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One of the first things that marketers are taught — once you have got through the four P’s is about market segmentation and the buying cycle which organisations go through. In this buying process there are different kinds of buyers that your marketing messages get exposed to.
Having a standard marketing message means that you are not going to always be hitting the key points that your buyer is necessarily looking for; so we need to target marketing messages to each of these buyers, but is it practical?
What is the business buying process?
The buying process is how a business makes a decision on whether or not the product of service they are looking at will satisfy its needs. There are typically eight stages when a business is moving through this funnel:
1. Need Recognition
The stage where the buying process begins as the company realizes they have a need for a vendor to fill a gap.
2. Definition of characteristics & quantity
The solution required is scoped in this step. This means that the “buying committee” will aim to document what characteristics the product needs to have to meet their criteria
3. Development of specifications
For more technical purchases a full list of the technical aspects of the product will be drawn up. For software, this could include the other software that it needs to integrate with as well as user licensing needs etc.
4. Search for & qualify suppliers
The most suitable suppliers are shortlisted by the buying committee in this step as companies that need to be approached. (This is the step I am going to focus more on later as this highlights my point)
5. Proposals and quotes
The buying committee solicits quotes from the different potential suppliers based on the technical specs as well as the needs which need to be fulfilled.
6. Evaluation of proposals
The buying committee now evaluates each proposal to ascertain which ones best meet their needs and requirements.
7. Selection of order
The buying committee will now negotiate with the chosen supplier on payment terms, delivery dates and other contractual criteria.
8. Performance evaluation and feedback
The performance of the chosen supplier will be periodically evaluated and, if the supplier is underperforming, then certain steps will be taken and the buying process can begin anew.
What’s so special about the search for and qualification of suppliers?
Let’s look at the different kinds of buyers that are involved in a typical “buying committee” and see exactly what they are looking for.
1.The Economic Buyer needs to know how much the solution is going to cost and what the maintenance costs will be. They are interested in the numbers that make up the total cost of ownership.
2. The Technical Buyer is interested in knowing how this solution is going to fit in with the existing systems. They will want to know what technical requirements are needed for this solution to function properly.
3.The User Buyer is the individual who is going to be at the face of the solution day in and day out. They will be interested in how easy the solution can be learnt and how well it is going to solve their need.
4. The Coach Buyer is typically a manager or a person with influence who is offering invaluable advice based on experience. They are not necessarily going to use the solution; but its successful implementation is intrinsically linked to their interests.
Each of these buyers, being interested in a different element of the same solution, means that when you are making your business visible to them; you need to ensure that you are linking your marketing message to where their area of expertise lies.
Let’s use the example of payroll solutions and the following three AdWords examples:
This first one is clearly aimed at the economic buyer as the advert is focusing primarily on saving money and cutting costs. This ad would not appeal to a technical buyer as there is no mention of any technical specifications.
This ad is more aimed at the technical buyer as it is specifically saying that the software is designed for the Apple Mac operating systems. There is also a hint of appealing to the economic buyer and the user buyer with the mention of the free trial in the ad.
This last example is again a mixture, but there is a clear slant towards to the user buyer as it mentions ease and efficiency. Some could argue that this ad is also talking to the coach buyer as these are criteria that they would be measuring a solution by.
How does the theory meet the practical?
With the advances in SEO and PPC Advertising it is very possible to ensure that the adverts and landing pages that searchers are seeing are directly linked to the search queries that they are typing in.
By understanding the needs that each of the members in the “buying committee” are trying to fulfill it is more than possible to craft specific landing pages that speak directly to these needs.
Like the above examples, when a user searches for, “cost effective payroll solutions”, then the ad or search listing that gets served needs to speak to that need. When the search is, “easy to use payroll software”, then the advert needs to speak to user friendliness and ease of use.
Following this simple formula may be exhaustive and time consuming; but the results will be evident as you are making sure that you are speaking to your potential buyer with the needs that they have in mind for which they need to find a solution.