Industry Insights

7 Tips for Better B2B Screening Questions

7 Tips for Better B2B Screening Questions

An insider’s perspective from David Winter, UK Director, Internet Research Bureau

The Current Status

Screening questions are regarded by the research industry as the boring part of a questionnaire, a collection of hurdles to be jumped or failed by the respondent. Most researchers will typically copy and paste them from previous questionnaires once targeting criteria have been established… then give them little thought.


And why should they? Each screener is simply a stepping stone to the more important questions in the survey, a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ onto the next question or into the pile of failed respondents. In fact, screeners are so often looked at as poor relations that they are usually ignored when counting the number of questions in the survey. 


Moreover, to go beyond the formulaic approach is to invite the dual dangers of bias and jeopardizing consistency with past research into the same target group. 


My thoughts on the matter are informed by reading thousands of expert consumer and B2B questionnaire assessments. The experts in question were the respondents themselves who take online surveys. And because I come from the panel side of research, I see all too often what happens when screening goes wrong – delays with re-drafting, frustration, data quality issues, and ‘blame games’ between fieldwork providers and researchers. 


So, to avoid those kinds of problems, I’m offering up seven tips to improve your screening questions in the future… 


1. The Golden Rule

If you are going to tinker with screeners, avoid the opportunity for bias, and deploy a rigorously neutral tone.


Start by using standard approved categories and variables for job title, function, vertical, industry sector, company size, and so on. But also use variation to ‘hide’ the titles, sectors, functions, etc., screening in if they are quite specific and would otherwise stand out.  

When using non-hierarchical categories such as the industry sector, consider randomizing the options to avoid bias.  


2. Priming & Chunking

Sectioning sets of screening questions with headings can help to prime respondents. This works well with knowledge-assessment and behavioural screening questions, and narrative logic can be used to smooth natural transitions. Using headings or introductory priming tends to increase the thinking time taken on a question. 


Example: you have already established the subject’s role and decision-making capacity concerning xxx. “Now, we would like to you to consider your role with your company’s use of xxx” would provide a precursor to questions such as: “How often do you use yyy?” or “Which consultancy services have you considered when decided on zzz”. This ‘priming’ will produce more thoughtful answers than launching straight into the question. If used sparingly, this technique will produce better data, particularly when you want careful thought applied to answers.


3. Global Corporation Size 

Ensure you are capturing all representatives from a target group of companies which may naturally consider themselves separately. Ask first whether the respondent has offices outside their country to ensure that the global headcount is considered, then route accordingly.


4. Don’t Force Answers

There is nothing more frustrating for respondents than encountering a question they cannot honestly answer. Feedback from respondents bears this out. Early on this happens in the survey, the more your data quality will suffer. If you’ve ever taken a multiple-choice personality test and wished ‘None of the above’ was an option, you should sympathize. However, ‘None of the above’ or ‘If Other, please specify’ should only be used if the most likely options have been included. Also beware of ‘false alternatives,’ – forcing the respondent to select one option when two or more apply equally.


5. Avoid Huge Grid Questions…

… they only increase dropout and reduce your available sample pool.


6. Are You Sure You Don’t Want Them? 

Think about the class of excluded respondents. Some may have views that might inform the research. Think about technology products, for example. It’s not just CIOs and CTOs that need to be invited to participate in a study, what about IT Managers and Analysts, the ones who actually would use the product?


7. And Finally…

The screen test: always put yourself in the respondent’s shoes. Do the screeners flow? Are the options exhaustive and clear?

Screening questions are never the sexiest part of a B2B survey, but for good research, they must be well-thought-out and implemented properly. Good luck! 

Any comments welcome:

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Global B2B Research During the Pandemic


Global B2B Research During the Pandemic

An Interview with IRB's Ashutosh Singh

Conducting research across the globe comes with a variety of challenges and doing so among B2B professionals adds yet another layer of complexity. With a pandemic on top of that, the industry is being put to the test in ways we never imagined. So, why have some fared better than others? IRB President, Ashutosh “Ashu” Singh, answers these kinds of questions in an interview that also discusses the impact of COVID-19 on researchers and respondents, as well as, where we go from here.

