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Use Buyer-Based Selling To Engage The New SMB Buyer

©All Rights Reserve by PhotoSteve 101

This is part 5 and final article of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base.

Prognosticators today abound on the demise of sales.  Not so fast.  While the notion of field sales shrinking for the SMB is a fact, it doesn’t quite mean the end of sales.  We’ve seen tremendous growth in the arena of Inside Sales over the past decades as the expense of dedicating field resources to SMB is no longer affordable as well as seismic shifts in buyer behaviors.  Where are we today?  The roles of sales in general and inside sales functions are struggling to adapt to the new psychology of the buyer and the new rules of engagements.  This is creating a clarion call among the Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 to attain deeper buyer-based marketing and sales capabilities for the SMB markets.

Success in expanding inside sales is highly dependent upon shifting to buyer-based models of selling that redesigns the roles and make up of inside sales departments.  Expanding the number of inside sales reps while not changing models of buyer conversations and engagements will just lead to more frustrated inside sales reps.  Far too often, who the SMB buyer is and understanding how and why they make purchasing decisions gets lost in the shuffle of statistics on number of dials, connections, and product pitches.  In a few of my qualitative research efforts, I’ve sat with frontline inside sales reps for a few hours.  I know and I get it – the grade that counts is meeting the quota numbers for dial and connections let alone revenue.  What the new breed of inside sales reps wants today is more engaging conversations with buyers and less focus on product pitches once they connect.

How To Make This Happen?

 In this series, we’ve focused on buyer-based modeling.  Modeling buyers today is the path towards creating models of buyer conversations that engage the SMB buyer today.  Let’s take a look at the path towards creating buyer-based selling models that transform inside sales to unified communicators engaging the SMB buyer:

Model the SMB Buyer Persona: researching and developing composite archetypes of various SMB business executives and owners can be a powerful tool for inside sales enablement.  Visual representation gets inside people beyond the wall of the computer screen and to thinking about who their buyers really are.

Model Buyergraphics: stopping at buyer personas today is a grave mistake.  Modeling a detailed set of SMB Buyergraphics gives your Inside Sales teams the contextual situations and predictive scenarios they need in order to engage the SMB buyer.  With the savvy SMB buyer adept at researching and making quick decisions, this approach gets Inside Sales teams to the same level.

Model Range of Interactions: the SMB buyer is rapidly changing their range of behaviors depending on the context of their situation.  The model of inside sales has been a simplistic idea that you hope to “catch” the buyer when he or she happens to be sitting by his or her desk phone.  In today’s world, SMB buyers are hurriedly going about running their businesses and not sitting still.  The range of behaviors includes their behavioral attributes associated with social networks, the web, while at customer locations, engaging with employees, and several others.  Accounting for these ranges of behaviors puts your organization in the right place at the right time -the SMB buyer’s time.

Model Unified Communicator: inside sales has lived with the equivalent association to telesales.  If you are still doing this today, this is another grave mistake.  The range of communications and engagement is becoming more expansive than ever.  The phone now is only one of several.  Building a range of available interactions albeit social, mobile, web, and etc. is needed to transform inside sales to a new role.  A new role of Unified Sales is critical to engaging the new SMB buyer who, as mentioned above, is expanding their range of how they behave to get information and meet goals.  Today’s buyer-based Unified Sales reps must have the skills and capacities to meet the SMB buyer where they are – at a critical moment in time.

Model Buyer-Based Selling: remapping processes is going to take some hard work.  Shifting from product-based and phone-based sales processes is in essence a cultural change within organizations.  And anyone who has ever been involved in managing culture change in large organizations knows the mountain that must be climbed.  However with the right gear, product and phone-based selling processes can be transformed to buyer-based conversational models.  Modeling new buyer-based selling processes will lead to incorporating newer technologies that enhance engaging the SMB buyer such as cloud-based technologies and tools.

Engaging today’s SMB buyer will take profound changes in how organizations market to and sell to this important growth segment.  It will take big thinking as opposed to the small thinking that sometimes has been accorded to the SMB markets.  Today’s SMB buyer is more technologically savvy, nimble in making changes, and certainly don’t think of themselves as small.  Meaning, that the Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 has to change their approach – and not let their own largeness get in the way.

