about the art and science of market research. During our conversation, Stephan explains how market research can enable organizations to make better decisions, drive the product development and innovation pipeline, and how challenging conventional wisdom during periods of adversity allows B2B firms to anticipate changes as well as identify opportunities.
Topics discussed in this episode:
- How market research enables B2B organizations to make informed decisions that impact their overall performance. It’s about optimizing customer value. [6:07/9:52]
- Some positive trends that Stephan noticed in the field of market research, on the respondent and client side. [13:26]
- Advice to clients who have seen their research budgets reduced or taken away from them [20:34] and the importance of reaching out to your customers now. [23:59]
- The conventional wisdoms that are hurting businesses right now. [26:56]
- Best career advice that Stephan has received. [31:21]
Resources & links mentioned in this episode:
- Stephan’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: +1-647-207-4468
- Phase 5
- Canadian Marketing Association (CMA)
- Customer Experience Professional Association (CXPA)
- Kantar TNS Canada
Christian Klepp, Stephan Sigaud
Christian Klepp 0:08
Hi, and welcome to the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp, and one of the founders of EINBLICK Consulting. Our goal is to share inspirational stories, tips, and insights from B2B marketers, digital entrepreneurs, and industry experts that will help you think differently succeed and scale your business.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host, Christian Klepp. And today, I would like to welcome someone onto the show that I met a while back at the Customer Experience Professionals Association, or CXPA event here in Toronto. And I’ve seen him many times and presenting and I’ve always admired his ability to question conventional wisdom and continuously improve, which I think is something that is paramount during these times of adversity. I apologize it was a very long introduction. But Stephan Sigaud, welcome to the show.
Stephan Sigaud 1:04
Thank you, Christian. And so I’m Stephan, thank you again for having me.
Christian Klepp 1:10
Okay, Stephan, so why don’t we just start by you telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Stephan Sigaud 1:15
I am the Head of Marketing and Development at Phase 5, which is a research company that does most of its work in the B2B space. I also volunteer with a couple of organizations, the Customer Experience Professionals Association, as you mentioned, and the Canadian Marketing Association, as well on their CX Council, their customer experience Council.
Christian Klepp 1:44
Well, that’s great stuff on and once again, thank you for sharing that and it’s really nice to reconnect after having attended so many in-person events, which I really hope we get to do some time soon so that I can see you again in person, but for the time being, I guess a meeting up through virtual means we’ll have to do. So, indeed and so on to the next question, Stephan. What are you currently working on that you’re very excited about or that gets you quite motivated during this period?
Stephan Sigaud 2:16
Well, thank you and speaking of B2B marketing and speaking of what we can’t do right now, though, one thing that I’m really excited about is the need but also the ability as we’ll get more creative to pivot the marketing for Phase 5 right far on business to business marketing research company, right. I had to adjust the strategy from doing a lot of in-person events to raise the profile of the firm and to do conferences for example, as a platform for sharing thought leadership and now getting to digital tactics right do to defend them. You’re going to virtual events, going to a lot more content marketing, and all kinds of other digital marketing techniques. And that’s to me, that’s exciting because it pushes us to be creative and it works. Right. People are on the receiving end; the audience is pivoting as well. So as long as we understand where they’re going, and we pivot with them, I think we’re in a good place.
Christian Klepp 3:30
Yeah, that’s such incredible insight, Stephan, and this is something that we’ve been hearing a lot lately. It seems to be one of these buzzwords that you hear on webinars about pivoting. But then again, you brought up such an interesting point about like companies and organizations needing to pivot as their customer’s pivot and I think we were both on this webinar where they were talking about reviewing a target personas and buyer’s journeys because those have probably been altered since the pandemic.
Stephan Sigaud 4:00
Absolutely, we talk a lot to clients about customer journey mapping. And our position is that, whatever journey map a company’s using today to deliver their product or service, whatever channel organization they have, and priorities among channels that, you know, be thrown away, because the touchpoints aren’t the same. The emotional overlay on the various touchpoints isn’t the same and so all that has to be rediscovered first, then to deliver accordingly.
Christian Klepp 4:37
Yes, exactly. That’s so true. I mean, because things have changed, not just as a result of the pandemic, but also we mustn’t forget that there is a recession and once we come out of all of this, and hopefully, this crisis subsides, things would be different and the organizations have to adjust accordingly.
