When you are creating marketing programs or activities, it pays to know who the decision makers and the influencers are. In Business to Business marketing, (B2B) any of these scenarios might be the case:
- Your product or service might be bought by a purchasing agent who gets multiple bids and makes the decision on what bid to go with.
- The CEO or the VP of a department might make the decision of who the vendor is and what to purchase, and then tell the purchasing agent to go through with the process.
- In a small company there may be no purchasing agent. The CEO signs the engagement letter or purchase document.
- Often a team will do research and make decisions on items needed by the team.
- There may be people at lower levels who gather the information about who the players are in the industry, and then bring their findings to the CEO for interviews and decision making. You could be in or out of the final round based on the personal relationship you have with the information gatherer.
- Who else is an influencer? Many times the assistant to the decision maker screens calls, screens who gets to see the boss. She also might report on your behavior during the appointment making process or while waiting to see the decision maker.
In the information technology business I had for 18 years, we often used our receptionist this way. She had been with our firm since the beginning. She was very personable and a good judge of character. Whenever a vendor came to call or a job applicant was being interviewed, we purposely had him wait for a few minutes in the reception area so that she could engage him in conversation. She would assess his verbal and nonverbal interactions when he thought he was ‘off’ and she was part of the team that decided how we would proceed.
So who do you market to? Who do you want to see you as an expert, as a thought leader? Who do you want to establish your brand with? Who are the decision makers and the influencers? Here’s where knowing your target market makes a lot of difference. How big are the firms? How do they do their purchasing? Are the decision makers making decisions by themselves or are the businesses in this niche generally run by a team? How can you get to market to the team, to the influencers, to the assistants, to the decision maker, to the purchasing agent? What kinds of marketing outreach will effect each one?
Marketing follows need. So look for the need. Identify needs and you’ll have a much better idea about how to market most effectively.
What kind of need does the decision maker have that the non-decision makers don’t have? For instance, CEO’s tend to think more strategically while people in less managerial positions think more tactically. The CEO might want something that prevents future problems while the line worker may want something that solves today’s version of the problem.
What kind of need does the information gatherer have that is different than the decision maker? To be valued by the company and ultimately by the decision maker, most likely. What kinds of things can you do to positively brand yourself and your product or service in her eyes?
What about the purchasing agent? What need does the purchasing agent have? To look good in the eyes of her managers that she can handle the details smoothly, save the company money, negotiate well?
There are a lot of questions here. Each situation is different. The key is to understand your customer, their business model, their corporate structure, how they make money, their needs at every level of the organization, their personalities, their researching and buying processes. The more you understand, the better you can market to them. Remember a company is really a collection of individuals with needs and wants. Recognizing this can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived and branded in the marketplace.
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