(This 5 part series has been compiled into an eBook entitled, No Small Hurdle: Buyer-Based Marketing and Selling to the New SMB Buyer, for easy reading and sharing. Click on the hyperlinked title to receive.)

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How To Get To Know The New SMB Buyer

©All rights Reserved Peter Schofield

This is part 2 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

In the first article of this series, we visited two new realities.  One, that many Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 organizations are turning a focused eye towards growing their SMB customer and revenue base.  With revenue growth potential shrinking in larger strategic accounts due to budget and pricing pressures, many are dedicating attention and resources with more determination than in the past.  The second reality is that they are finding a very different buyer this time around than in the past.  Simply put, SMB buyers are more social, more sophisticated, more connected, and are transforming their buying behaviors at an accelerated pace.  New technologies opening their world to advantages only once afforded to large enterprises.

Waking up to these new realities has set up another challenge for executive leaders.  That is of how to get to know the new SMB buyer.  Here’s how one sales executive put this to me recently:

“One of the things we realized is that we have got to get to know our SMB customers.  If you keep in mind that we haven’t really dedicated much resource to this area, then we are lacking in knowledge per se’.  We’ve got to find out what is important to them versus just giving them some generic sales pitch.”

This is a very salient point for many organizations tend to view the SMB as a whole segment in of itself.  The reality is that the SMB is highly fragmented and consists of many layers of sub-market segments.  Getting to know what makes SMB buyers tick is, by no means, as easy as saying this is your SMB buyer.  Layer on top of this the enormous changes in buyer behavior, the invisibility of SMB buyers in their sourcing for information, and new empowering technologies makes this endeavor a higher mountain to climb.  It is no wonder many executives are walking out of their meetings where SMB growth is identified as a top priority saying – now what?

Getting To Know The New SMB Buyer

The first tough challenge is realizing that viewing the SMB as a single market and that rudimentary means of segmenting by employee size and revenue figures are not going to result in the understanding needed.  While vertical segmentation is of significant help, what is paramount is knowledge of how these sub-markets and buyers within behave.  What are steps that executives can take to understand the new SMB buyer?

Buyer Research: This has to be a clear mission.  Getting to know the new SMB buyer is going to take some level of buyer research.  It is going to take the integrated approach of committing to both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand the full 360 degrees of the new SMB buyer.

Buyer Modeling: Depending on the degree of fragmentation in sub-markets, powerful buyer modeling can be an extensive exercise.  However, one well-worth the upfront investment to get to know the new SMB buyer in ways that transforms efforts into an order of magnitude competitive advantage.  There are several areas of modeling that by understanding them deeply, can make your organization relevant to buyers and core to their problem-solving:

Buyer Persona Modeling: What is important here is not to model the single archetypal buyer but to model the new levels of interactions buyers are having with newly formed ecosystems and networks.  They may be SMB but they are growing exponentially and organically by creating new ecosystems.  Buyer persona modeling represents composite archetypes based on behavioral research with a focus on identifying critical goals that drive buyer behaviors.

Buyer Scenario Modeling: To get a handle on the problems SMB buyers face and what confronts them, modeling buying scenarios can give your marketing and sales teams insight into how to be relevant.  Additionally, this gives you the ability to address fragmentation and identify sub-market segments that have the best optimal scenarios to be part of the SMB buyer’s solution.

Buyer Decision Modeling: How SMB buyers are making purchase decisions today is changing so fast and by sub-markets that not monitoring this aspect of a SMB strategy can put an organization behind the curve.  While looking at the buyer decision journey can be fruitful, in my qualitative research I’ve noted how the new SMB buyers are adept at more ad-hoc decision-making.  Furthermore, with the rise of ecosystems and networks, collaborative efforts in making purchase decisions are not so neatly streamlined.  Newer technologies are also making purchase decisions more decentralized than ever – making fragmentation on this issue even more complex.

Buyer Value Modeling:  SMB buyers’ value varies widely by sub-market segments.   Gaining insight and modeling how these values operate in their day-to-day world can help you to tailor offerings and communications to fit specific sub-market segments.  Depending on the industry and markets, values in the SMB take on a deeper emotive texture and can be a deciding factor in purchase decisions.

