B2B Marketing: How to identify members of the buying center

Buying Center Start With the User-StratoServeOne of the enduring challenges in B2B marketing is to identify the members of your potential client's buying center(read buying center roles and definition). Who is really involved in the buying decision at your prospective client's organization? Keep in mind that the buying center is part of the informal organization that includes formal committees and informal members. As one advertising agency confessed, the client Chairman's wife – randomly decided to sit in at the agency's pitch and did'nt like the pitch- which resulted in the particular agency missing out  on the account.

Despite such quirks of fortune,here are three ways to identify buying center members:

  1. The User is a good place to start: Some individual or department or group will be using your product or service.The user can be a machine operator (if you market machines) or a junior business analyst (if you supply/install ERP software). While the user may be fairly low in the heirarchy of the buying organization it's that point in the value chain where rubber hits the road – literally. Your solution must make life more productive and more easier for the user …. are you trying to involve the user as you try to decipher the buying center for each prospective client?  Just ask if you can speak to a potential user- sometimes you will gain access to an user and if you are able to explain the value of your solution to the user- you will have a powerful advocate as the buying process unfolds.
  2. User's Immediate and C-Suite Boss : Your user has an immediate  boss and a C-Suite boss. For example  the user -Machine Operator might report to the Shift Manager who reports to the Chief of Manufacturing. You just have to know who these people are and what's going on with their inputs in the buying center. The immediate boss is accountable for production output and anything that seems likely to disrupt production like your new machine that needs training and getting used to seems a risky bet. On the other hand the C-Suite Chief of Manufacturing might want to move strategically to more computer controlled machinery and your offering might resonate at that level. Emphasize how you are going to keep production up with the Shift Manager and emphasize the futuristic computer control features with the C-Suite Chief of Manufacturing. In other words, each person in the user department might have a different priority depending on how their individual performance is evaluated. Ask – how are the bosses of my user evaluated ? Am I addressing their sometimes latent concerns?
  3. Purchasing and the CFO: The individual dealing with you is the Purchasing or Supply Manager who either reports or works closely with the Chief Financial Officer's (CFO) office. More so when relatively high value purchases are involved. For anything that is somewhat specialized, the Purchasing department is more than happy to let the user department decide because if any problems arise during usage, the purchasing department wants to avoid any blame. However, even for specialized goods and services , you need to understand the contracting process,payment terms etc. that can be unique to each B2B customer. However, when you are supplying something that is considered a commodity by the buying organization (eg. raw materials) then the purchasing organization has far more say because standards are well defined, supply quality can be ascertained at or before delivery and there is little technical risk.

The three steps above can be useful in identifying buying center members and enable B2B marketers to communicate appropriately with the right people in the buying organization. Contact StratoServe.

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