In the B2B industry, a single person making a decision is a rarity. Narrowing your focus to just your contact person at an organization or the person signing the dotted line at the end limits your ability to effectively market your solution.
While using lead generation tools is an effective tool for identifying a point of contact within an organization, the end goal should never be to just target that one person. Ultimately, you are looking to engage with a group of decision-makers.
We are now at the age of buying groups. Understanding buying groups will impact your strategies to ensure your message is clear and effectively reaching the right group of people.
In order to properly leverage buying groups, you need to make sure you clearly understand what they are. At their core, buying groups–also known as buying committees–are the group of people involved in a decision making process. A buying group has a need that your solution can address.
The exact number of people ranges, but Gartner finds that “the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves 6 to 10 decision makers.”1 It’s also important to recognize that any single organization may represent one or more buying groups, each with its own unique needs and business requirements.
For example, the Human Resource department in one company might have three distinct buying groups to address three different needs. One group might be focused on improving the accuracy and efficiency in the hiring process while another group’s need is educating staff on new safety regulations to reduce downtime. You shouldn’t market your solution to the entire company, the entire HR department, or even a single person within the department. Instead, you have to consider the group of decision-makers involved for your specific solution.
In today’s world, buying groups are so critical because decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Functioning with that mentality slows down the entire process for you and the buyer.
In simplest terms, if you’re able to identify and engage with everyone involved in the buying decision, you’re more likely to speed up the sales cycle. According to CSO Insights, the average sales cycle for most B2B sales (74.65) is at least 4 months from start to close. Nearly half (46.4%) were found to take 7 months or more.2
If B2B advertisers focus on one person, it slows the process down as information is passed (not always accurately) from person to person. You want to be on everyone’s radar to move through the sales funnel more quickly, which ultimately frees you up for more sales and conversions.
Once you’ve identified the individuals in your buying group, it’s time to surround them with your solution’s messaging.
Here are three strategies to help ensure you are doing this effectively:
Even in the lead generation process, focus your targeting efforts on who you believe might be part of the buying group. If your solution is a platform that helps Human Resource departments streamline the payroll process and reduce cost, you wouldn’t just target the head of HR during lead generation. You’d want to include anyone else who could be involved in the decision. This includes (but is not limited to): the CEO, CFO, the head of IT, and senior management.
Using quality data, you can more easily identify a qualified lead and then start to build an entire buying group around them.
2. Map Contacts
The map needs to go from top (CEO or higher) to bottom (specialist, management, etc.). This helps to give you a more clear picture of the buying group to ensure no one is left out. As you’re creating your contact map, ask yourself the following questions:
3. Define the process for sales and marketing
Just like with lead generation, aligning your sales and marketing teams can save everyone time and effort while increasing conversions. Depending on the solution you offer and who you’re targeting, the process will vary. However, sales and marketing need to communicate and be on board about what it looks like to move a buying group through the sales funnel.
We’ve grown accustomed to the belief that personalization is key in marketing, and personalized messaging leads to increased conversions. Some might worry about how to practice this when you’re gearing your message to a group, not an individual. It’s a valid concern. Remember, buying groups consist of stakeholders from different levels and potentially different departments. Each person brings their own questions, perspectives, and needs to the table.
For example, the buying group for your HR solution might include people from HR, as well as the IT department. They will have different questions and needs from your solution that need to be addressed, potentially at the same time. This is where things can get tricky.
Here are a couple of ways to ensure your message is effective and relevant for all buying group members:
1. Opportunity mapping
This requires identifying pain points, needs, and a map to the solutions. It allows you to more clearly see the opportunities of each individual and how it aligns to the needs of the buying group as a whole. With this, you can also ensure everyone’s needs are addressed.
2. Focus on buying group’s shared goals
While personalization is key, in this specific context, you want to make sure you’ve established common ground between all the decision-makers as well. Yes, you need to demonstrate how each individual or department benefits, but it’s also critical to show how your solution will serve the organization as a whole. Bring everything back to a shared vision that you’ve identified with the entire buying group.
Buying groups are not just the present. They’re the future, too. It’s critical to start shifting your approach from lead generation to moving through the sales funnel to be geared toward a group of decision-makers, as opposed to an individual. In doing so, you can expect to see a tighter sales cycle, more conversions, and an improved customer experience.
Ken Stout is Senior Vice President at Data Axle, a leading provider of data and real-time business intelligence solutions for enterprise, small business, nonprofit and political organizations. He has also held executive roles at companies such as True Influence, QuinStreet, IT Business Edge, GameSpy Industries, CNET Networks/TechRepublic, CMP Media/Miller Freeman and Colgate Palmolive Co.