B2B follows a different type of targeting. First, while a B2B brand may start off thinking about selling to the entire market, then begin narrowing down based on the kind of customer or the subsegments of the category. As B2B marketers approach their customers, they must understand there are four types of people at the customer, including:
- End-user who has the immediate need
- Decision-maker who ultimately approves the purchase
- Buyer who performs the final sale
- Influencing voice somewhere in the organization
Depending on the size, power, and formality of the purchasing process of your customer, these four roles could be four distinct people who rarely engage each other, or for a simple purchase, it could be one or two people.
B2B customers act like a four-headed monster with different roles of the people within your customers’ companies
As you look at those four roles within your B2B customer audience, you have to understand how each role can impact your sale. I recommend you understand: a) each person’s motivation behind a potential purchase, b) what it will take for them to see, think, do, feel, or whisper, c) what could go wrong that you need to watch out for, and d) where your sales team needs to focus.
The motivation of the B2B end user is most similar to how a consumer would act with a brand. The end user focuses on how their personal experience will help them improve their performance in their role. Like a typical consumer, you want them to think about how the purchase will boost their performance, so they feel motivated to influence stakeholders to close the deal internally. It would help if you got them to use their motivation to fight for the purchase. One major caution to watch out for is when the user is forced into a decision by the decision maker (their boss) or the buyer (due to savings), which they might naturally resist. It would be best if you had a personal connection with the end user to gain their trust. Focus your sales team on providing demonstrations or trials to show the end user the functional and emotional benefits related to their performance.
Usually, the decision makers’ motivation will focus on understanding how your brand will add to their in-market performance impact and related business results. If they are a former user, they may bring their own bias to the decision, believing they know what is best for the end user. You will need a logical and quantifiable case for change to help them to think the impact and results will justify their decision. When your entrance is through the end user, be careful they are not brought in too late to a potential decision, as it may frustrate them. A deal can fall apart if the user cannot build the case for change. Your sales team should involve decision makers early so you can understand their specific needs and requirements to build a case for change.
Within an organization, the buyer’s role is to focus on measures and control so they can find cost savings for the company. They focus on comparative price points and terms. What you want them to see are the savings to justify the purchase. As they are generalists covering so many different areas of procurement, you need to educate them on the technical aspects of products and services, so they feel in control of the decision. The big caution is when the end user does not consult the buyer, it will frustrate them, and you may need to go back to the beginning and explain everything again. The buyer will need firm forecasted numbers to compare with other options. They may compare the metrics to the current status quo or other competitive brands. Your sales team should highlight comparative performance results and focus on the overall cost. When possible, avoid the line-by-line comparison as the buyer may force you to deliver the lowest price on each line. That risks cutting into your overall profitability.
The influencing voice is the hardest to manage, as it can come from anywhere in the organization. It could be a peer or mentor providing advice to your end user. Those individuals are the hardest for you to manage.
The influencing voices you should focus on are those peripheral leaders in other departments to your end user who will want to influence the purchase, so it can positively impact their vision and goals. For instance, when you are selling travel expense software, the sales leader might be an influential voice. If you are selling new ingredient materials, then the marketing leader would want an influential voice for that decision. When they are highly motivated, they become an active voice, whispering to decision maker and user, almost selling internally on impact and performance. You want them selling for your brand, not against. The most significant risk you need to manage is, when they see no personal benefit to their role, they turn into an absent voice, which is a passive non-supporter. You need to understand the influencer’s motivation, so you can engage them when they are highly motivated, and yet manage them when they do not care.
Build your brand around benefit clusters
Start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what customers want and what your brand does best. I recommend that you take three of the zones from each of the two cheat sheets, and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.
For each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, customer or category words. For Gray’s Lighting, a fictional stage lighting brand that provides such a high quality lighting that it brings out every detail on the face of actors. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as works better for you, sensory appeal, and experiences, and the emotional clusters, such as optimism, feeling free, and getting noticed. Once I made those choices, I began brainstorming 10-15 key benefit phrases that start with “I get…” for the functional benefits and “I feel” for the emotional benefits.
Using your benefit clusters to manage the four-headed monster of the B2B customer
Using the clusters from Gray’s Stage Lighting, below shows how each of the four people within a customer are motivated by the different benefits within your cluster. While you may narrow down your focus for your main communication, as you work directly with the specific people at your customer, the clusters give you a bit more flexibility in how you sell your brand.
This type of thinking is in my B2B Brands book
Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze
- You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices.
- When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.