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One Thing That Can Get You From Here to There in 2012 and Beyond

image from www.flickr.comIn the world of B2B management, there are numerous head scratching efforts going on as we peer ahead into 2012 and beyond.  Primarily, it has to do with how to get from here to there.  One of the issues faced by B2B companies with the high degree of uncertainty, global economic turbulence, and a rapidly changing buyer driven and social world is figuring out where the from here to there actually leads to.

Recent buyer and management interviews tell me a lot of head scratching continues to go on.  Plenty of internal angst and debate is taking place on how to get from here to there, what is needed, what should be done, and what a lot of people think.  The what to do aspects of internal planning usually center on strategy and tactical questions such as:

How do we grow revenues?
What can we do to generate more leads?
How do we expand business with existing customers?
What type of content will drive more traffic to our web site?
Should we get more active with social media?
Do we need to improve our product quality and offering?
Should we boost marketing and sales budgets?
Do we need to hire more people?
What should our pricing strategy be going forward?
What new technologies do we need to adopt?

As you can see, the list of questions for B2B organizations can be endless.  And plenty of them have to do with what should we do – probably more so than how to get from here to there.  What is striking however is that there is a tendency to dive into the angst over and debated questions without truly having clarity on where from here to there actually should end up.  As they say in the venture capital world: sometimes there is no there – there.  So in this riddle of thinking, to figure out how to get from here to there, you first have to figure out where the there actually is.

What is the one thing you can do to figure out where the there is and how to get from here to there?

You have guessed it by now, I am sure, if you have read my articles before:

Attaining deep qualitative B2B buyer insights.

Investing in deep qualitative B2B buyer insights means talking to your customers – and yes that sometimes means with the help of a third party.  Let’s face it – in certain situations buyers are more revealing to a third party when the perceived wall of sales agenda comes down and the expertise level to conduct qualitative research is not in-house.  However the point is this: to be informed on where the there is actually means your company needs to be talking with existing customers and prospective buyers deeply outside of a marketing and selling context.

Revealing buyer insights can tell you plenty about where your existing customers and buyers are headed.  Deep buyer insights give you a clue on where the planning of how to get from here to there is suppose to end up.  Giving you answers to the above mentioned type questions as well as what you should be doing to align with your buyers.

Collecting deep qualitative B2B buyer insights – before you get in over your head in angst and debate – can alleviate much of the headache that comes with strategy and tactical planning.  Imagine a meeting with less I think we should debating going on and more discussion on how we need to help existing customers and prospective buyers get from here to there.    Helping your customers and buyers to get from here to there helps you figure out how you and your company will get from here to there.  The definition of where that is, if you are aligned with your buyers, should be a two sided coin.  Helping buyers achieve their emblem of success on their side of the coin ensures that you will have an emblem of success on your side of the coin.

The one thing you can do is acquire deep qualitative buyer insights.  The type of insights that inform you on the map you need to put in place that shows you, your teams, and your company how to get from here to there.  Now – can you imagine getting anywhere in the world without a map?

(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

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5 Ways New Buyer Behaviors Are Impacting B2B Sales

image from www.flickr.comFor many in B2B sales, from senior leaders to sales representatives, it may be a discouraging time.  If you follow conventional and social media closely, the storied demise of sales has been told many times.  You probably could buy a few lunches if you collected a dollar for every time you heard that buyers are in control and don’t need sales.   To you, this sentiment seems like it is taking on mythical proportions.  I am not so sure.  If I ask myself three simple questions, I think my answers are clear:

Have buyers changed?  Answer: Yes
Does B2B Sales need to change?  Answer: Yes
Will buyers still require the assistance of B2B Sales?  Answer: Yes

I suspect many of you will answer the same way.  B2B Sales will continue to matter very much and it will go through periods of redefinitions and transformations over the next few years.   Although, in the Social Age, it may seem that people want to be devoid of actual interactions with others in such buying settings, I for one believe buyers are actually seeking more.  However, more of what has not defined interactions and relationships in the past.

