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Active Buyers: Marketing to the Yes

B2B Buying Committee

TL;DR—Focus your marketing by targeting it to those members of the B2B buying committee who are Active Buyers and have a role in saying Yes.

A few weeks ago we talked about the need to focus your marketing efforts. In the process, we talked about Active Buyers. Let’s unpack that a bit further.

There are several different ways of defining “active buyers”. As manufacturing marketers, I think it is helpful if we move beyond simply thinking of them as buyers who are presently “active” or in-market. Rather, our definition of active buyers should ideally focus on those members of the B2B buying committee who are truly active in the buying process.

With the average B2B buying committee size rounding to 7 (according to CEB/Gartner), the question then becomes: Who are the 7 members of the B2B buying committee? And, which members do we include in the active buyers subset?

The Anatomy of the B2B Buying Committee
While every buying committee will be a bit unique, we have found a relatively consistent pattern in committee composition. Here are 7 “typical” members of the B2B buying committee:

  • Project Owner
  • Procurement Officer
  • Executive Sponsor
  • Chief Executive
  • Operations Lead
  • Dependent Department #1
  • Dependent Department #2

As a bit of a thought experiment, let’s imagine for a moment that you’re the Director of Marketing for Ricoh North America. One of the niche categories Ricoh plays in is High-Volume Production Printing—the manufacture and sale of high-volume digital printing solutions and the associated IT/Document Management infrastructure. These solutions are often sold via direct reps to large corporate in-house printing departments, as well as actual print shops. For the purpose of this example, let’s assume we’re focusing on the in-house printing opportunity and building our marketing to address Ricoh’s opportunity in that category. These buyers are insurance companies, banks, utilities, school boards, etc.—organizations that still require a large amount of centralized printing. Many of whom also have a serious invoice or statement printing requirement (e.g. utilities).

With that background, you might imagine Ricoh’s target buying committee as looking something like this:

Project Owner: This person is likely the main department manager responsible for document management/production printing.

Procurement Officer: Given that this is a $500K+ purchase, a procurement officer has been assigned to the RFP process.

Executive Sponsor: The Project Owner reports to the Executive Sponsor, keeping them in the loop on this key initiative with regular project status updates.

Chief Executive: This person ultimately has to sign off on the spend. They’re either the divisional head or the company’s CEO, depending on company size.

Operational Lead: In this case, the operational lead of the production printing facility who oversees day-to-day operations.

Dependent Department #1: As mentioned earlier, many in-house production printing departments do a significant amount of invoice/statement printing. With that in mind, our first “Dependent Department” is Customer Service, and a member of the Customer Service management team has been assigned to the buying committee.

Dependent Department #2: In addition to the 6 other members of the buying committee, there’s also a representative from IT given that the procured system will have to integrate with existing technologies and run on the existing network.

Now that we know who the members of the buying committee are, who should we market to?

They keep adding more No’s
As the B2B buying committee continues to increase in size, one thing you’ll notice is that the additional people are people who can say No, not Yes. Gartner has explored this a bit over the past year or so, with their research showing that as the B2B buying committee increases in size, the propensity for the committee to decide NOT to buy goes up. Or, as I like to say, we keep adding more No’s to the buying committee. Understanding this can really help us focus our marketing efforts, because I think we should be marketing to those members of the committee who have a role in saying Yes.

Keeping with our Ricoh example, how does our buying committee stack up?

Project Owner: This is the main Yes for our marketing efforts. Almost nothing is going to move forward unless the Project Owner is enthusiastic about our solution.

Procurement Officer: A procurement officer is often the definition of a No. They keep the process moving according to corporate policy, and say No when it isn’t.

Executive Sponsor: If there is any member of this buying committee that sits on the fence between Yes and No, it’s the Executive Sponsor. The extent to which they’re one or the other is mostly dependent on committee / organization dynamics, and how hands-on the sponsor is in directing the Project Owner.

Chief Executive: This is another No role, generally speaking.

Operations Lead: The people that live with a purchase decision day-to-day are often a key Yes that marketing needs to influence. That’s the case here—our second most important committee member to focus on is the Operations Lead.

Dependent Departments #1 & 2: For the most part, these committee members are there to say No. Of course, the solution proposed needs to check their boxes, but provided those boxes are checked, they shouldn’t stand in the way of a sale.

Marketing to the Yes
Choosing to market to the Yes here would focus our efforts on the Project Owner and the Operations Lead, with perhaps some consideration given to the Executive Sponsor. That focus would bring many benefits.

In each of these cases, the Buyer Personas we could develop as marketers to focus on these committee members would be relatively precise. The marketing triggers and early objections could be somewhat easily addressed. This would provide clear site and conversion content direction, too—operational benefits, ease of use, and productivity gains could be main messages for our operational lead, while our project lead will be focused things like the longer term technology roadmap and ROI considerations.

Another thing you’ll notice about the Yes’s is that they are the committee members who are most likely to be engaged in research early in the buying process, helping to ensure our content investments work hard at the right times.

By choosing to market to the Yes, we bring precision to our marketing efforts while aligning tightly to our prospects’ buying journey.

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There you have it. The next time you’re trying to focus your marketing efforts and narrow your Buyer Persona focus, ask yourself: Who are the Yes’s in the buying committee?

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