In carrying out quantitative surveys, industrial marketing researchers are more likely than their consumer counterparts to make use of postal, online and telephone research. Postal research presents itself as a fairly obvious first step for an organization new to using research. It has the attraction of economy and may be seen as particularly appropriate when address lists of the population to be sampled, such as lists of customers, are readily available. It is also particularly suitable for gathering basic market data and very often in industrial marketing research this is what is required. Its limitations as to representativeness of respondents when response rates are low must, however, be considered. There is some evidence to suggest that as industrial organizations become more regular users of research they are less likely to be users of postal research methods.
In the business-to-business sector, online research has a good chance of success. Almost all executives have access to the World Wide Web. In some cases the companies under consideration may be linked via an extranet (i.e. a system that links specific firms to each other externally for the purposes of sharing information). Certainly in the early days of e-mail, response rates were very high. This is levelling off with the increase in spam (electronic junk mail) and the number of e-mails busy executives have to process. It may be that the novelty value of a letter may now elicit a better response. Most executives today work on computer and the convenience of dealing with e-mail or online questionnaires means that they should be considered in this sector.
Telephone research has traditionally been an important technique for industrial marketing research. Its major advantage over the use of personal interviewing in industrial marketing research is that a geographically dispersed sample can be contacted more economically. It can produce better response rates than postal research, and many industrial respondents will give a brief telephone interview, but would be unwilling to see a personal interviewer.
The most frequently used technique of qualitative research in industrial marketing research is depth interviews, rather than group discussions. This is a result of the simple practical difficulty involved in bringing together eight industrialists in the same room at the same time for the purpose of research group discussion. This is not to say that group discussions in industrial marketing research are not used or are not useful, but simply that depth interviews are more readily obtained. In industrial marketing research, expert informants in particular fields of industrial marketing are more likely to be of value in providing information than is the case in most consumer markets. For this reason, too, depth interviews at the exploratory stage of research study are of particular significance in industrial marketing.
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