5 Ways B2B Sales Are Affected

New buyer behaviors are emerging and evolving.  The rate of change will, without a doubt, continue to take place at a significant rate.  B2B Sales will have to charter a new course that gets them rethinking about how interactions, engagements, and relationships are changing.  Let’s take a look at new buyer behaviors and how they are affecting B2B Sales in particular:

Buyers Have New Knowledge Expectations

The instantaneous availability of information and knowledge at buyer’s fingertips puts pressure on B2B Sales to match their expectations when it comes to what we can call knowledge readiness.  If buyers are truly able to access information and knowledge for researching as well as assessing potential opportunities and resolutions, then B2B Sales needs to bring more to the table when an actual engagement takes place.  B2B Sales needs to pick up where the buyer left off.  Let an actual buyer voice be heard:

“Okay, so what gets my goat more than anything is that after I do all the research and such, I finally get to talking to a sales rep.  And what happens?  They just regurgitate all the stuff I found online.  They are not telling me anything new.  Just telling me what I already know.”

For B2B organizations today, not only is sales readiness important but so is knowledge readiness.

Buyers Seeking Advisement, Not Ready-Made Solutions

A generalized assumptive statement can be made, based on numerous surveys conducted over the past two years, that buyers are generally 50% to 60% into the buying process before having direct engagement with sales.  They’ve done the spade work in looking at potential solutions, scoping out what might be a good resolution, and approximating budgets.  This changes the game significantly for B2B Sales.  Buyers already know about your ready-made solutions found in their researching.  What they seek is skills and knowledge in advising them on how solutions – modified, customized, and most definitely altered – will help them to achieve the specific goals and outcomes they seek.  The implication for B2B organizations is B2B Selling organizations must have talent that reflects excellent advisory skills.

Buyers Including More People in Their Ecosystems and Networks

Driven by social and Enterprise 2.0 technologies, buyers are able to expand their ecosystems and networks in complex situations.  The degree of interdependencies between not only users and influencers but partners, suppliers, and their customers as well makes for more complexity.  And once again – more knowledge needed.   Decision-making is getting more participative within ecosystems and networks.  B2B Sales will need to adapt and address complexity as well as possess knowledge that makes them an important participant within a buyer’s complex ecosystem and networks.  I believe this will be B2B Sales toughest challenge over the next few years.  Why?  I believe wired into the DNA of selling organizations are systems, training, processes, and the likes all oriented towards the tunnel vision of a single buyer making a non-sophisticated decision.  Today’s realities tell us otherwise.

Buying Cycles Are Getting Longer

Counterintuitive to today’s hyper-connected and hyper-speed world is the acknowledgement that buying cycles in complex B2B Sales situations are actually getting longer.  Increasing need for more knowledge, more advisement on problem-solving, more modifications and customizations, more participants in buyer networks, and more complex global environments all point towards why buying cycles are getting longer.  This means B2B Sales will need to exercise patience in serving in the advisory role and slow down the train on ready-made solutions selling.  What we will see here is boiling tension points begin to emerge.  Many organizations are still wedded to pipeline thinking and management.  Mandated for decades has been to push sales opportunities fast and furiously through the pipeline to meet quarterly projections.  Readjusting thinking around this tension point is very much akin to turning a freight ship around in a harbor – it’s going to take a while and some tug boats are definitely going to be needed.

Buyers Are Relating Differently

Emerging generational differences are beginning to sprout into the workforces.  A generation is rising that has little knowledge of a world without an Internet, email, social networks, ubiquitous smart phones, and always on connectivity to their social and professional networks.  How interactions takes place and how relationships are formed are undergoing major transformations.  The implications for B2B Sales is that it will need to look at their buyer groups and determine how advanced they are along these lines and are they impacted significantly with generational differences.  Causing a reexamination of what the coveted ratio between field and inside sales should be in the future.  Which is better suited to interact with and relate to the social buyer will be the new determining factor on this ratio – as opposed to some arbitrary cut off line between large accounts and small accounts.

Where Is B2B Sales Headed?

These emerging new buyer behaviors will contribute towards the changing face of B2B Sales.  They will impact traditional vanguards such as sales planning, sales strategies, pipeline management, sales training, and sales hiring.  Solving the decades old marketing and sales alignment issue will need to be reexamined as well.  Much of the debate has been around functional definitions as opposed to how an organization best coalesces around changing buyer behaviors and dynamics.