Describe the impact thus far of COVID-19 on your business as an online panel vendor?

“There has been some slow down for sure. But the reality is that there are a limited number of quality panel companies in the B2B sample space, which helps us. So while there hasn’t been a lot of new research coming in from current clients beyond what’s already in the pipeline, we are seeing more new clients. I think the reason is two-fold. One, clients are moving their offline book of research online where they can. Also, more clients are shopping around to see if they may be able to cut expenses or find more value with a new partner.”

What have you observed globally in terms of market research?

“Our reach extends to over 20 countries and, of course, there are always differences by region. But what we’ve seen since COVID-19 was initially the volume of research was higher in North America as it lagged a bit in terms of the pandemic taking hold. In Europe and APAC, we’re starting to see some uplift now. What’s interesting is that in APAC most research has always been offline, in Europe about 50/50 and in North American, 85-90% is already online. So, for us as an online panel vendor, we’re not expecting to see much growth from North America, but this may be what finally pushes online ahead in other regions.”

How have response rates been impacted?

“Right now we’re seeing more people responding because they’re at home and simply don’t have as much to do. However, we’re also seeing more fraudulent behaviors, which is concerning. So we’ve been working hard on the logic; and ‘tricks’ so to speak, to get this under control. Beyond that, one issue is while there may be plenty of respondents, are there enough surveys to keep them engaged with research levels down in the near term? Interestingly, we increased our capacity at the beginning of the year before all this hit, and although may be incurring extra costs now it will be worth it to be ready when the bump comes. Preparation is everything.”

As a digital business, do you feel you were better prepared to navigate the impact of COVID-19?

“Being digital since the beginning has always been a core strength of ours in the B2B sample space. That said, yes it has also helped us during the pandemic. Serving our clients has been very smooth, as it always has been. I think that’s been very reassuring for them. As everything else has seemingly been turned upside down, it’s business as usual in terms of their research with IRB. Some extra coordination was required in terms of managing resources but being digital gives us great flexibility; so again overall it’s been very smooth.”

Have you seen any positives come from this crisis?

“It’s tough right now as everyone knows. We’re all trying to balance everything – cash flow, declining volume – while wondering how bad it will become or how long it will go. But, I think there’s always a positive side. When things start getting more normal again and business is back I think there will be more trust in research and people will see more value in it.  The world has changed and we’re still unsure of a lot of things, how this will play out, so research will be key to understanding what’s changed for customers in terms of needs, preferences and what will make them come back. And feel safe in doing so.”

Do you see any research trends ahead for some of the key industries most affected by COVID-19?

“I think the IT/technology sector will come out with strong research budgets. These companies will want to make the most of how their products/services have sort of pulled us through. We all want to be more prepared if we have to face something like this again so I believe they’ll invest in R&D to fill that gap. The travel-related industries will take longer because they’ve been impacted so much, but again they need to understand how to get customers back, the measures they need to take to help them feel safe and how to market to customers in this new reality. It will be different.”

Where does B2B market research go from here?

“People across the globe are becoming frustrated by not being able to connect with other people. It’s needed, but hard. So I think we’re really going to start understanding and appreciating the value of human interaction more. I talked before about how businesses are going to need to connect more with customers to get them back. So even though you may have data coming from everywhere with technology – 100 different behavior points from AI – you still need to supplement that by truly listening to what your decision maker has to say. In B2B, not every user is a decision maker, but at the same time there may be multiple decision makers and the right person or people may not be tracked by AI – you just don’t know. So I really see primary research coming back around for that reason.”

Internet Research Bureau is committed to helping businesses like yours in these challenging times. For more information, contact us today.

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How to Keep Your Market Research Running Smoothly During COVID-19

How to Keep Your Market Research Running Smoothly During COVID-19

While life as we know it seems to change minute by minute now, the business environment has proven to be just as fluid. Everyone is scrambling to ensure that measures are in place to keep employees healthy, and to keep business running as smoothly as possible. For most, that means moving business online where possible. But it’s not just to facilitate remote work, this may also be the way to keep your market research running too. Here’s why and how.