Stephan Sigaud 5:00
Christian Klepp 5:02
Okay, Stephan, you have a very impressive track record when it comes to market research and which is also going to be the topic of discussion for today. You’ve built up a successful career at organizations like Kantar TNS Canada. And there you were the head of the CX practice for the Americas. And you were also the president of Harris Interactive and IDSI before that, and you’ve also built up a reputation as a specialist in B2B and you’ve helped clients to address these business challenges, as well as opportunities around customer-centricity.
So here come the questions. So talk to us about the following. The first one is to give us an example of how market research has enabled a B2B organization to make informed decisions that have in fact impacted their overall performance.
And the second question is to cite an example of how research enabled an organization to innovate and deliver a better customer experience.
Stephan Sigaud 6:03
Thank you, Christian. These are two great questions. I think, on the first one, there is a whole area of market research these days, which used to be analytics. It used to be in a different silo if you will. It’s come together we have, for example, at Phase 5, we have, a data science team on staff. And we’re able to leverage analytics on customer satisfaction data and company data, help our clients segment, their client base, their customer base, according to profitability and growth potential, right. And the result is instead of striving for the usual excellent customer service action or worse maximum customer satisfaction now we’ll come to that later but we help them optimize the delivery of their experience to their accounts with a priority scheme depending on that account’s profitability and growth potential. In other words, serve all your customers the same way, they deserve it. I know it’s counterintuitive and perhaps not very PC, but not all customers deserve the same service.
Christian Klepp 7:42
Stephan Sigaud 7:43
So that’s an example of how research can help make better decisions that have an impact on honestly financial performance. On your second question, which is how to help an organization innovate. More and more we see B2B organizations relying on customer insights to drive their product development and innovation pipeline, right. So for example, we’re working on a number of projects with B2B companies in the manufacturing space, but as well in service where we’re engaging in research early on to generate… the outcome of the research serves as input into the innovation loop. So figuring out what customers need, but very specifically using techniques such as jobs to be done or other innovation techniques to find out what those needs are that the innovation right the new product needs to deliver against. So in both cases, the first one has to do more with the experience. The second one more with the innovation. Those are the two what we call the two pillars of customer-centricity and find that by focusing and helping our clients focus on customer centricity and become more customer-centric. We can really have them compete better in the marketplace.
Christian Klepp 9:26
Those are great observations and insights and thank you again for sharing that. But the fun if I may, I’d like to circle back to something you mentioned in your answer to the first question, where you mentioned that not all customers deserve the same level of service. Could you expand on that a little bit further? Does that have something to do with the level of profitability or long term growth of the particular accounting question?
Stephan Sigaud 9:51
It does. And the idea here and I want to come back to what you said when you introduced me is, being a little bit of a contrarian right? You hear a lot out there about delivering the best experience possible to everybody. We think that while it’s admirable and if you were non-profit, if you’re a government at whatever level that’s absolutely true. You need to deliver the same great experience to all your citizens.
But if you’re a for-profit organization, the goal isn’t so much the satisfaction of your customers, that’s only a means to an end. The end is your growth as an organization, right? Profitable growth. And so what we found is that B2B organizations typically have a number of clients that are loss what we call loss-making clients, right? The account is not profitable. For a whole number of reasons. Those reasons are finding whether those accounts are redeemable and are actually able to be course-corrected, if you will, to make them become profitable again, that’s really important. And if they’re not, if after a vetting process you find more about them and their goals and needs, they might have to be essentially taken out, closed. On the other end of the spectrum, those accounts that have the growth potential that does not eat up all your resources or more than they deserve those accounts that are ready, willing, and able to remunerate your efforts properly. Those are worth more effort from your company to them in serving them better and delivering a better experience. Makes sense. We talk more and more about optimizing customer value as opposed to customer satisfaction.
Christian Klepp 12:08
Right. And those are really like, Thanks for clarifying that. And now that you’ve explained it further, that’s certainly not only makes sense, but it’s also like fair enough, right? It’s also a question of like, helping an organization to serve its clients in the best way, but at the same time, going through a kind of process of prioritization, because after all, every organization regardless of their size, it’s always a question of resources and bandwidth as well.
Stephan Sigaud 12:36
Absolutely. You got it.
Christian Klepp 12:38
Right. Okay. Great. So, Stephan, as we all know, and this has been the topic, almost since the beginning of the year, the current pandemic, and the recession. These two occurrences have disrupted economies around the world, and they’ve severely impacted every facet of our lives and the way that we work. And in spite of this adversity, however, there have been some positive developments. And I’d like to talk about that a little bit further because it’s quite easy to just slide into the negative aspect of what’s going on at the moment.