There are three things we can be sure of in the future.  One, new buyer behaviors will continue to impact B2B Sales.  Two, how we define B2B Sales will undergo drastic change.  And lastly, B2B Sales will continue to play a vital role in how organizations engage with buyers in the future.

How is your organization being impacted today?  What changes are taking place that you see?

(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)


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7 Burning Questions for B2B Marketers in 2012

image from www.flickr.comAsking good questions was seared into my mental consciousness by several mentors early in my career.  This notion was further influenced by prodigious reading of Peter Drucker.  The premise being that good questions help you to focus and to get to the heart of what matters most.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: it is hard to do and it takes practice!  As I think about the future for B2B Marketers, these questions ring the loudest:

Who Are Our Customers?

We are undergoing the most significant changes in buyer behaviors in several decades as well as seeing the rise of connected social buyers, albeit younger, who behave much differently than traditional buyers.  As simple as the question sounds, it is still the hardest question for businesses to answer.  With existing buyers, new buyers, and expanding markets constantly in transition – getting insight into answering this question will need to be on top of the list.

Where Did Our Customers Go?

If we randomly picked a ten page year-end report, it would be a good bet that somewhere on page eight or nine in the third paragraph there is mention of it.  You know what I am talking about.  The one about, in management speak of course, losing existing customers or prospective buyers dropping out of the pipeline.  If you don’t have solid answers on where they’ve gone – and why – then it is a safe bet you might see increases in next year’s ten page report.

How Do We Create A Better Buying Experience?

With distinctive differences between products and services narrowing substantially, experience-centered marketing and relationships will be the coveted playing field to win on.   When was the last time your organization reviewed processes, systems, departments, and the likes to determine whether they added value to the buying experience?  Were processes or systems put in place, now in hindsight, to address an anomaly that occurs in less than 3% of all situations?  Meaning, the remaining 97% of existing customers and prospective buyers have to go through hurdles that in the end may cause them to say: forget it!

What Is The Best Way To Interact Directly With Customers?

If we totaled all of the articles written in 2011 in the B2B world, it would make you think that there is nothing happening after this so called 70% window where buyers don’t want sales interaction.  Well, ignore at your own peril.  What has happened is that it has raised the stakes on the remaining 30-40% where direct interaction from sales is still needed.  In service what is the best means for direct interaction?  In sales, what resources should be dedicated to field sales versus inside sales?   What in the world is social selling and what do we do about it?

How Do We Best Equip Our Employees For The New Way Of Business?

If you haven’t noticed, buyers are a changing.  Meaning your organization cannot stand pat without changing also.  Buyers are expecting their suppliers and vendors to change with them.  If there is a growing perceived gap between how much they’ve changed and how much you haven’t – could mean they will go elsewhere.  It is time to look at the talent needed and the equipping technologies needed to have employees ready to do business in a new way.

How Do we Best Assimilate Social Media Into Our Business – The Right Way?

Enriching experiences with social media is here to stay.  The cabling has been laid out and becoming hardwired into the mainstream conscious of every business.  If you resisted, it is time to take a fresh look and ease up on the tight grip you’ve had on social media expenditures.  Granted, the hype was spectacular and some companies bet their whole marketing budget on social media.  Those who did will probably rethink that idea and be much the wiser going forward.

What Exactly Is Doing Content Marketing The Right Way?

Many B2B companies are grappling with the ideas behind content marketing and content strategy.  It all sounds good – give existing customers and prospective buyers’ great content and that should result in gains in customer loyalty and buyer conversions.  How to make that happen is where the grappling is taking place.  When does too much content do more harm than good?  When does too little content hurt conversions?  What exactly is good content versus bad content?

As you see, the questions could never end.  The important take away is to be sure to ask them.  Ignoring them and sweeping them under the rug will only make the rug a little bumpy.  And one day, buyers will simply pull the rug out from underneath you.

