As market research practitioners focused on global business markets, one of the areas we're often asked to examine is the decision processes of our client's customers (often referred to as "buyer behavior" or "customer behavior"). The need to understand buyer behavior is particularly acute in larger organizations with more complex decision processes and multiple influencers. Our clients typically ask us to help them better understand four key areas:
Typical Steps in the B2B Purchase Process
For our clients, these research activities ultimately inform the development of high performing marketing strategies, sales tactics, and customer value propositions. With tight alignment of research insights to marketing actions, these studies have led to increased revenue, shorter sales cycles, and improved marketing efficiencies/cost.
Unquestionably, one of the most striking and consistent findings of these inquiries has to do with time, or the lack thereof, of corporate decision makers. See if you can answer the following questions about your prospective business customers:
If your answer is no to most or all of these questions, you do not stand alone. Given corporate downsizing, heightened employee productivity expectations, and increased scrutiny on all purchases, it is increasingly difficult to develop business accounts as key decision makers simply do not have the time to:
These time constraint realities (if we can call them that based on our experience) point to several opportunities for business marketers who understand them and take advantage of what their competitors are likely not doing – namely:
Marketers who embrace this reality and take responsibility to do their homework prior to "making their pitch" have a clear competitive advantage. Their value proposition is based on an understanding of the prospect's company and industry through their own research, identification of key triggers and events going on in their business (falling sales, new product introductions, market expansion, etc.), and how their product or service can help the customer in specific and targeted areas.
Help them conduct due diligence – particularly in new accounts, prospective customers need to be assured your product or service will deliver as promised.
Marketers that have an edge, anticipate this need and put together targeted materials of customer references, links to (or copies of) third party endorsements, and evidence of positive (but realistic) measurable business outcomes derived from their offering. Your customers will appreciate your recognition of their need to be 100% confident in what you have to offer them.
"If a new vendor wants to get in the door, take the time to understand what I have in place now and write the business case for me with an ROI. All I have to do then is sign and we're off. This whole come in, stand there, present your slides, try to confuse me, it's not going to work."
Any of these steps, if done well, will increase your chances of opening new business accounts and further increasing share of wallet in existing ones. Importantly, each will indirectly have the effect of communicating to your customers (loud and clear!) that you understand "time is their enemy" and you have accepted it as an opportunity to earn their business.