So what are some of the positive trends that you have spotted or that you’ve seen in the field of market research? And how do you think these changes have impacted B2B companies as well as small businesses?
Stephan Sigaud 13:26
That’s a great question. Because, indeed, there have been positive developments from a research standpoint, I’m the first one being that respondent participation in research right surveys, just other means, has actually increased. Our hypothesis is that, as people have been stuck at home, their world has changed. Right? One way or another beep their need to talk and to communicate with other humans has actually increased. It’s a way to relieve stress essentially, if a survey if a piece of research is properly presented, if it shows understanding and care, almost compassion, if you will, to the respondent, the propensity of that respondent to agree to participate will increase. We’ve seen that right. So that’s one factor on the respondent side of the business, which of course, is a huge resource to the research industry.
On the other side, which is on the client-side, we’ve seen increased demand for consumer and customer insights, whether you’re B2B pure or B2B2C. In the need for insights to inform strategy, as companies had to respond to the need to adjust, right, these companies, we’ve been talking about pivoting. And all these companies that have to pivot that had to accelerate their digital transformation, they have to find out more about their customer needs, right? If you all of a sudden, you have to shorten banking and you had to close your branches and deliver all the commercial banking services that you were delivering before to your business customers, digitally, well, you have to find out how they want it delivered, right with what level of security and, and so on and so forth. So many decisions had to be made, that was informed by research. So, all in all, there has been a positive impact, obviously, some research projects have been put on hold, some have been canceled, especially, in the consumer space. But overall, there’s been an increase as well in other areas. It’s not been all bad.
Christian Klepp 16:16
Right, exactly. Those are some great observations and interesting points that you’re brought up about research projects being put on hold or canceled, but we’ll get back to that one in a second. I’m curious to know, Stephan, this is probably something that you’ve heard as well, and I’d like to be interested in your take on it.
Do you feel that because of, or shall I say, as a result of a pandemic, do you feel that expectations among customers have gone up? And I’m not necessarily just talking about B2B? I mean, this could be applicable to B2C as well. What’s your take on that?
Stephan Sigaud 16:52
So it’s not so much and I don’t want to get technical, but it’s mostly that expectations have changed is that the level of emotional, let me call it an ‘emotional charge’ that people are on whether they’re a business owner or consumer. When it comes to interactions with their providers, any providers, that level of emotional charge has been up big time. Right? So if you think about our range, right, a band within which you could measure their emotional response to a transaction, it has been a lot wider now than they ever was. So if you satisfy them, with what you’re delivering to them or how you’re delivering it to them today, their positive emotions will be far greater and more positive than they used to be, which is the good news right? You’ll get their loyalty and commitment out of that. If, however, you’ve disappointed them while in the past, they might have forgiven you, and current state of affairs, we see many cases of customer attrition due to that. But companies that do not and have not responded properly, either into what or into how; have seen a lot of churns. And that’s not so much the expectations as it’s been the emotions involved.
Christian Klepp 18:40
Yes, you’re absolutely right. And that’s probably something that the emotional factor is not what every research necessarily takes into consideration the fact that sometimes left out, right.
Stephan Sigaud 18:54
Especially in B2B.
Christian Klepp 18:57
Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.
So, going back to what we were talking about in terms of resources or the lack of them, everybody ushered in the year 2020 with an annual plan or strategy. And many organizations have also probably set aside some budget and resources to conduct market research. And they were doing that until the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown and everybody was asked to work from home and so forth.
So given all of those things, and putting that into perspective what kind of advice have you been giving to clients who have from one day to the other have just seen their research budgets either reduced or taken away from them?
Stephan Sigaud 20:15
Thank you. That’s a great question. Christian, the situation that we’ve seen is that in a number of cases, research programs were at least put on hold or there were discussions about canceling them altogether. And what we’ve been telling clients is it’s like driving without a map. Only so far, you can go without getting into an accident. You can go for a little bit because you’re a member in a way. But as soon as you’re in unchartered territory, you’re probably going to run into trouble, right? Especially in this case, where we are getting into unchartered territory. We have customers asking us to do things that we didn’t do before, or things we did before, but not through the same channels. Right? And to us, research with those customers, right to find out how they want things through which channels, delivered how, when, for how much, pricing, and then so on and so forth. That’s the map, right? The insights that will give you the direction you need to monitor products properly, to communicate about your brand properly, to deliver experiences properly. With a higher level of precision than going out not knowing.