(Image by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

 

 

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5 Ways New Buyer Behaviors Will Affect B2B Marketers in 2012

image from www.flickr.comChanges in buyer behaviors continue to march on as new social technologies take root into the mainstream of B2B businesses.  Uncertainty on how best to understand buyers today as well as engage buyers is on top of the list for many B2B organizations as they look ahead to 2012 and beyond.  During the past two years, we’ve seen new tactical attempts come and go while some are sticking.  With clear determination of changes in buyer behavior remaining elusive, B2B organizations are struggling to find the right mix of buyer strategies and tactics that result in a winning formula.  Looking ahead, more and more B2B organizations will seek to find a formula that works specifically for them.   (Image “Breathe the sames air as your prospects/customers” by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

5 Ways B2B Marketers Are Affected

New buyer behaviors means B2B organizations have to rethink many of their existing ways of engaging B2b buyers today.  This is certainly problematic when rethinking often entails looking at such building blocks as strategy, tactics, systems, and infrastructure.  Let’s take a look at new buyer behaviors and how they are affecting B2B Marketers (note – when using the term B2B Marketers, I am referencing both marketing and sales):

Buyers Expanding Their Decision-Making Networks

The advent of social technologies is allowing B2B buyers today to expand not only their social network but their collaborating network.  While we have been conditioned over decades to focus on a single target buyer, or as I have written about often, a target buyer persona, we are beginning to see that this will no longer be adequate for B2B Marketers.  The expansion of these buyer ecosystems and networks is changing who is included in new buyer decision models.  Buyers are less and less representing themselves or behaving as individual buyers but more and more as a buyer network.  B2B Marketers will need to get grounded in figuring out what buyer ecosystems and buyer networks exist for their respective industries.

Buyers Are Seeking Intelligence, Not Content

I’ve covered this recently in several articles.  In qualitative efforts I’ve been involved with recently that included conducting buyer interviews, I can tell you that the overwhelming amount of content that buyers are dealing with is an issue.  Buyers are essentially being forced to be more selective and to “junk” perceived non-relevant content.  I use the word perceive here because it is very much like Malcom Gladwell’s theory of Blink.  They are making the perception of non-relevance in a blink of an eye.  B2B Marketers then must focus on standing out and offering intelligence that buyers seek and not mere push messaging content.

Buyers Want Humanized Buyer Experiences

Let’s face it, many B2B buying experiences still feel, look, and are acted out in very transactional ways.  Buyers today are basically saying: why should I settle for less!  I still stand solidly behind Paul Greenburg’s mantra that “buyers want to be a subject of an experience, and not an object of a sale.”  B2B Marketers will need to focus on how to make humanized buyer experiences happen.  The margin of difference between products and services is narrow so the playing field of experience is gaining in prominence.

Risks Continues to Play Big Role in Buyer Decisions

Risk aversion and risk avoidance continue to affect B2B buying decisions.  The uncertainty created by a tumultuous global economy and uncertainty about the future means B2B buyers give extra attention to driving down costs and putting more pressure on reducing price whenever they can.  The affects of buyer perceived risks is enormous.  It is resulting in more problem solving research, longer sales cycles, and the expansion of buyer networks in decision-making as mentioned above.  B2B Marketers then must not only determine what these perceived risks are, but address them early on in buying cycles and buyer decision models.

Buyers Adopting New Self-Enabling Technologies

If we think back ten to fifteen years ago, it was very common to think that mid-level managers to senior executives probably would privately break down and cry if the administrative assistant called in sick.  Fast forward today, new technologies have caused a major mind shift.  B2B buyers from mid-level managers to senior executives are efficient at using newer technologies to be self-enabling.  Meaning they want more self-enabling technologies and services from B2B Marketers.  With 60% to 70% of purchase decisions being made before there is direct sales involvement, this is the new frontier in B2B Marketing and Sales.  B2B Marketers then will need a mind shift themselves.  In the past three years, we’ve seen a considerable increase in marketing technology investing with some producing measurable success while some are questionable at best.  The shift needs to be towards investing in buyer enabling technologies.  Meaning B2B Marketers will have to think more about how they can create self-enabling buying experiences that buyers customize on their own.  Experiences that don’t necessarily follow what we think are normal buying processes or stages.

Investing In The Two Sides of Buyer Insight 2.0

Enriching insights on existing customers and prospective buyers is rising to the top of the agenda for C-Suites in B2B organizations.  The above mentioned buyer behaviors and their impact on B2B Marketers mean that making assumptions about existing customers and potential buyers is risky business.  While investments in BIG data surged in the past two years, investing in BIG insights will gain more attention as B2B Marketers continue to struggle making sense out of data and analytics.  In 2012, B2B Marketers will begin to incorporate the two sides of buyer research and analysis into Buyer Insight 2.0 – data and context.  There is a symbiotic relationship between the two and B2B Marketers will discover in 2012 that to understand buyer decision-making behaviors – data or analytics cannot exist without context and that context cannot exist without data or analytics.