It May Become a Necessity
Everyone has been advised to employ social distance, but we’re seeing more and more local and state governments start to require sheltering at home to help slow the COVID-19 spread. This puts any type of face-to-face research at a halt, and phone center research, as well, for an undetermined amount of time. However, online research can still easily be conducted.

Pros of Online Research
Of course, online research has been around for years. Many businesses likely already use it to some extent, but we feel it’s well worth revisiting the advantages specifically as they apply to the challenges you’re facing now.

  • Versatility – Online research isn’t just quantitative, it’s well-suited for qualitative methods as well with tools such as online focus groups, in-depth interviews, video ethnography or online communities for example. And don’t forget mobile research!
  • Lower Cost – If every dollar mattered before, with the economic impact of COVID-19, every cent likely counts now. Moving research online can help with lower data collection costs when compared to phone and in-person surveys.
  • Less Time – As we’ve all had to take time to adjust to this new normal, your research deadlines may now be pressed. Online surveys are quicker to implement and data can be received in real time which can help you get back on track.
  • Comfort – Many people are uncomfortable talking in front of others when discussing certain subjects like personal finances, health and sexuality. However, in an ‘anonymous’ online environment, all of those apprehensions go away.
  • Access – Not only can online research reach anywhere, it’s more convenient by giving you access without having to sort out all the restrictions that may come with other types of research right now. Plus, with everyone at home, you may find response rates up as people try to take their minds off COVID-19.

A Partner to Help You

Regardless of the pros, we understand you may not know where to start, or how to ensure a smooth transition to online research. As an experienced online research panel company, we can help.  We’ve always been 100% digital and are equipped with the technology and methods to make sure there’s no functional or operational disruption of your research. What’s more, we also offer support services such as survey programming, hosting and data collection with a team of experts here to guide you throughout the process.

We are committed to helping businesses like yours in these challenging times. For more information, contact IRB today.

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How Fast & Cheap B2B Sample Can End Up Costing You More!

How Fast & Cheap B2B Sample Can End Up Costing You More!

In the research world, price and timing pressures from clients have become the norm and as you look at where to cut, the sample may seem a tempting choice. But, we’ve all heard the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ and, particularly with B2B sample, that’s true. Don’t make the mistake that price and speed are the only differentiators between B2B panel vendors; there’s also quality. Here’s how the lack of it could end up costing you much more when the results come in.

Rushed Recruiting
B2B respondents are notoriously hard to reach and often your clients are looking for niche markets complicating things even further. This equals time you don’t have right? You might think the solution is river sampling but let’s look at what that involves.

River sampling is a method that drives potential respondents to an online portal through ads and pop-ups on websites or social media where they are screened for studies in real-time. Qualified respondents are then randomly assigned to a survey.

What’s missing? Often the right respondents, if you’re relying on river sampling alone, as it offers only a minimum of demographic information. Think about the nuances between developers, for example. Are you trying to reach corporate developers or developers for startups? Are they building SaaS apps or software? The list could go on. An established B2B panel vendor that reaches across categories and sectors can offer robust panelist profiles that help you accurately define and drill down to find respondents with the expertise to truly give you the insight you need in a way the river can’t.

Respondent Verification
Once you’ve recruited your sample, how do you know they are who they say they are? For example, we use social media verification and ongoing re-profiling. Besides, panel vendors should follow industry guidelines such as ESOMAR 28, as well as privacy guidelines in the countries where panelists are being recruited. Admittedly, this requires time and investment.

If you’re considering B2B sample that is much faster to attain and much cheaper than the rest; ask yourself “why?” Are they cutting corners in some of these areas? Those of us in the research industry know-how rampant dishonest behaviour can be amongst respondents. The fast, cheap trade-off may not be worth it if you can’t be completely confident in the data and able to justify it if needed.

Engaged Respondents
Nurtured and well-maintained B2B panels go to great lengths to keep panelists engaged because we know how valuable they are! Respondents who agree to participate in surveys on the fly or who are in panels that are not well maintained could simply be in it for the incentive, resulting in speeding through surveys, poor-quality responses and/or attempting to take a survey multiple times.