Christian Klepp 21:49
Stephan Sigaud 21:50
So that’s one thing.
The other thing that we’ve told them, and that’s more on the CX side of research. We talk to a lot of clients who said, it is not the time to survey. People are worried enough, let’s not ask them questions. So we totally agree with that. Right? Those customers of yours we know, they depend on you, right? The emotional need is still there. And so show them that you that you’re still listening to them. Ask them how they are doing, as opposed to asking them to tell you how are you are doing, right flip it around. But by all means, continue to reach out to them, give voice, maintain your listening post, and you out of it, you’ll continue to better understand how your customer base is evolving their evolving needs and expectations and emotions and perceptions, which is everything that goes into driving strategy properly.
Christian Klepp 22:55
Well, that’s some really great advice, Stephan and I think the one that really resonated with me was the one where you mentioned continuously reaching out to customers. And this is also something that I’ve been doing for the past couple of months. And I think the one thing that’s important to remember also is that it’s always about continuous relationship building, even if that doesn’t necessarily translate into, shall I say, an immediate transaction. And I think coming from my perspective, because I’m the branding guy. And there’s been a lot of talks also about that lately about companies or organizations saying, maybe now’s not the right time to do a branding exercise. And while I tend to agree that maybe now is not the right time for a brand to, relaunch. I think it’s still important for organizations to continue to be top of mind with their customers. It’s just going to have to be as you rightfully alluded to, it has just had to be in a different way, as compared to like, say last year or two years ago, circumstances have changed.
Stephan Sigaud 23:59
Absolutely, and genuinely caring for your customers, which hopefully, our listeners are.
Christian Klepp 24:08
Stephan Sigaud 24:09
And that you care. Right? There is there is never been anything wrong with showing someone you care about them whether you’re in a personal relationship or business relationship. And it’s really interesting. We’ve done a study recently, we’ve been to kind of measure the impact of, in this case, the banks up there, what their outreach or lack of outreach did to customer perceptions, found that there was a growing gap in terms of, experience scores, whether it’s the satisfaction or NPS or any one of those metrics between those banks that reached out to their customers proactively, and those that didn’t. Say for insurance companies, right, I don’t know if you have a car but insurance companies reached out to their auto customers and offered a rebate. Because when we couldn’t drive right to work couldn’t go anywhere. You’re in town. So you’re not driving. Some insurance companies took the initiative to reach out to their customers for their auto insurance business. And here’s a discount, right?
Christian Klepp 25:27
Stephan Sigaud 25:28
Some did it. Some waited for the customers. If I’m a customer and I hear about this discount that they’re getting from their insurers, and I’ve not received a letter from mine. How do you think I feel? It’s going to impact my loyalty.
Christian Klepp 25:49
Stephan Sigaud 25:50
The real impact is really interesting.
Christian Klepp 25:54
Yes. And to your point, Stephan, I mean, those companies that didn’t reach out to their customers I mean, we all know who they are. We don’t even have to mention their name. You just mentioned the industry and say, okay, so they didn’t do the right thing and reach out.
Stephan Sigaud 26:11
Christian Klepp 26:12
Exactly. Okay. So here we come to the next question, which is on speaking of challenging conventional wisdom, we’ve obviously, as you know, we’ve been discussing in the past couple of minutes seeing some trends, some practices, perhaps, which are currently either obsolete or just not really relevant to the current situation. So in your professional opinion, what are some of these best practices, this so-called conventional wisdom that we’ve come to just accept? Because that’s just the way we’ve been doing things for years. What are some of these best practices in B2B market research that are actually hurting businesses at the moment?
Stephan Sigaud 26:52
Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s a good follow-up. I’d say some of that wisdom… They’re not so much in market research as they are in a way upstream for market research and the influences that prevent market research to be done in the B2B space sometimes, which is… ‘I have a sales team, right? They know my customers; why do I need research?’
My salespeople know their clients, right? They golf with them all the time. They know their names, kids birthdays. Why would I ask them any questions? Well, that’s, you know, that’s not correct. And you need an objective way to ask people direct questions outside of that relationship, which is biased by whether you get the sale or not, whether you have the contract or not, and so on and so forth.