Without question, there is a lot to think about in 2012.  One thing B2B Marketers can think about consistently is that new buyer behaviors will affect them and it will not be the other way around.  Those days are long gone indeed.

 

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Buyerology Trend: Humanize the Buyer Experience

image from www.flickr.comThis is the final article looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. Let’s recap the significant buyer trends noted so far in this series:

This final article looks at how buyers desire above all else – a rewarding buyer experience and how businesses today and in the future will need to focus on enhancing as well as humanizing the buyer experience.  (Image “people not numbers” by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)

Buyer Trend: Buyers desire rewarding human experiences

The concept of Experience in business has undergone a roller coaster ride during the past ten to fifteen years since it was first introduced.  Both the terms customer experience and buyer experience taking on different meanings in this time period.  For buyers in general, there has been a slow but progressing convergence of desiring B2C like experiences in B2B market worlds.  Without question, the rise of the Internet and Social Technologies has shaped and reshaped our concept of Experience in general.  I believe we are at a pivotal moment in business history with respect to buyer behavior and experience.

This pivotal moment is centered on the idea that buyers desire human experiences in the business world and see experience as a two-sided coin.  The two key principles of experience in the modern Social Age are:

  • Contextual: the overriding foundation of customer and buyer experience is engaging existing customers and prospective buyers in relevant contextual experiences – whether they are in social mediums, conversations, or interactions.
  • Learning: rising as an essential component of experience in business is the growing expectations on the part of buyers that undergoing an experience also mean they will learn from the experience.  Knowledge and practical intelligence will be gained by entering into the experience.

Buyers today are redefining the meaning of business experience.  Consequently, integrating their business experience into how buyers are reshaping their human experience in general as a result of the Social Age.  Buyers not only want to “feel good” about the business experiences they undergo, but now also have a higher expectations they will take away knowledge they did not have before.

The seven buyer trends in this article series point to what I call The Buyer Circle of Experience.  As they reshape their definition of what a business experience means and integrate it into their human experience, buyers are expanding their circle of experience in a business context.  The totality of their humanized buyer experience including what has been covered in this Buyerology Trend series:

  • To undergo rewarding and fulfilling experiences
  • To be understood qualitatively – in human terms and not data terms
  • To enable their quest to fulfill knowledge needed; not be seen as object for demand generation
  • To enhance collaborative experiences with expanding buyer networks
  • To be enabled to make informed decisions that align with organizational decision models versus generic buying process views
  • To grow their intelligence and in essence grow their knowledge and practical wisdom in their respective areas and beyond
  • To foster the ability to meet shared corporate values, in addition to needs, as part of the business experience

What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?

A place for C-Suite leaders to start is to rethink their own concept of what experience – customer and buyer experience – means in today’s Social Age.  Guiding the organization to adopt a two dimensional view of experience – contextual and learning – as opposed to one dimensional views.  It will take hard work and deep customer and buyer understanding to turn B2B business engagement into humanized social experiences.  This becomes a new imperative for the C-Suite.  Undergoing think shift – viewing every interaction as one that must become an engaging and fulfilling experience and represent a learning experience for existing customers and prospective buyers.

The implications affect every area of businesses – talent, training, functions, technologies, operations, marketing, and sales.  It will test the resolve and capabilities of business leadership as we know it today.

The Future

In the future, buyer expectations for experiences that engage them contextually and provide learning opportunities will grow.  The open systems of new social technologies fueling the rise in humanizing the buyer experience.  Buyers will be looking to integrate their business experience into their personal human experience.

As the millennial grows into leadership, we will see metamorphoses take place around the concept of business, organization, leadership, and shared values.  This will drastically affect our notions of what is thought of as a business experience.  We may very well begin to see a narrowing gap between the business experience and the human experience happen sooner than we think.

Key questions to ponder for the future are: What is your organization doing today to rethink experience and what it means?  How capable is your organization of providing both engaging as well as learning experiences?  How will your organization be impacted by this evolving trend?

 

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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?

 

Creative Commons License
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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