Realistically, respondents in nurtured panels may try this too, but the difference here is that there are monitoring mechanisms in place to identify and screen them out, and because quality is paramount, there’s time built-in to the process to do so.

Think of it this way, your sample is the foundation upon which your B2B research is built. Being able to trust in the respondents enables trust in the responses. Without that, fast and cheap samples can cost you much more than a project re-do; it can cost you credibility and ultimately your client. For more information on our proprietary B2B research panel, contact IRB today!

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B2B Research Panels: Don’t Let Size Fool You

B2B Research Panels: Don’t Let Size Fool You

Research panel vendors may shout from the rooftops the size of their panel with some very impressive numbers. But ask them how many of those panelists are active or how they’re screened, and the silence may be deafening. The reason is that, quite honestly, it can be much harder to nurture panelists and keep them engaged than to recruit them in the first place. This is particularly true with busy executives in B2B panels. So, does panel size matter? Yes, but not as much as quality. Here’s why.

Research Panelists Defined
Let’s start at the beginning: what is a research panelist? It’s not someone who’s simply on your email list or who’s been asked to participate in one particular survey. A research panelist is a person who has signed up specifically to participate in research projects. They have also been asked to provide demographic and psychographic information to make it easier for the panel vendor to identify the right people for their clients’ projects. In a B2B panel, for example, the panelist might provide title, industry, company size, location, level of experience and areas of expertise, however, profiles are typically much more extensive.

Quality Counts

Realistically a panel vendor could source panelists through unethical methods such as unsolicited or spam techniques to boost their counts. Or, perhaps the vendor offers really great incentives to sign up and it’s the panelists who are unethical in that they are signing up to cash in; never intending to actively participate. Either way, you have to look behind the panel size to determine whether it will truly be valuable for your research needs.

Beyond whether the panelists are active, you also have to make sure they are who they say they are; another dirty trick unscrupulous panelists use. The reasons for this may vary, but the fact remains that if panelists aren’t who they claim to be they are of no value to the panel, and definitely not to your research.

Key Measures for Quality

Vendors of quality B2B research panels should have a multi-step, scientifically rigorous and repeatable process for recruiting, engaging and nurturing panelists as well as eliminating them if they fail quality standards. We utilize technology for seamless quality control with proprietary tools for recruitment, engagement, and real-time verification. We have also automated our re-profiling techniques.

But at a minimum, panel vendors should follow industry guidelines such as ESOMAR, as well as privacy guidelines in the countries where panelists are being recruited. Techniques to authenticate panelists should include social media verification and ongoing re-profiling in addition to identifying and screening out panelists who rush through surveys, provide poor-quality responses or attempt to take a survey multiple times.

To keep panelists engaged, your vendor should have outreach programs in place to suggest surveys for them, an online community where they can easily see available surveys and an incentive program in which they earn rewards for participation.

Give Size Some Weight

Because of the specialized nature of B2B research, it can be difficult to find enough respondents of a particular title, industry, size of the company, a certain number of years’ experience, etc. for a statistically significant sample. That’s why, when considering B2B panels vendors, it’s important that they have the ability to target a large range of sectors and categories as well as markets, even internationally if necessary. For example, our proprietary panel can reach B2B professionals in 20+countries. What’s more, it can be helpful if they recruit for both qualitative and quantitative research. We believe the ability to give our clients these deep qualitative insights offer tremendous value.

For B2B research insights, you can act on, don’t let the size fool you! It’s the quality of the panel and the depth of your panel vendor’s capabilities that truly matter.
To learn more about our capabilities and the proprietary technology we use to maintain our panel quality, contact IRB at 011 4078 9940 today!

To learn more about B2B Panels, download our newest Tip Sheet. Click Here

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Key Market Research Trends to Watch Out For, In 2019

Key Market Research Trends to Watch Out For, In 2019

The previous year saw crucial technological advancements shaping Market Research. Before we get into the detail, remember none of us can predict with 100% certainty. However going by the experience and past, some of the obvious anticipated trends in Market Research have been laid out sequentially. 

