Thinking B2B: Selling to multiple buyers
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) One of the big differences between the B2B and the B2C business worlds is that, in the former, there’s never just one user for a product or service. So how does a B2B marketer solve for each of the different needs of a much-larger circle?
B2B products and services have multiple users and the decision to make a purchase is made by a committee, each of whom has different needs for the product or service — and, therefore, a different opinion on suitability. In the B2C world, the purchaser is usually the end user, and their circle of influence is far more limited.
One of the biggest decision-making drivers in a B2B purchase decision is information. The risk associated with making the wrong decision is really big — bringing on the wrong product or service could be seriously detrimental to the business. However, it could also revolutionise the company. So how do people behave when they want to mitigate risk? They research and use information to fall back on, in support of the buying decision.
The research and evaluation into a purchase decision is a way of mitigating the risk of the decision. That makes information a vital part of the B2B marketing process; our role as marketers is to create information in the form of digestible content that supports buyers and influencers throughout the various phases of the purchase journey. The reality is that, whether we do it or not, buyers will seek the information out by themselves; therefore, it makes sense to create content and put it in places where decision-makers will be looking anyway, in support of our clients’ products and services.
Marketing to these different decision-makers starts off with an understanding of what the purchase journey looks like. The bigger and more complex the ‘buy’, the more complex the journey. Before we even start, a lot of strategy and research needs to go into understanding the natural phases of a purchase journey, in the context of the buying company and the product or service that they’re looking to buy. Once that’s mapped and understood, it needs to be repeated for each of the influencers and stakeholders who are part of that purchase journey.
The type of information each one of those influencers is looking for will be different, thanks to their differing needs. You solve for multiple people with multiple purchase journeys by creating relevant and contextual content and information and placing it in natural sourcing areas, where it’s easy to find; once they’ve engaged with the information, you need to capture their details so that you can continually market to them and nurture them through the purchase journey to increase the chances of them buying from your client.
Understand that different types of content, as well as different marketing and media channels, are stronger and more relevant, depending on what phase of the purchase journey the purchaser is. If a buyer is at the beginning, in awareness phase, channels such as trade publications, billboards and airport media are really strong ones, generating awareness of the need for the product or service — but they’re really weak channels when the buyer is at the evaluation or justification phase. At that point, the information they need is better provided by a white paper, price calculator or brochure with more detail.
Usually in B2B, the bulk of the cost of implementation is at the start of the process; typically B2B sellers prefer buyers to know what they’re buying, upfront, because the risk of comeback is detrimental. There’s no such thing as ‘voetstoots’ in the B2B world — you still need to be there to support clients once you’ve convinced them to buy the product. Because of this vital relationship, it’s better to make no sale at all, rather than the wrong sale…
Warren Moss (@) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He is the chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.
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