Avoid Big Data Trap

With the rise of big data, there will be a tendency to try and “cut the numbers” every which way to make sense of the SMB market challenge.  When dealing with 5,000 SMB accounts to 150,000 SMB accounts, the tasks of getting to know these SMB buyers at a deeper level can look downright daunting.  Analytics will play an important role towards reaching understanding.  I also contend and advocate that qualitative and predictive buyer modeling is essential to integrate into the mix of discovering the new SMB buyer of today.  Buyer behavior within the SMB world is rapidly changing.  A reasonable assumption can be made that in some SMB sub-market segments it is changing at a faster pace than that of larger organizations.

The combined use of analytics and predictive buyer modeling can yield an insightful picture into how these new behaviors translate into uncovering why buyers make purchase decisions.  And, get closer to the holy grail of uncovering the reasons why they would change.

Next Up: The Importance of Buyer-Based Marketing in SMB

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Eric Got Me Thinking About The Next Buyer Revolution

English: Yemeni protests typical day at Sana'a...

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In my most recent article, Boost Demand Generation Using Target Ready Buyer Models, a comment was posted by the ever thoughtful Eric Wittlake, author of the blog B2B Digital Marketing and a member of the team at the Integrated B2B Marketing Agency – Babcock and Jenkins.  Here is a portion of what he said:

 “As more buyers wait to engage with sales and as more companies, in order to attract potential buyers, open up their content, the need to meet your audience’s needs before you know who they are is likely going to be one of the next revolutions we see.”

This comment really got me thinking.  What I have been thinking about is that we are in the midst of the next revolution right now – that we are in the midst of a business version of the Arab Spring.  Business today has its’ own Buyer Spring taking place today and some businesses are yet not awaken to the reality of this revolution.  Like the chaotic nature of revolutions, I am going to share the random thoughts I have been thinking about since reading Eric’s comment:

Anonymous Environment

Eric, in the same comment, also used the expression “creating demand in an anonymous environment.”  In many ways, it is a buyer’s revolt against years of having to first identify themselves before they can get an ounce of information.  The registration debate is really not about registration.  It’s about attempting to block a buyer’s revolt about identifying themselves.  Business needs to accept the fact that it will never know who is behind the door – until they knock and say let me in.  If your business has been engaged in knocking on the door of a buyer endlessly and no one is opening it – it means no one is home to greet you on your terms.

Organization Infrastructure

Many businesses still have not adapted their organizational structure and operations to an anonymous environment.  Marketing and sales functions as well as operations are still geared to the days when a buyer had to pick up the phone and let it be known they need information.  Buyers realizing that they were going to identify themselves in the process.  I hear the “but, but – we have a website” cries out there.  Take a hard look at it and see if it is any different than the phone – what are you requiring of visitors to do to get an ounce of information?  Is your sales function still geared towards that “first” call, designed 25 years ago, under the presumption the buyer knows nothing yet?

Research and Insight

Businesses that know they are in the midst of the Buyer Spring revolution are going to double down on research and insights.  Identifying buyer needs and goals, before you know who they are, are going to make the difference between surviving the next revolution and being exiled.  Business will need to connect the quantitative with the qualitative to make this work.   And I am not talking about buyer personas here folks – which have been bastardized to mean everything but the real research and insight intent established in the late ‘90’s.  I am talking about real world buyer research that means getting out from behind your computer, laptop, or tablet screen and knowing buyers in their environments.

Rush to Tactics

The rush to tactics such as content marketing, demand generation, marketing automation, inbound marketing, and more is a rush to meet mass Buyer Spring movements where they are marching in the buyer square.  B2B marketing is rushing head on into tactics without thinking about some of the ramifications of this next revolution.  While there are businesses enjoying success with these tactics, there are equal numbers or more getting little return because they haven’t yet figured out what their new strategies and business models need to be in this next revolution.

Smart Content

I like this term which has been bantered around – more so than content marketing.  Why?  Because it makes you think about how to make your content smart for buyers.  A big part of this next revolution – this Buyer Spring – is buyers not wanting a return to old style push marketing.  No matter how you cut it – and I am talking on the basis of buyer interviews I’ve conducted – when buyers hear and read that you are doing content marketing they still see it as a mental image of push marketing.  And believe me I am continuously amazed how companies are broadcasting to their buyers about their great content marketing.  Shutting down automatic defense behaviors is no easy feat so why make it harder?

