Why People Buy – The B2B World

My post last week about Consumer Hedonic Discovery (CHD) raised a question in a discussion group about similar approaches for business-to-business (B2B) marketing and sales.  Although I have spent many years in B2B marketing, I am not familiar with a B2B process similar to CHD.

The typical consumer package good (CPG) purchase is relatively simple (I can hear my CPG friends typing a response to that comment, but please let me explain).  The consumer is usually making a relatively inexpensive purchase that impacts only the individual or his/her family.  If the product was a dud, it was a waste of $10 or less.  Higher price purchases (cars, home repairs, vacations, etc.) are more complex and the consumer will probably gather more information from online sources and friends, but the impact is still on the individual and/or family.

In B2B marketing and sales there are many low price/low risk product purchases that are handled routinely through the internet.  The vendor’s web site serves jointly as a marketing and sales tool.

In high price B2B decisions the buyer usually has a team (often a cross-functional team if the product/service crosses departments/functions) and team members have specific roles in the purchase, such as decision maker, influencer, information gatherer, evaluator, etc.  Add in a sales person (or team) and other possible third-parties, such as brokers, and you can see the complexity of the marketing/sales process.  In these scenarios, the risk is high to the company, decision maker and, in some cases, the team members.  The higher the price of the product or service, the higher the stakes for all involved.

This level of complexity and risk is a key differentiator between the CGP item and a high price business product/service. This complexity also leads to the difficulty of researching the B2B purchase process because you are usually selling to a team and each team member has an agenda (sometimes hidden) and different levels of fear about making the wrong decision.  I see the sales person’s critical role as assessing the buying team’s fear factors so the sales approach can be tailored to address those issues.

In digging around the internet for information about the emotional side of B2B marketing, I came across an interesting study called The Buyersphere Project from Enquiro.  The study is a collection of five white papers on B2B marketing/sales and an additional chapter wrapping up with implications and recommendations.   The five white papers are: Mapping the Buyersphere;  Integrated Persuasion; Maximizing Your Online Touch Points; Building Business Online; and The Rise of the Digital Native

As the section titles suggest, the study has a heavy focus on using digital in B2B marketing.   Many low cost/low risk B2B purchases have already moved to e-commerce where the marketing and sales happen on the same platform.  Even if your product/service is high cost/high risk and needs a sales person, it is helpful to understand how digital marketing can integrate with traditional marketing methods to improve effectiveness.

Here were some take-aways from the study:

  • Companies don’t buy, people buy.  People bring their emotions, beliefs, instincts and habits to the decision and this can make the buying process less than rational
  • Fear is a prevailing emotion in larger B2B purchases because of the impact on the company and the decision maker
  • You must understand the risks to the organization and decision maker, and customize your sales plan to address these
  • The greater the price, the greater the fear and the more likely the decision maker is to involve others in the decision
  • The higher the risk, the greater the need for persuasion
  • The sales funnel is irrelevant.  Define the buying funnel from the buyer’s perspective and map where your marketing/sales process will intersect the buying process
  • Your digital presence is much more than your web site
  • Integrate your online and offline approaches to maximize persuasion


© 2011-2018 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved