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Using market research In B2B SaaS to scale

07 Jul 2022
B2B SaaS development team holding an informal meeting

According to research from Gartner, worldwide end-user spending on software-as-a-service (SaaS) will reach $176.6 billion in 2022 and grow by another 18% next year to $208.1 billion. B2B SaaS makes up a significant part of this market: BMC states that 99% of organisations now use one or more SaaS solutions and BetterCloud’s annual survey of IT and security professionals found that the average organisation now uses 110 SaaS apps, up from 80 apps last year.

In a rapidly expanding but increasingly crowded market like B2B SaaS, market research is critical for suppliers that want to scale. The faster your company can determine which potential customers to target and identify the best features your team can build for them, the more likely you are to find your product-market fit and the better your chances of outflanking your competition.
So how do you conduct your research in SaaS? When should you start? Do you know what questions to ask?

What is market research?

Market research involves gathering information about your target market: behaviours, preferences, and motivations. Armed with this information you can identify growth opportunities and make better decisions about which customers to target, how to get their attention and what to offer them.
Before you begin to conduct market research, you should have a good understanding of what needs or problems your B2B software is trying to address, and what types of business will benefit the most from using it. For example, you supply accounting software that’s easy to use, aimed at small businesses who don’t employ anyone with an accounting background, or you make integrated talent management software that helps large organisations streamline their recruitment and appraisal processes. Your research might uncover other opportunities: perhaps larger organisations also need easy-to-use accounting software for departmental accounting, or perhaps there are opportunities to sell recruitment and appraisal packages separately. However, being able to articulate your current value proposition and target market segments clearly will help you focus your market research to gain the maximum possible insight from your programme.
These are some of the questions that market research can help you answer:
What are your prospective customers using instead of your software?
What pain points or inefficiencies are they experiencing as a result of not having your software and what value do they place on a solution?
What types of people are budget holders, buyers and influencers for your software and what do they care about most?
What messaging is most likely to resonate with prospective buyers?

How B2B SaaS teams use market research

Different teams within your business can use market research in a variety of ways enabling them to unlock insights that help your business achieve goals, and create great experiences for customers.

How B2B product management teams use market research

Product roadmaps
Using market research in the product development/product management process enables you to reduce wasted resources and improve your product feature sets for specific niches.

Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) is an effective approach for large-scale, structured interviews with B2B profiles who are typically under-represented in online survey panels. CATI is also a good method if you need answers to open-ended questions (people generally feel obliged to give a longer, more thoughtful response to these questions if they are speaking to another person instead of typing their answers into a computer). For product teams these insights can help you prioritise product roadmaps.
Read More About CATI
Client requirements gathering
Gathering client requirements enables your product teams to build products that customers actually want rather than building products that you think they want. Keeping clients involved in this process helps them feel valued and reduces the likelihood of churn.

Focus Groups allow participants to combine experiences and perspectives to explore ideas in depth. Commonly used during creative and conceptual development, they help you understand your customers’ needs, perceptions, and beliefs.

In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) where a moderator interviews a single respondent, can be crucial for accessing busy managers, understanding precisely how they use your software and pinpointing areas for improvement.
User experience / UI design
A good software design process should create experiences that flow seamlessly and ease customer pain points. The best way to do is to iterate your software based on feedback from end users.

UX (User Experience) Testing is a qualitative research methodology which involves directly observing and interviewing a participant using a product or service. It is widely used for testing apps and web-based software.
Read More About UX Testing

How B2B strategy and leadership teams use market research

B2B leadership and strategy teams use market research to understand the challenges that their clients face with the aim of staying ahead of the competition, ensuring the product roadmap is in line with business objectives, capitalising on new opportunities (artificial intelligence, geographic expansion or acquisitions), or keeping the business relevant in the face of adversity (Brexit, COVID, inflation).
In-depth interviews with B2B profiles
IDIs with B2B profiles, particularly those in senior positions, can help you understand the wider challenges that your customers are facing and assist with the difficult task of understanding how your market may evolve over time.
Read More About In-Depth Interviews
Customer advisory boards
(CAB) Customer Advisory Boards are groups of customers who share product feedback on a regular basis and give advice on the product roadmap. Involving key customers in this way makes them feel valued and can turn them into product champions. Having direct contact with a few customers is also very useful when you need to collect informal feedback as quickly as possible.

How B2B SaaS marketing teams use market research

Marketing teams use market research to understand your audience’s mindset and how they feel about your product or service. This helps them develop brand and product messaging that is on point and test it out with potential customers, ensuring that there is a big enough hook to convince influencers, decision-makers and budget holders to sign up for your software.
Focus groups
Focus groups enable you to test proposed marketing messages with buyers, budget holders and champions to see how they resonate with different stakeholders and build consensus around which messages to use with a wider audience.
Read More About Focus Groups
Online bulletin boards (OBBs)
Online bulletin boards (OBBs) are an alternative to focus groups in situations where it would be difficult to assemble a group of customers or potential customers at one time (e.g. because they are in different time zones). With an OBB, participants can log in to complete research tasks or reply to questions asked by a moderator at a time that is convenient for them and at their own pace.
Read More About OBB

What are the most common types of B2B SaaS market research?

Market research in B2B SaaS can be broken down into several different categories, each with specific benefits:
Predictive research focuses on forecasting how successful a new software will be with existing customers and the wider industry. This helps you to differentiate your offerings from competitors and gives you an edge in identifying new areas for innovation.
Diagnostic research helps you understand how potential buyers perceive your software and why some of them end up buying from competitors. This is information that you can use to refine your product offering and marketing messages.
Descriptive research identifies your target audience’s demographics, psychographics, and behavioural patterns. It helps you determine which attributes are most important to them when using your software.
Exploratory research aims to gain a broad understanding of the market and potential customers, enabling you to keep on top with current trends and potential customer needs.

Why should your SaaS business invest in market research?

Market research is about understanding your customers and using that information to inform decision-making. In B2B software, it’s common for companies to prematurely scale their sales and marketing efforts without first understanding their target customers and how they interact with the product. As a result, they waste money on ineffective marketing channels (like cold emails and ads), or even worse, they choose not to invest in marketing because they don’t know what works! Market research helps you answer these questions:
Who are my target customers?
How do I reach them?
What do they care about?
What pain points are they experiencing?
This market research also allows you to evaluate where your competitors fit into this picture. Consider performing a SWOT analysis to understand who your competitors are, and how they position themselves; this will help you determine whether there is any overlap between them and yourself—for example, if one company specialises in customer support for small businesses who require a lot of hand-holding while another focuses on advanced product features for larger businesses who need to customise the way the sof, then there may not be much reason for either party to worry about each other too much!

Market research is a vital part of any B2B SaaS business

Market research should be one of the most vital activities for any B2B SaaS business to create the foundation upon which other processes, from sales and marketing to product development, rest.
Ultimately, market research can give you an edge over the competition by understanding your target users, buyers, influencers and budget holders. This will allow your business to improve its offerings and target the right audience. It’s also important because it can help you identify opportunities in the market that may not have been apparent previously. Market research is essential for any B2B SaaS business looking to gain a competitive advantage or stay ahead of emerging trends.
Get in touch with FieldworkHub if you are interested in finding your edge in your B2B SaaS niche. We’ve supported the likes of Salesforce, HP and Google for Education and we’d love to support your business too!
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