Well, spoiler alert here – business to business market research is almost identical to B2C or any of the other various paths for marketing and targeting. The biggest difference between it and others is going to be about the demeanor, content and mediums over which you do outreach after doing this research.
Other than an additional place to capture research (one with a lot of nuisance but also a lot of payoff), it’s practically all the same in modern times. This didn’t used to be the case, but at the same time, market research was a thinly veiled crapshoot all in all at that time.
Internet has made things like business to business market research much easier, liberating you from as much need for expensive focus groups, annoying surveys and polls and the like. It also expands the range of outreach to people all over the world, who speak languages you can use.
The Big Difference:
First, let’s cover the market research channel that’s far more present for B2B, but not as much for B2C. That’s the trade show and conference. As vendors and prospective customer companies and other people whose business you want come to your booth, you can capture information on what does and doesn’t appeal to them, and in a moderately casual atmosphere, get honest feedback.
This is soft data, but it’s very high impact soft data.
The Skeleton Key:
The skeleton key of marketing research for everyone, now, is BI software like what Force.com, Netsuite and to a limited degree, Zoho offer. This software can track search engine trends and keywords, mentions of your company websites and social networks, and search analytics etc.
With this, you can see how you are regarded by your customers, both for B2B and B2C, find out what leading opinion holders are saying, and just get a general view of your strengths and weaknesses and your image to the public.
With this view, you can strategize how to better appeal to your customers, or continue to successfully appeal to them by reinforcing or correcting things that you spot.
You never truly see yourself until you see yourself through someone else’s eyes, as the old proverb goes.
What of Polling:
Polling is a waste of time for most cases, but especially in the case of B2B. It’s hard to poll a company’s opinion on you, as you’ll always get either the consensus of a small group, or a representative.
While a company is a living organism, binary answers which surveys and focus groups require, are hard to divine.
There is one other channel to focus on, and that’s the data you get from customer success, which is the B2B equivalent of customer service. Yes, I think it’s silly for the name to be different and be “success” of all things too.
Ultimately, there’s really not much difference in business to business market research compared to the B2C equivalents. The internet has, again, made this much easier, but in doing so, it’s also made the distinctions between types of marketing mostly moot here. Notice the only key differences are the ones not facilitated by the internet.