 The Waiting Game

Buyers are waiting longer and longer to engage with sales.  Getting predictive about what’s happening in this waiting game is going to test the abilities of businesses to anticipate and be in a state of readiness when buyers do identify themselves.  B2B leaders are going to be measured on how well they can get their organization in a state of anticipation and readiness.  A significant majority of businesses are still oriented towards persuasion.  In the next revolution buyers are saying – be ready to tell me something important.

For limited time only in the Middle East
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These are random thoughts and I am sure I will think of more as you will have more.  One thing is clear, just as in the Arab Spring, the Buyer Spring will result in old regimes being thrown out and old ways of doing business being cast out like furniture being thrown out of the palace window.  Revolutions and democracy building is a messy affair as we are seeing with the Arab Spring.  In terms of the Buyer Spring revolution, it is going to be messy at first.  Businesses need to start figuring out today whether they are going to fight or join the revolution.  Which side are you going to be on?

Hey Eric, thanks for making me think!

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Boost Demand Generation Using Target Ready Buyer Models

 

©All rights reserved by Kenny Madden

Recently, I published two articles related to 5 ways buyer behaviors are affecting B2B sales, and 5 ways they are affecting B2B marketing.  Without question, changing buyer behaviors are also impacting how we think about Demand Generation or as it has been conventionally called – lead generation.   Contrary to hyped notions of sales going away to wither in the desert – lead generation and the new label of demand generation are more important today than ever.

What needs to change you might ask?  An easy answer is to say plenty.  The complicated answer is to say that the mindset towards demand generation needs to change.  The kernel of truth regarding this dichotomy lies somewhere in between the new labeling of demand generation and the more conventional labeling of lead generation.  And labels can be a dangerous thing.  It is easy to go on doing the same thing and call it something new.  It is much harder to call something new and transform as well as adapt.

The promises of demand generation as well as content marketing are to overcome the hype and truly enable businesses to transform and adapt.  A critical way to do this – and admittedly easier said than done – is to become buyer-centered as oppose to product-centered.  Still, a very hard proposition when corporate infrastructures remain wedded strongly to being organized by product and individual profit and loss performance.

How Can CSO’s and CMO’s Respond?

One way senior executives in marketing and sales can respond is to look beyond traditional lead generation and think in new terms that a new label such as demand generation can offer.  Here are 7 key principles CSO’s and CMO’s can begin to think about in terms of demand generation:

Buyer centered: putting the buyer at the center of demand generation process as opposed to a strict product-centered approach serves as a marker for transformational shift

Buyer network: we are moving fast and furious to a networked business society – referring to this term both technologically and socially where independent purchase decisions are a thing of the past

Buyer behavior: to make demand generation effective, efforts need to be aligned with sound understanding of buyer behavior relevant to different segments

Buyer experience: as I have written often about, demand generation must have experiential elements for the buyer and advocate thinking in terms of demand fulfillment

Predictive modeling: in this case predictive buyer modeling can be used to understand various buyer scenario models and align demand generation efforts with these buyer scenarios

Descriptive buyer segmentation: moving beyond the traditional methods of segmentation to further granular buyer views that are descriptive of actions, goals, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors

Enabling Marketing and Sales with Target Ready Buyer Models

Boosting sales revenues through demand generation involves going beyond enabling marketing with target market data and sales with contact information.  Yes they are the staples of a starting point – like household bread and milk.  However, it sufficed when buyers were totally dependent upon sales to get their information.   In today’s hyper-competitive marketplaces, businesses will not be able to survive for a long time just on basic bread and milk data alone.

Enabling marketing and sales has a lot to do with readiness.  I advocate that organizations today can begin to transform demand generation with descriptive target buyer modeling by making use of insights-based Business Buyergraphics and creating Target Buyer Models.  Giving marketing and sales the insight they need on critical buying moments and the language of the buyer.   Target buyer models extend far beyond the creation of buyer personas which still hold value; buyer personas are nevertheless proving to be less and less adequate on their own to address the new rules of competitiveness in the B2B landscape.

Target buyer models incorporate the principles mentioned above and allow for teams to be at the ready for different buying scenarios.  In addition, at the ready to understand more deeply buyer challenges which are serving as the catalyst to begin searching for a solution.  Further, strategists can begin to predict how buyer purchasing behavior may change based upon different demand generation strategies and tactics put into place.  Better anticipation and prediction abilities translate into lower risks and wasted dollars – the traditional plagues of lead management.

