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Conducting business to business research

Frequently Asked Questions

Some key points

  • Respondents must always be told of the client's wish to observe.
  • Interviewers must be honest about the length of interview.
  • Due to the smaller sample universe for business research extra care must be taken to protect business respondents identities.

Find out more

Business-to-business research guidelines (130KB)

See also:


I'm conducting a business to business survey with respondents from a list provided by the client. In order to validate the profile of the companies interviewed, the client would like the names of the companies contacted.  Is that OK? 

Providing the names of companies contacted, but not respondents within the companies, is permitted for validation purposes as long as the respondent is neither directly nor indirectly identified. This will depend on the job title of the respondent, eg if all respondents were managing directors then the name of the company could not be revealed as to do so would indirectly identify the respondent.

In some circumstances, respondents may be sensitive to the name of their company being revealed, particularly if their responses may cast their company in a negative light. It should be explained to respondents that the company name may be revealed and the valid purpose for this.

I conduct 'business to business' research. Is data on organisations or their employees covered by the 1998 Act in the context of market research?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the definition of 'individuals' includes sole traders and partnerships in England and Wales, and sole traders in Scotland. Therefore all the rights available to individuals will be available to business organisations of this type. In addition most business data collected during a survey will include personal opinions from the respondents and as such will be defined as personal data (irrespective of the type of organisation). A simple test is whether, if the job holder changes, the data (other than the individual's name) will change in any way. If it does the Data Protection Act 1998 is likely to apply. This would also apply to databases/sampling frames that contain details of individuals.

Caller has been asked by a research agency to take part in a group discussion. When the caller asked the name of the client, the agency was vague and did not reply. The caller persisted. When must I reveal the identity of the client?

The client does have a right to anonymity but this must be waived a) if the client has provided the database from which the respondent's name was drawn, and b) if the client is a present or potential competitor of the respondent. In this case the agency's reported vagueness in response to the caller's questions as to whether the client had requested anonymity and whether respondents were or could be competitors of the client is surprising, as these two matters should reasonably have been well known to an agency before any potential respondents were first approached.