There are far more influencers and decision makers involved in B2B purchases
If I was buying a new bed for the master bedroom at home there are likely to be only one or two decision makers involved (me and my wife). The buying criteria are pretty simple; is it the right size, have we got enough money and is it comfy?
In B2B purchases the buying process becomes more convoluted. More people need to be involved.
Let's take an example of purchasing a new sofa for the reception area of an office. The purchasing officer will want to ensure that all potential suppliers have been approached, vetted and negotiated with. The marketing manager will want to make sure the colour of the sofa is on brand. The managing director will want to understand the business case for having a new sofa. The finance director will finally want to check the payment dates and contract terms of payment.
Sometimes the decision maker gets a large degree of freedom with regard to purchases made. However wherever there is a risk of making a wrong decision you can bet that they will want to get advice from another employee on the decision.
The perceived risk in B2B buying is greater
Taking the bed example, if you get it wrong the risk is mininmal. There are statutory rights that enable you to seek a return or refund. Plus you're unlikely to split up with your partner because of a bad purchase (an argument may occur though).
In business the perceived risk is greater. If you pick the wrong IT supplier, choose a bad consultant or purchase faulty equipment you can expect to never hear the end of it. You'll end picking your way through service agreements and contracts to find some escape clause. The whole experience will be stressful and could affect your career negatively.
Lessons for B2B Marketers
I spoke in length at a recent B2B Marketing Magazine seminar about the need for marketers to rely on gradual engagement techniques. You can't expect a visitor to "convert" in the B2C sense on their first or second visit. The key points of this were:
- Focus on more smaller goals not on one big goal
- Consider document downloads as a goal
- Provide value for the visitor
- Consider different information needs for all decision makers
- Allow visitors to pull useful content from your website