Marketing has never been a “one size fits all” approach. That’s why it’s important to remember the difference between consumer and organisational buying, and to learn how this affects your inbound marketing strategy.
Consumers and businesses (organisations) need to have specific buying processes, because of their differing needs. That means that your marketing team needs to understand both of these buyer types and their journeys, in order to successfully close them each as clients.
Consumers buy goods to use for themselves, or as a gift for someone else. What this means is that consumers are free to purchase for personal use, and that is what they do.
The implication of this is that consumers by in a smaller volumes pertaining to their individual, and often immediate, needs. The decision maker is most often the buyer. The simplest way to explain this is with the coffee metaphor. If you’d like a cup of coffee in your day, you don’t find yourself usually buying a coffee bean roaster, grinder and espresso machine (along with hundreds of those famous cardboard take-away cups)… instead, you pop into your nearest café and order a latte. Or perhaps you’ll buy a single bag of coffee beans for your personal coffee machine at home. That’s consumer buying. Satisfying your personal and individual needs, usually for the short term.
Organisations, often ruled by company policies or industry regulations, buy goods due to consistent, ongoing operations or to resell, and generally focus on the long-term.
This means that organisations often purchase raw materials to build products for consumers, or whole products to resell to consumers. But in both circumstances, organisations purchase large volumes of goods at one time, because they plan for long-term needs and are driven, instead by personal need, by their consumers’ and manufacturing needs. The key factor to understand in this buying process, however, is the complexity in decision making. Organisations have massive networks of decision makers that need to approve the purchase before anything his set in stone.
Here's a hypothetical example for you (which, take note, has been largely simplified): A large IT company is looking to purchase new headsets for their sales team, but the decision needs to get the greenlight first. The process begins with the technology decision maker (say, the CIO), who is fed by multiple seniors beneath him, who have found in their opinion that new headsets are required. Then, the CIO evaluates this information and decides that new headsets are a technical necessity to the company. Next, the CIO relays this request to the business decision maker (the CFO), who himself is fed by multiple analysts beneath him regarding the business's budget and ROI. The CFO weighs this information against the CIO's decision, and decides that the new headsets makes financial sense too. At this point, the IT company finds itself without a trusted headset supplier, and so hires a 3rd party company to find them one. This 3rd party sends a request for proposal (RFP) to potential suppliers, weighs the different suppliers bids against each other, and makes a decision on who the best supplier for the IT company's new headsets are. Only then you've made the sale. And remember, we've simplified this... it's really a remarkably complex network of decision making for organisational buying.
Create content that follows each buying process, and takes them along their journeys with ease.
The benefits of recognising the consumer and organisational buying process is not that you can understand which buyer type is easier or quicker to close… but rather how you can easier and quicker close each of them.
Consumers are driven by need and want. This means it’s far more possible to entice them to purchase something that perhaps they don’t necessarily need right now by marketing efforts and “peer pressure” – because you can appeal to their want. You can create a desire for consumers and then convince them that they need to fulfil it. Consumers like to be told what they need… or at least, they welcome the thought. And if you capture them right, they’ll talk amongst themselves, create a hype for your goods and further the want for your product.
But organisations aren’t so easily swayed, because they are far more logical in their purchasing decisions. The decision maker is not necessarily, and usually not, the buyer. That’s why organisations don’t want to waste resources, and so they are far harder to create desires for. Instead you need to run after their needs and do so well. That’s because organisations love long-term plans, and so unlike consumers, organisations want to build a relationship with their suppliers and clients and make these last. Your organisational buyer wants to know that you’re trustworthy, that you’re going to stick around and do business consistently well. They aren’t necessarily after that “Wow!” factor as much as consumers are, but rather a consistent offering and good service. If you get this right, you’ll have lifetime clients that place regular bulk orders and are set on keeping a good relationship with you.
I hope that you can understand consumer and organisational buying behaviour a little better now, and that you’re well onto your way to tailoring your inbound marketing to each of their wants and needs. Go get marketing!