A Practitioner’s Guide to Conducting Global B2B Market Research

As businesses become more global and companies expand beyond their local markets, they’re naturally eager to understand global buyer perspectives. But navigating the global B2B market research landscape can be difficult if you don’t know which pitfalls to avoid. Here are some key considerations to help you yield more insightful results and maximize your investment.

It Costs More to Find Needles in Overseas Haystacks

International research typically costs more than in the United States. For example, we once told a client that reaching their B2B target in Russia would be difficult. They responded, “But Russia is so BIG!” Well, yes, but at that time internet access there was sporadic, so our usual recruitment methods wouldn’t work there.

Some other issues affecting costs relative to the U.S.:
  • It may be harder to find certain specific segments of your audience (e.g., there may be fewer companies of your target size in your sector).
  • In some areas like Eastern Europe or Latin America, willingness to participate in research is low.
  • Survey translation or localization may be needed.
  • Telephone recruitment may be the only viable option in some markets (e.g., APAC).

DO: Set realistic expectations for a more complex process (including more time and budget) outside the U.S.

DON’T: Assume that you can reach your international target audience online. In some markets, you will have to rely on telephone intercepts.

  1. Speak as You Would Be Spoken to (Localization is a Must)

Market research questionnaires are crafted to be succinct, clear and readable by everyone. Assume that you will need translation or localization services to create a seamless respondent experience.

DO: Find a partner that specializes in either native language expertise or translations for market research to avoid stylistic embellishments and flourishes, which can obscure the intention of the questions.

DON’T: Be tempted to use in-house partners or try to use work arounds to save money (hello Google Translate). There is no substitute for professional translations.

  1. Time is Relative

Different cultures have different cadences for work, so the time it takes to field your U.S. survey is not necessarily a good indicator for other markets.

DO: Seek guidance from a research partner on a realistic timeline. Then set that expectation with all key stakeholders.

DON’T: Try to push through an artificial timeline to keep to a project management schedule. A good research partner will return any saved time in field in the event of an overestimation.

  1. Context is Critical

Keep in mind that cultural differences may influence your survey results. For example, some markets tend to rate everything as “critical” or “excellent” out of a desire to be polite.

The solution: Ask respondents to prioritize the items that are most important to them rather than rate them. Try using 100-point allocation questions, which are culturally agnostic and inherently create tradeoffs between items.

DO: Write your survey questions with cultural differences in mind. If you don’t have the ability to alter question types, use caution when directly comparing results across markets.

DON’T: Rely on one question type throughout the entire survey. Sometimes you need to approach a topic several different ways to uncover the truth.

You need a market research partner with global B2B expertise to help you navigate this complex landscape. IDG delivers the right buyers at scale exactly when they are most receptive to a marketer’s message—wherever they may be in the world. Contact us today to get started.


Written by Aran Bride and Jen Garofalo

Aran Bride (Director of Research Intelligence) and Jen Garofalo (Research Director) help lead the IDG Strategic Marketing Services research team. They are responsible for identifying and designing new research program offerings to drive deeper customer engagement.

Connect with Aran on LinkedIn | Connect with Jen on LinkedIn


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