B2B businesses today can reinvent and give their demand generation efforts a big boost by becoming more buyer-centered and making use of both predictive buyer modeling and descriptive buyer segmentation.  Using descriptive target buyer models to give marketing and sales teams the clearest picture yet of exactly who their buyers truly are.

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Free eBook: How Buyer Trends Are Impacting the Future of Business Thinking

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris
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Recently, I embarked on a series of articles related to buyer trends and how they are changing conventional business thinking as we know it.  These series of articles, referenced as Buyerology Trends, highlighted 7 areas of where buyer trends are challenging conventional thinking.

Business in general has been undergoing the most unprecedented period of economic challenges, social changes, technological changes, and rapid changes in buyer behaviors in several decades.  Pressing business leaders today to not only adapt quickly but to rethink many long-held business beliefs.  The world has become hyper-connected and hyper-competitive.  Making many business concepts rendered obsolete or not as true as they once were.  While some business thinking and management ideas stand the test of time, such as those of Peter Drucker, others will begin to fade as the global marketplace continues to spin and behave differently.

I have compiled this series of articles into an eBook of 65 pages for easy reading and it is made freely available for sharing.  In this eBook, significant buyer trends derived from qualitative research are highlighted.  They are presented in the context of how conventional thinking may need to change to align with new buyer behaviors that are affecting purchase decisions.  Particular focus is made on what the C-Suite must do to respond and how the future may look as a result of buyer trends related to changing buyer behaviors.

It is my hope and passion that the eBook will spark dialogue and thinking that helps organizations to better understand buyers.  Rethinking conventions and reshaping them to align better with buyers today and in the future.  The eBook can be downloaded at the following link:

Buyerology: How Buyer Trends Are Impacting the Future of Business Thinking


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Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard: Qualifying and Quantifying Value

ScorecardImage by J. McPherskesen via Flickr

As a follow-up to the article Influence of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) on Buyer Behaviors and Decisions, offered is a perspective on how to implement a scorecard approach.  The Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard combines both a qualitative as well as a quantitative approach to understanding the influence of buyer values.  An important disclaimer here is that there have been many scorecard approaches for measuring customer value over the past two decades.  My point is not to endorse any particular one but to endorse the notion that values are rapidly changing and that buyer perceived value is critical to understanding buyer behavior.  The understanding of buyer behavior is the central focal point of Buyerology© and understanding Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) is one key aspect.

Before jumping into a quantitative approach, it is important to emphasize the need for reaching an understanding of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) qualitatively.  Perceived values are changing rapidly and will continue to do so as new buyer behaviors are formed – changes driven by the introduction of new technologies and business models.  Multiple and varietal forms of qualitative methods help to provide a unique articulation of value criteria that buyers may formalize or internalize for decisions.  Qualitative understanding is essential due to buyers, common to human behavior, having difficulty in offering a clean series of statements that accurately reflect their value sentiments.  Multiple qualitative methods assist in identifying un-articulated patterns of thinking and behaviors that can be translated into value attributes unique to your industry, markets, and organization.  Basing a scorecard approach on a generalized and presumed sense of buyer perceived value attributes mitigates the usefulness of a Buyer Perceived Value Scorecard severely for informing buyer strategies.   Now let’s take the academic speak out of the above and simply say that if you base the scorecard on what you think buyer’s value versus actually going out to talk to buyers and using qualitative methods to uncover values – it will be of no particular use.

As mentioned in the previous article on Buyer Perceived Value (BPV), value has been viewed conventionally around product and service.  The convergence of the Internet and the Social Age is resulting in new as well as evolving values that we may not fully understand at the moment.  Calling for qualitative means of discovering exactly what these values are and the meaning behind them.  This is the primary reason why I advocate strongly the need for qualitative research to understand Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) meaningfully.

Once value attributes have been identified, monitoring and using a scorecard approach can help to inform how an organization can improve as well as build new strategies to better align with buyers.  To make a scorecard purposeful for informing strategies, there are several key elements to incorporate:

Priority: Not all values are perceived equally.  Determining through qualitative means how much weight buyers place on certain value attributes is essential.

Ideal: After values are weighted, what do the values look like in a perfect world to buyers?  The goal becoming how to score a perfect 10 on all value attributes.

