October 29, 2015 | By Julie Ogilvie
One of the things that make b-to-b marketing and communications different from b-to-c communications is an assumption that decisions are made purely based on logic and facts. After all, the decisionmakers are acting as agents of the company. They have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. It’s not like they’re buying a sports car or a pair of designer shoes, right?
Think again. As any sales person can tell you, emotion plays a big role in almost all b-to-b buying decisions (Check out Jim Ninivaggi’s excellent post on this topic – “Personas Are People, Too”). The bigger the deal, the more likely your buyer is to be plagued by anxious thoughts and uncertainty. Listen to the inner voice playing inside the head of a nervous b-to-b buyer at about 3:00 a.m.:
- There’s a lot of money riding on this deal. It better be the right decision.
- Once we sign, we’re stuck with this vendor for the long haul. I hope they don’t mess up.
- What if my boss disagrees? What if he/she challenges me in public?
- I might have to give a presentation in front of the whole executive team. Yikes.
- If this turns out to be the wrong decision, I could lose my job.
- This solution might save money, but some of my coworkers might lose their jobs as a result.
So, when you’re coming up with your plan to address all of the buyer questions that come up in the course of any normal buying process, also think about the “3:00 a.m. needs.” This is where influencers can provide the emotional fortitude to help buyers press on in the face of risk and uncertainty. With the SiriusDecisions Influencer Framework, you can identify a range of influencers to address spoken and unspoken needs.
Here are some ways that several influencer archetypes can make the difference in your next deal:
- Trusted advisors. Industry analysts and high-level business consultants can play the role of trusted advisors by providing a “seal of approval” that takes some of the burden of risk off of the buyer’s shoulders. They offer a kind of career insurance policy for decisionmakers if something doesn’t go as planned.
- Independent voices. Journalists and bloggers fill the need for impartial information. Some writers may have a strong point of view, but it is assumed to be their own, not the vendor’s. Buyers can use articles from well-known publications or Web sites to draw attention to the problem they’re solving, give validity to their arguments or accelerate the purchase process.
- Big picture visionaries. Authors, academics and business luminaries are the soothsayers of the b-to-b world, predicting trends and macroeconomic changes that will impact all businesses. Buyers can use their prognostications to show that their desired decision is getting the company out ahead of a coming change, therefore allowing it to gain competitive advantage. Their writings can also be used to illustrate the consequences of not moving forward and the potential dangers of being a laggard.
- Experience amplifiers. Customer case studies are highly prized by b-to-b buyers because they give a glimpse of what life will be like post-sale. Employees can also provide the inside track on vendor behavior (e.g. on sites like Glassdoor.com) that may or may not be in the sales pitch, so it’s important to understand the views that this group expresses. (Internally, consider implementing a holistic approach to employees as described in our Employee Lifecycle Marketing Framework to help ensure an engaged and supportive workforce.)
- Relevant colleagues. At the end of the day, we are all the most likely to take advice from someone we know and trust. “Someone like me” sums up the value of relevant colleagues, but identifying and activating them can be a challenge.
Want to learn more about the SD approach to influencers? Listen to Julie's OnDemand Webcast – Gaining Leverage Through Influencers. Better yet, connect with us so that we can begin a discussion of the marketing and communications problems that wake you up at 3:00 a.m.!