b2b-Marktforschung auf C-Suite Level


b2b market research at C-Suite level (e.g. CEOs and CFOs), i.e. market research decision-makers, is notable for its multiple challenges.  But what makes C-Suite research so special?

Top target groups get caught up in the blind spot of standardised systems: Managers at C-Suite level are rarely surveyed in a satisfactory way in standardised quantitative studies. So, although top decision-makers get a comprehensive perspective view, they are not able to retrieve any specific detailed experience for the individual fields of the operational cooperation. The customer relationship they experience also develops predominantly outside of the common company interfaces and is therefore rarely depicted in standardised contact point models. b2b market research at C-Suite level should therefore leave enough room for the non-standardised aspects of cooperation.

Caution with “high-risk target groups”: The customer value of an individual contact is usually very high. It is therefore even more important not to “burden” these customers with market research. Key account managers are often the ones that view their customer’s surveys with scepticism. It is therefore necessary to keep the survey as “least invasive” as possible and to get the buy-in from sales and customer relationship managers on the client side.

Multi-dimensional survey goals: Circular effects of surveys have a special meaning in the field of C-Suite research. Alongside answering research questions, b2b market research in these target groups should positively bank on customer loyalty by expressing particular appreciation for the top customers taking part. Ideally, this should all happen at the same time.


Practical examples from research for Deutsche Post AG illustrates how these complex and diverse requirements are reconciled.

Practical example: Strategy workshops with
top customers of Deutsche Post AG

The project driven by Deutsche Post AG’s centralised key account management was about involving top customers in the long-term orientation of Deutsche Post AG, recognising strategic action fields and developing innovative solutions.

The client also made the request to find a suitable design that would also include selected employees from key account management in the research process so they could make use of internal expertise in strategy development. Involving the company’s own employees also had the purpose of getting the necessary buy-in in precisely those departments that would later also be responsible for implementing the strategy. So, which method is productive for this multi-dimensional task?

The aim of the project in terms of content consistently points to qualitative methods because they are the only ones that have the necessary flexibility in the research process to react in a differentiated way to customer requirements and meet the customers in their everyday reality. We therefore designed three day-long strategy workshops composed of a total of N=20 high-level decision-makers at C-Suite level from telecommunications, financial services and distance and/or retail trading.

Methodological framework

  1. Exploration stage in the morning
    The workshops started with an open discussion with the customers about trends, challenges and potential. In the process, the moderator team consciously refrained from all thematic instructions and limitations. The exploration stage concluded with the prioritisation of key action areas for Deutsche Post AG.
  2. Strategic consolidation in the lunch break
    To prepare for the solution-oriented innovation stage in the afternoon, the moderator team consolidated and escalated the findings for a few core issues. These core issues were then translated into catchy and specific creative tasks. 
  3. Innovative stage in the afternoon
    Customer involvement was scheduled for the afternoon. Participants from the customer side met during the lunch break and for the innovation stage were divided up into small groups. In each case, two customers met with one or two employees from Deutsche Post AG. The small groups were each given a few sets of themes with tasks, which the moderator team had worked on over the lunch break. At first, participants in their group had to produce as many spontaneous ideas as possible for solving the problem within a very short amount of time, without thinking about how feasible they were. Once the production stage was complete, all ideas were presented to the whole group, commented on, added to and prioritised.

Organisational framework

  1. Exclusive recruitment
    Hand-picked customers were personally invited by their sales representatives to the future workshop. Prior to approaching people personally, the management at Deutsche Post AG also made a high-level announcement by post.
  2. Attractive framework programme
    The day-long workshop was accompanied by a framework programme, the highlight of which was to be an attractive evening event. The full framework programme was clearly distinguished from the market research part and was wholly organised by the client. For compliance reasons, there was also no incentive for the participant. In principle, all participants were to be made perfectly aware ahead of time that any information exchanged at the event stayed unquestionably at the centre to avoid giving wrong incentives to the participants. 
  3. Follow-up process
    An important feature of the target group is that it often shows a lot of interest in the results. It is really important for the customer to take this into consideration when planning what measures to take, since the short-term positive effects of the workshops on the customer relationship can be strengthened in the long term by successful follow-up communication. 


We cannot go into detail about the content of the results in terms of the strategic orientation of the questions. We can tell you this much, however: The workshops far exceeded expectations in terms of the number, depth and diversity of ideas and approaches developed. In addition to content-related input, the workshops had an amazing effect, particularly in terms of communication.

Openly including strategy development made a lasting impression on the customers taking part. Customers felt the event was exceptional.

Employees were able to achieve strong buy-in of the results. In contrast to consumer research, including C-Suite customer employees means more than just confronting reality. During the co-creation of the process, employees, who were briefed on their role in advance, were given the chance to open up their narrow sales perspective and learn from the customer. The result was communication on an equal footing, something which was thoroughly appreciated by all participants, underpinned by a real interest in their counterparts’ perspective.

The following video shows approaches and reactions to the b2b market research carried out: 


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