Brand Awareness Cycle

B2B Brand Awareness Research: 8 Research Design Factors to Consider

Last week, I wrote a blog post on why startups and expansion stage companies should consider developing a prospect education initiative. This week, I will share 8 research design factors to consider when planning a B2B brand awareness research project to test the aggregate impact of these types of marketing initiatives.

Online Surveys

In most instances, an online survey is the most efficient and cost-effective medium for conducting B2B brand awareness research because brand awareness studies are limited in depth and require large respondent groups to accurately gauge a population’s perceptions. Online surveys can collect data from hundreds of respondents for a fraction of the cost per respondent that it would cost with phone interviews, in-person interviews or focus groups. Online surveys provide less detailed information than phone interviews, in-person interviews and focus groups; however, the more in-depth information is generally not necessary for B2B brand awareness research.

Re-using Surveys

Typical B2B brand awareness surveys are repeated every 18 to 24 months and compared against previous survey results to determine the changes in brand awareness and brand perception that have occurred during the elapsed time. Therefore, it is very important to design a survey instrument that is time independent and can be re-used from year to year, so that the results are comparable over time.

Using a Third Party Administrator

Self-administered B2B brand awareness research projects suffer from a “false positive awareness bias” that results from respondent exposure to the target brand or company name during the respondent recruitment process. Although the survey administer’s identity can be masked on most if not all survey tools, it is best to have a third party distribute your survey because respondents are less likely to respond to an unknown or unidentified survey administrator.

Appropriate Sample Sizes

Survey Sample Size TableDepending on the accuracy level that you are looking for in your B2B brand awareness research, you will need to pick a sample size that allows for this accuracy. The formula for calculating minimum sample size is: Target Sample Size = Population /( 1 + Population(Error)^2), where the error is equal to 1 minus the accuracy level. The table to the right outlines the minimum sample size requirements for several populations at various different accuracy levels (source: SurveyMonkey).

If there are multiple segments within your target customer population, as will be the case with most companies, you will need to develop a stratified sample of targeted respondents across these segments. The general rule with stratified sampling is to make the strata sizes proportional to the customer segment population demographics. So if segment A represents 10% of a target population and segment B represents 90% of the target population, then the stratum target respondent ratio that you would want to target is 9 segment A respondents for every 1 segment B respondent. (Source: FAO)

Estimating and Planning for Your Survey Completion Rates

Online survey average completion rates are typically between 1% and 5% depending on the length of the survey and the respondent persona that you are trying to reach. Since brand awareness surveys are generally short studies of less than 10 minutes in length, the respondent participation rates tend to be on the higher side of the range for both of these estimates.

However, it is always best to slightly underestimate your completion rates by a small amount to ensure that you hit your target number of completions. To account for the minimum target respondent group that you will need to reach out to for a brand awareness project, you need to multiply the expected completion rate times the targeted number of respondents in each segment. Thus, if you had a targeted population of 100 respondents and only expected to have a 4% completion rate, then you could expect to have to target 2,500 respondents in order to meet the minimum completion threshold for a given segment. (Sources: Circle Research and MarketingZone)

Incentivizing Respondents

Incentives can raise the average online survey completion rate significantly. Some estimate that incentives can yield completion rates above 20% for certain respondent groups. Thus, it is important to gauge whether or not an incentive will be necessary in order to recruit a sufficient number of respondents to reach the completed survey target for each segment. Some of the most common incentive types for surveys are outlined below with a short description of advantages and/or disadvantages in using each incentive type for brand awareness research:

  • Direct Compensation: This is the process of paying respondents in cash to participate in your research. The downside of this incentive is that it requires a significant amount of administrative work to disburse the incentives and they cannot be paid electronically.
  • Gift Card Compensation: This is the process of paying respondents with gift cards. This is an effective medium for compensating participants because gift card codes can be distributed via email, which cuts down on the administrative process of managing the incentives. Additionally, gift cards provide a better track record in terms of expenditures for your company’s controller, as all gift cards would be purchased from a limited number of sources.
  • Discount Off of Future Services: This is the process of offering participants a discount on future purchases from your company. This can come in the format of a percentage discount on a future purchase, a lump sum discount or some form of buy-one-get-one discount. This type of incentive does not work for brand awareness surveys because the advertisement of the incentive will generally tip the respondent off on who the sponsor is for the research. This tends to bias the results, so it is not recommended.
  • Drawing Prizes: This is the process of offering respondents a chance to win a prize in return for participating in a survey. The advantages of prize drawings are that you can easily control the cost of the survey and the cost is generally lower than direct compensation incentives. However, the disadvantage is that the expected value of being entered into a drawing is very small for each respondent, so less respondents will be incentivized to participate in your research.

In general, gift card compensation is the preferred incentive for brand awareness surveys because it is easy to administer and is desirable for most if not all target audiences. The major downside is that it is generally more expensive than a drawing prize. However, gift card compensation drives a higher expected compensation value for participants than drawing prizes, so it will be better at incentivizing participation. (Source: Kaplan and White)

Timely Delivery of Incentives

Incentive delivery time also affects the way that an incentive affects completion rates. Delivering incentives at the time of the survey will drive higher completion rates than incentives delivered at a later date. The reason for this is that the target audience will perceive the incentive at 100% of its value if it is delivered at the time of the survey; whereas they will discount this value if the compensation is promised to them at the completion of the interview. (Source: Kaplan and White)

Time to Respond

Respondents take between 7-10 days to respond to surveys, so account for this time delay when trying to estimate when you will have the results of your research in-hand to analyze. (Source: University of Texas)

Next week, I will share some additional insights on determining sample size needs for your inaugural brand awareness survey when you are cost and resource constrained.

Brandon Hickie
Brandon Hickie
Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy

Brandon Hickie is Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy at LinkedIn. He previously worked at OpenView as Marketing Insights Manager. Prior to OpenView Brandon was an Associate in the competition practice at Charles River Associates where he focused on merger strategy, merger regulatory review, and antitrust litigation.
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