And by the way, part of it is part of that same conventional wisdom which is that B2B decisions are not influenced by emotions. That is a myth as well, right? If you are a CIO in a large enterprise-level company and you’re looking at different suppliers of whatever it is. You’re going to take into account that company’s reputation, you’re going to take into account that company’s executive teams sort of personality, you’re going to take into account their brand, and how that brand makes you feel. One thing you’re hearing right; this is all about emotions. This is not whether they’ve checked the box in your RSP and whether their price is better or worse than the other, of course, right? Those tangible effects have a huge role. But so do the emotions. And I think these are aspects that we as professionals have to educate the market about.
Christian Klepp 29:20
Yeah, those are some amazing observations, Stephan, and the one I completely agree with, it’s the one about the emotional aspect and how little airtime that gets in B2B marketing. Because it’s probably not as emotional or compulsive as say, like consumer-facing products or organizations. But there is a certain element of emotion involved in the process as well.
Stephan Sigaud 29:49
Yeah. And let’s just say that it’s the proportion is maybe smaller, but it is still there.
Christian Klepp 29:56
Right. Exactly. Moving on to another question, actually, I’m going to roll these two questions into one, just for the interest of time on the topic again of challenging conventional wisdom.
In your area of expertise, and that one being market research, what is one thing that you think people should start doing right now? And one thing that people should stop doing?
Stephan Sigaud 30:24
So when it comes to research, I guess, and I’m not trying to be facetious, but do not stop doing research and if you haven’t started before, start now. Start now doing on a regular basis find out. It’s a way to keep the finger on the pulse of your customers. It’s a way to help you anticipate their needs if those needs are going to change and for you to anticipate whether a new opportunity presents itself as opposed to guessing. Right?
It’s what research is all about. It’s taking the guessing out of decisions.
Christian Klepp 31:10
Absolutely, and pandemic or no pandemic recession or no recession.
Stephan Sigaud 31:14
Exactly. It’s enabling you to make decisions based on facts and data. It is.
Christian Klepp 31:21
Yes. Well, absolutely, totally agree with you. So, Stephan, what is the best piece of career advice that you’ve received? And how is that served you? Well, in your professional career.
Stephan Sigaud 31:38
I think the best piece of advice is, as it relates to, a career in research is that, don’t get into research if you’re not passionate about it. Man, that by the way, is the same advice that you should receive in any field.
Christian Klepp 31:59
In general, yeah.
Stephan Sigaud 32:02
And then know your strengths know what, not just your strengths, but also what you like doing. Be flexible and creative as to where to apply those. It might very well be that if you are in a data center, you have great analytical skills, but you’re interested in what that means. That might make you a great person for rolling research. And vice versa, right. So research notice silo, it is a place where people come in with a certain mindset with a certain skill set. But it’s just one of the places where you can leverage those. So it’s to me you’re not stuck in it, and not out of it if you’re currently in a separate space. So consider the flexibility of moving into it or moving out of it to further grow your personal ecosystem and your personal space.
Christian Klepp 33:14
Well, that’s such a great way of looking at it too. And to your point, I think I also had somebody tell me many, many years ago, when I was young, like, product manager, who also has to do a lot of research. That person’s piece of advice to me was, you might not see it right now, but try to see the story that the data is telling you and extract that story. And be able… and I think the art and the science if you will. To extract that those insights and create a story out of that you can tell to, and whoever that’s going to be the salespeople through the board of directors, I mean, we have to present to.
Stephan Sigaud 33:56
You’re absolutely right Christian. End of the day, the reason you do your engaging research is to influence decisions. So if you put a great piece of research in a difficult to understand format, whether it’s because it looks ugly, or messy or not well written, you’re not going to have the same impact. So take into account the storytelling. Think about as we do at Phase 5. Think about storyboarding, before you put a report together.
Again, always think about the audience first and how to best make sense to them and influence their minds. It’s a great way to wrap this up. Probably.
Christian Klepp 34:46
Yeah. And Stephan, thank you so much. This has been such an extremely insightful and fun session. And thank you for sharing your expertise and your experience with us. What’s the best way for people to connect with you?
Stephan Sigaud 35:01
Well, first of all, you’re very welcome, Christian, this was fun as well. For me, I hope the content was useful.
Christian Klepp 35:09
Stephan Sigaud 35:10
Anyone out there wants to connect with me directly. I am at email@example.com and otherwise (647) 207 4468 and I’d love to speak with anyone who’s interested.
Christian Klepp 35:27
Amazing. Stephan, once again, thanks so much for your time. This has been such a thought-provoking discussion. So be well, stay safe and talk to you soon.
Stephan Sigaud 35:37
You too. Bye now.
Christian Klepp 35:40
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here at EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.eliblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.