Perceived: Once value attributes have been identified and established, a combination of qualitative and survey methods can help in discovering how buyers perceive the organization abilities in measuring up to the ideal.

Differential: Using the scorecard approach can help in identifying the largest differentials between what buyers consider of high value and where the organization is falling short in the minds of buyers.

Below is a simplified version of such a scorecard:

Bpv scorecard

In the example below, you will see a red flag around implementation support suggesting improvement.  You will also note that 24 hour turnaround is prioritized highly and this can include the use of social networks.  The meaning behind each value attribute listed should be supported by qualitative interpretation.  For example, what exactly do buyers’ value in implementation support?  How much of a factor is social engagement behind 24 hour turnaround perception?

Bpv scorecard example

By combining the use of multiple qualitative research methods and quantitative analysis, an organization can begin to get a realistic handle on how well they measure up to the perceived values buyers base decision-making criteria’s on.  We are at a point in marketplace history where uncertainty reigns.  The importance of refreshing, qualitatively, the understanding of exactly what buyers perceive as values and how much weight is put on each is critical to being on the buyer’s radar of choice.  What we can count on is that new technologies, services, and business models will cause shifts in what buyer’s value.

How do you plan to stay informed of these shifts in buyer perceived values?

 

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Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) Scorecard by Tony Zambito is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.goalcentric.com.

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Influence of Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) on Buyer Behavior and Decisions

value, not controlImage by Will Lion via Flickr

In my recent article, Buyerology: The New Science of Understanding Buyer Behavior, I introduced the concept of Buyerology and the need for a renewed focus on understanding buyer behavior in the Social Age.  A key component of understanding buyer behaviors and decisions is gaining a reality check on Buyer Perceived Values (BPV).  How well organizations; in relations to products, service, and brand; maps to Buyer Perceived Values will serve as the one of the primary influences that shapes buyer behaviors and purchase decisions.

Buyer behavior research, performed through qualitative means, can reveal many aspects of what comprises Buyer Perceived Values (BPV).  Buyer experience is now becoming one of the most important factors that contributes to and influences these values.  The convergence of the Internet and the Social Age, in fact, is introducing many new variables and factors that influence Buyer Perceived Values.  Some of the new variables include:

Buyer Experience: previous as well as in process buyer experience can have an enormous impact on how buyers perceive the value that organizations can bring to their challenges and environments.  This correlation is becoming stronger as more self-directed experiences by buyers evolve.

Engagement: I have written recently about social engagement as well as how buyers are internalizing their own Social Engagement Index.  Evidence is building that how involved and how engaged buyers are is shaping the buyer’s perceived value of making a decision to enter into a relationship as well as make a purchase decision.

Knowledge: shared knowledge related to informative problem solving can help influence positively buyer’s perceived values.  This is an area of improvement for the evolving areas of content strategy and content marketing.  Just as social media fatigue may be setting in, I am beginning to see signs of content fatigue also.  Content creation for the sake of content, especially with dramatic self-promoting marketing flair, is now getting filtered by buyers.  The old adage that too much of good thing can actually hurt you can be true in this case.

Network: a new evolving factor is the growing influence of social networks that extends well beyond peer influence.  A new dynamic that associates peer recommendations with something we can refer to as network buzz.  It is proving to be a tricky formula.  A formula that needs to be organic as opposed to imposed upon.

These are just four new and evolving, of sure to be more variables, that influence Buyer Perceived Values.  Dramatically calling for the need for further buyer behavior research that can help organizations today understand why and how buyers are making decisions today.  This does not minimize nor excludes other conventional type variables such as:

Brand: a strong brand is also a strong leverage point in influencing Buyer Perceived Values (BPV)

Loyalty: the cumulative value of previous buyer experiences and relationships can translate into strong customer loyalty

Quality: no amount of new efforts in social business and content marketing can make up for poor quality and service.  Another old adage applies here: make sure your house is in order before you move on.

Risks:  let’s face it – changing products or services in a B2B market can turn into an agonizing experience for buyers.  Buyers have to see the risks of changing mitigated in order to make a switch.  The degree of risks involved has a direct influence on Buyer Perceived Value.

Price: competitive pricing will always remain a significant variable in determining a Buyer’s Perceived Value.  The positive or negative impact of other variables can influence the tolerance level on pricing and how it directly influences a Buyer’s Perceived Value.