Blockchain Set to Revolutionize MR Space Since Blockchain provides companies with an incorruptible register of all transactions between parties, its information is available for public and is easily identifiable and verifiable. It is opening new avenues for market researchers who may find means to deploy it for the benefit of clients. From offering the provision to track past performance, and a series of information related to a specific domain, it is natural that more and more companies will find it a time-saving and research optimizing exercise to invest in Blockchain empowered market research. It will play a crucial role especially for small businesses and start-ups where the stakes are high. It is also supposed to push the risk-taking appetite of the startups and entrepreneurs to the lower side. According to Ian Roberts, the Director of Sales, Internet Research Bureau, UK it is going to help with optimized handling of multiple data sources. Further refinement of Machine Language This year automation into software programming of research companies will go full swing. Compilation of data related to standardized coding applies to cross-category filtration, programming to eliminate redundant data, etc. will be required. It will pave the way for more emphasis on machine language learning. Artificial Intelligence The effort is already focusing on improving digital marketing parameters which provide us glimpses of its potential. The interpretation of CPM (cost per million impressions) by content sharing websites adopted by digital marketers could be considered as one such example. Where clicking on a suggested search phrase or watching ads shown without closing them during certain seconds are counted as impressions. Intuitive smiley based response capturing through kiosks placed at key locations inside a mall, or supermarket, are some of the practices to register customer’s feedback. This is going to expand further to track movement and emotions. Companies are already working on identifying various human emotions. So far there are six basic emotions identified. This will provide a new space of engaging customers for companies as it will not just capture the written or the keyed-in response, it will also match their expression with this, and it may alert the researcher in cases where these do not match. B2B research is going to get costlier Considering the amount that is invested in the entire B2B exercise; availability of business professionals, lack of time and the toil involved, costs are going to add up. However, when compared with on-site visits and other uncertainties associated with physical screening, the effort put into online capturing of responses from B2B professionals will still be more economical. Experts also claimed that in the wake of increased security concerns and quality of information one could expect online in a limited time frame, it would be worth the investment. Redefining Networking It is not just about person to person networking, but peer to peer computer networking. Big data houses which will shake hands, even researchers from different domains will be required to network and exchange insights. It will be important not just to benefit their customers but also their own selves. As the outcome of each research project is going to play an important role in decision-making, networking of researchers coming forward to exchange cross-industry insights is going to be crucial. We are likely to see the growth of not just the researchers open to networking, even the research seekers, the companies, and decision makers are likely to explore meaningful networking more often in order to optimize and get the maximum out of market research. Confident look at the margin of error More and more efforts are being made to increase accuracy. However, getting to that perfect state is going to be next to impossible. It is like Einstein’s formula of E=mc2. Technically, energy can be equated to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. It means that even the miniscule amount of mass can contain mammoth energy reservoir or that any particle acquiring some mass can never achieve the speed of light. The same analogy may apply to research. We can get closer to the perfect prediction, but this will always remain elusive. Market Researchers will have to take into consideration the margin of errors and what margin is acceptable. Expansion of MR Core Team We are also going to see the entry of psychologists, educators, and social behavior facilitators to market research teams. They are going not just to bring deeper insight into buyers’ and consumers’ psychology, but also to help in decoding the respondent’s insight. Their inclusion is going to be a welcome addition for researchers as with professional respondents, identification of the relevant panelists, and extracting of relevant information is going to be more challenging. Hence this need! More focus on data relevance Instead of a faster turnaround of responses and fieldwork, more focus will be on the relevance of outcome. Research companies which focus more on due diligence, end-to-end project management, and working on a more meaningful and informative presentation of information are going to be in demand in the future. Coexistence of AI and Human Intervention/Analysis Complete reliance on AI could be catastrophic. In spite of proven benefits in automation and streamlining of processes, there are limitations which require human intervention. If that were not the case, we would have witnessed huge success of Google’s most disliked video, Rewind 2018 otherwise! It will take some time when AI can interpret nuances of speech, facial expressions and think of interpreting the responses of people with a dominant right brain. Till that time, a fine balance between humans and AI will be desirable.

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