The Internet and Buying Center: are you making product information easy to share?

The Internet is affecting business in numerous ways and in B2B buying it is affecting the Buying Center as well. The Buying Center is one of the most critical B2B concepts in that it is never a single buyer who can unilaterally decide to buy a new product or service from a new vendor. In other words an individual organizational buyer can only be expected to order or re-order the same stuff from the same vendor. Think of how families discuss the cell phone and wireless provider each time a new iPhone comes out (like today!) and the buying center is sort of a similar concept. Except that the user who initiated the requirement might be only a marginal player in the decision process of which vendor gets the opportunity at what price and what terms. For B2B marketers, it is always a challenge to figure out who the members of the buying center are, and how they might at least learn about all the features and benefits of the vendor's offering that specifically applies to needs and situation of the buying organization.

Just as the B2B marketer is interested in making a sale, the Buying Center members are most interested in finding the best solution to their needs and problems. The more the marketer is clearly able to articulate and communicate with the Buying Center members- the more effective will be the B2B deal and eventual B2B relationship.

Fortunately, the Internet can help the B2B marketer given the changing behavior of buying center members. Here are two tips for B2B marketers:

  • Ask the supply management/procurement person about the users and show interest in trying to meet the user. A machine operator might be the user for your machine part and if you take the time to understand the real problem the person has with your category of supplies you might be able to develop or at least articulate some solutions to these real problems. A good word from a machine operator to the production manager about the genuine solution oriented interest of a prospective supplier can do wonders for the B2B marketer.  Try to articulate the general nature of the solution you have devised into a web page and share with the technical members of the client's buying center. Placing the link of this web-page on your email allows for more effective sharing than an attached PDF file. In contrast, in the pre-Internet age vendors would send multiple copies of specifications and designs that would get misplaced and not reach key buying center members.
  • Do the same on the financial terms. For example, if you can afford a longer payment period and the buyer's finance folks are having working capital problems just by meeting folks halfway and building support between accounts payable/finance and the supply members of the buying center can give you that extra commercial push within the buying center. Again emails mentioning any financial flexibility that you can offer can be an easy way to build support within the buying center. In fact, if your item is a potential  P-Card item of say less than $1000/- and you are on the approved supplier list, offering the same on your website, and letting buying center members know can help a great deal.

To summarize, the Buying Center is very much alive and well and explicitly addressing their concerns on your website and sharing the same via email and social media updates can help in building support in several prospective client organizations. Contact StratoServe.

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