- Aleksander Mitrovic
B2B buying center. Why the buying center has to be cracked by marketing?
What is the Buying Center and how can you convince them to buy? We explain the role concept of B2B Buying Center and give tips on how B2B marketing identifies and reaches buying decision makers.
Until now, it has always been the sales department's job to crack buying center, but in times of total freedom of information on the customer side, marketing must also do its part to ultimately bring sales into its own company. Read here why this is so and how it works.
What is the Buying Center?
Buying Center Definition: The buying center is group of people in a company who are involved in the buying decision for a product or service. The composition is usually cross- departmental and cross-hierarchical.
For example, if a new machine is to be purchased for production. In the first stage the user of the machine is involved. In addition, the department manager/production manager, the purchasing department (e.g. the purchasing manager) and, last but not least, in the case of larger purchases, often the managing director. In some cases, external consultants are also involved, which is often the case, especially in IT projects.
There is no general list or distribution of roles for buying centers in B2B companies, as these vary from company to company. In order to be able to address Buying Center specifically, it is important to know your own industry and typical company structures and to record these in Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). We will come back to the distribution of roles later in the article.
The buying center in the focus of B2B marketing
Why is the Buying Center so important for marketers? For a long time, cracking the buying center was actually purely a sales task - marketing had done its job by creating a point of contact between supplier and customer.
Today, things are different, because things have changed. Above all, the need for information and the way in which the members of the buying center obtain information are fundamentally different than they were ten or 15 years ago - more democratic and transparent, you might say. In addition, lead management as a task has increasingly moved into the realm of marketing. Today, the salesperson is only one of many sources of information for (new) customers.
Even in the "decision phase", the salesperson today is only one of many sources of information that new customers in particular do not trust too much. And this is where marketing comes into play. As a rule, only marketing and communications departments are in a position to generate information and content in the way it is needed today.
But more on B2B content marketing later. In any case, as a marketer today, you should be doing at least half the job of sales when it comes to convincing a buying center. And again, only together can you successfully crack this tough nut.
The role concept of the buying center
As much as information gathering has changed, the composition and role concept of the Buying Center is static for many decades since the concept has been developed. The following role models in their buying center analysis, which can be found are the following:
Will ultimately work with the solution being purchased and therefore have a vital interest in influencing the buying process. Often they are also the initiators of the purchase.
The central authority of the company over whose table the deal ultimately passes.
A very different role, depending on the type of purchase. In times of digitalization, it is often a representative of IT who evaluates the solution to be purchased in terms of security and integration into existing systems. However, it can also be a works council if the solution to be purchased processes sensitive personal data. The more departments are involved, the more influencers there are in the buying center - including external consultants.
Depending on the investment volume, the decision maker can be a buyer as well as a business or department manager and often also the managing director.
Besides these roles that are directly involved in the purchasing process, there are also some that are indirectly involved:
Information Selector or Gatekeeper
For example, assistants to the management. Although they are not directly in the buying center, they have a great influence on what information and people actually reach management.
Can sit in specialist departments, for example, whose existence is threatened by the acquisition of a new solution. Or simply fundamental skeptics about digitization, for example.
Why you need to crack the buying center with content marketing?
As described at the outset, information behavior is different today than it was 15 years ago. Almost everyone tasked with a procurement project first thoroughly Googles the topic.
The search engine giant released a study stating that 57 percent of the buying/information process is completed before a vendor is even contacted. "Demand Gen" followed suit with a survey in which, at 68 percent, most participants named web search as the first and most important information channel. The majority of the information process is completed before a vendor is contacted.
And this is where B2B marketing comes in, because this is where the skills lie to create the right content and play it out in such a way that it is found at the right moment. This also pays off in the long run: the study "Content Reference Survey" by Demand Gen showed that 47 percent of B2B buyers want more content, only three percent want less.
Marketing ensures that the solution comes into play in the first place. Another big advantage over a single sales rep is that you can handle multiple audiences at once. Last but not least, marketing automation plays a big role today. This leads to marketing becoming more holistic and targeted at the same time. But the use of a marketing automation system alone is not enough - the strategy behind it is crucial and a "transparent" buying center and a well-developed customer journey are crucial for this.
Sales experts recommend that sellers do everything they can to identify the decision maker and make the personal contact. What sounds simple is often a very tedious endeavor. Sometimes salespeople get bogged down and chafe between the various roles in the buying center.
When this division of labor is successful, sales and marketing can build incredible collective clout.
This is where marketing can help: While sales rushes to the decision maker, marketing keeps the lesser roles "happy" with the right content. For example, by making the content even clearer to prospective users and influencing the value of the solution to their work.
When this division of labor works, sales and marketing can build incredible collective clout.
What content is useful for which roles in the buying center?
As always, of course, there's no magic formula here. After all, depending on the solution to be evaluated, different experts sit in the Buying Center (which, by the way, is also called the "Decision Making Unit -DMU"). Therefore, a more or less elaborate buying center analysis should be carried out before the content is created.
So find out, e.g. with the help of your sales staff or surveys, which experts usually sit in a buying center for your solutions. But this buying center analysis is only half the battle. After all, you want to convince people with content, not artificial fluff. To make these people and their need for information tangible, it makes sense to create buyer personas.
Let's look at this method again using the example of a IT manager who is an influencer in the decision making unit. Using the persona method, you can identify his main concerns: IT security and the ability to integrate your product. To address these concerns, an article on, for example, your solution's security mechanisms, standards, certificates, and API capability would be very helpful.
This article, for one, should be well placed within your "owned media" to be found via search engines. The basically skeptical IT engineer may not necessarily trust the vendor itself. Especially in the "decision phase" B2B buyers rather trust neutral information providers.
You can counteract this risk by placing your content in specialist media. Especially in the "decision phase", B2B buyers trust neutral information providers such as analyst reports and trade media. So you can't avoid the so-called “paid media” and some good PR work.
Another example might be that users are the biggest group of opponents in the buying center because they are afraid that the solution might cost some jobs in the department. A story about how this solution didn't cost jobs in another company, but improved the department's work and thus its standing in the company, might help at this point.
Once you've used a persona tool to create the right content for all advocates and stakeholders, it's on to distributing it. As mentioned earlier, a mix of good PR, owned media and paid media is successful. You should also put some brain power into the appropriate content formats (white papers, technical articles, case studies, ...) depending on the target group and marketing channel.