What we do know is that the above mentioned variables or factors, both new and conventional, translate into Buyer Perceived Values which directly affect the buyer’s behavior and decision-making.  How buyers experience these variables or factors throughout the buying process not only will shape their internalized Buyer Perceived Values but also determine how long they choose to stay in the buying process specifically with one organization versus another.

Understanding Buyer Perceived Values requires qualitative research means and constant monitoring as we now live in a hyper-connected and social world.  Not only will values shift over time, but we are bound to witness new factors or variables that evolve and further change the buyer landscape.

One place senior executives can start thinking about Buyer Perceived Value (BPV) in general is by asking: do I have any idea what our buyer’s perceived values are?

 

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Buyerology: The New Science of Understanding Buyer Behavior

Behaviour 1Image by Taz etc.via Flickr

Over the course of the past two years, we’ve seen a marked shift in buyer behavior and buying choices.  So much so that the degree of uncertainty of why and how both individual buyers and organizational buyers make buying decisions has also markedly increased.  There is a direct correlation occurring whereby as buyers continue to increase their share of self-directing the buying decision without any direct interactions from sellers, the degree of uncertainty grows.  While quantitatively as well as statistically we have a sense of what buyers are doing, as survey reports by Baseone and DemandGen indicate, we still lack in-depth qualitative awareness on why and how certain buying choices are made.

This is awakening a renewed reality among business today that understanding shifts in buying behavior is becoming paramount to planning marketing and selling strategies that will succeed.  Buyer behavior understanding began to surface more prominently in the mid-1970’s but remained on the fringes of planning and strategies as product-centricity was entrenched in much of business as we knew it through the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.  During the past three decades we have seen a growth in customer and buyer-centric thinking however buyer behavior analysis remained somewhat a small component of marketing and sales thinking as well as planning.  Fast forward to the last five years and the explosive convergence of the Internet and the Social Age; we are seeing recognition that buyer behavior understanding is moving towards being the centerpiece linchpin of planning and strategy.  Companies today are attempting to make themselves relevant to buyers who are radically evolving their buying behaviors and have more buying choices than they ever dreamed of in just a few short years.  The relevancy mystery can only be solved by understanding buyer behaviors and the shifts in buying choices that are occurring.

We are witnessing another awakening as a result of new and rapidly evolving buyer behaviors; organizations today needing to approach marketing and selling interactions as more science and less art.  These monumental awakenings call for a new approach and concept I call BuyerologyBuyerology is a means to introduce more science into understanding, both quantitatively and qualitatively, buyer behaviors and buying choices.  The convergence of the Internet and the Social Age requires new approaches to tools that are used to reach in-depth understanding as well as to monitor rapid shifts in buyer behaviors.  Buyerology must offer approaches and tools that help to translate buyer behavior understanding and insights into meaningful strategies that accomplish the relevancy that remains elusive for many companies today.

My own shift in thinking about buyer behavior began with a series of articles on Social Buyerology.  The articles tapped into the recognition and movement towards more science and less art in the spheres of marketing and sales as well as in overall social strategy.  Reflecting back on ten years since originating buyer persona development, much of the analysis performed via buyer persona development was in essence about buyer behavior.  Recently, I have written about how buyer persona development must indeed undergo its own transformation at this juncture in modern business history.

This article marks a turning point for me personally and professionally.  I have been thinking about something – in fact a lot – Tom Peters use to bellow loudly in many of his presentations years ago – that if you’ve been doing the same thing or staying with the same company for ten years or more you’ve become institutionalized.  In similar ways, buyer personas as an idea has become institutionalized in various circles; defined rightly and wrongly, and indeed no longer can suffice on its own.  Adapting to the new social world and taking a leap of faith, I will be devoting the next twelve weeks to elaborating on the new science of understanding buyer behaviors I call Buyerology.  I will be sharing new approaches and tools that address the many challenges faced by organizations in marketing, sales, social business, and content strategy planning.

My hope is to accomplish two things.  First, to avoid becoming institutionalized as Tom Peters ingrained in me many years ago.  Whether he meant mentally or physically, I am not sure but it has felt like a few times, like many of us, I was losing my mind while I attempted to understand the many changes occurring!  The second is to make a contribution towards advancing buyer behavior understanding through the social science of Buyerology.

 

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