How do you ensure B2B panels are representative (globally)? That is a great question! And quite frankly, it is a question that I have been asked many times over the past year. Because internet penetration in key global markets is high (for both established and developing countries) – particularly among B2B audiences – B2B panels now have a greater presence and balance with typical online populations.
Let me start by clearly stating that there are no perfect data sources for business representation in any market – not even D&B or Hoover’s. Moreover, no single research methodology perfectly represents this audience – including online, telephone, and face-to-face.
Unlike consumer panels, B2B panels do not have a census-based reference point to weight back to in order to ensure representation. In our experience, the truest way to be assured of business representation is to compare how the B2B panel sample performs relative to other validated reference points like market share, penetration of users, etc. To the extent this information is available, the more assured we can be about the representativeness of respondents in the panel.
When KS&R first started using B2B panels, we did not take the decision lightly. We actually completed a parallel study for a major client (telephone-to-web versus B2B panel) to ensure that the B2B panel approach was not impacting the results and insights generated. Once data collection was completed, we did a number of comparative analytics and found both populations (telephone-to-web and B2B panel) behaving in similar ways across all key metrics.
The best B2B panels (like the ones KS&R partners with for international research) have a number of defining characteristics.
Through panel recruiting, we have access to stated profiles of position, industry, company size (# of employees), company revenues and general decision-making responsibility. During a project, our approach is to invite panel members to our online screener based on their involvement with the subject matter at hand. Ultimately, representativeness is determined by survey screening and quotas within the survey instrument (which help us measure and compare to the reference points as noted above).
Our partners have extensive resources when looking to a B2B target. The table below illustrates KS&R’s access to B2B panel members across a few key regions and countries of interest.
B2B panels are not perfect, but as we evolve as an industry, they do provide a timely, cost effective way for us to turn data into knowledge. KS&R has extensive experience using these types of panels in multiple business categories, including technology (hardware, software and consulting), transportation, and healthcare/medical devices industry sectors. We have found B2B panel members to be responsive and knowledgeable of the issues at hand; and in most cases, found that relative to our reference points, the panel members do represent the intended audience.