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March 24, 2012


Buying decisions are made in the cloud

by Tom De Baere

This post is about todays buyers that inform themselves first through their “circle of trust” on the web, and create a short-list of vendors, before they approach them.

You must have noticed it yourself. How do you go about when you want to buy something? Chances are high that you talk to someone who has some experience with what you want to buy. But chances are much higher that you go on-line and that you build up your knowledge by visiting review sites, blogs, or contact some of your contacts on LinkedIn who might have some experience with what you intend to buy.

Oh no, not another post on content marketing

Before you think ‘oh no’, not yet another post about content marketing and inbound marketing, “tell me something I do not know”. Fair enough.

I want to share with you a little story on how I started realizing that indeed the buying process of professional has changed and that I had to change myself as a marketing professional.

The changing buying process

Within the company I work for, I have experienced it many times myself. I still remember a case within the marketing department where we wanted to improve our operations to become more effective and efficient in terms of operations and lead generation. I was lucky to hire an incredible smart guy who managed to clearly identify where we could improve our operations and how to do it. He had spent months doing research, developing specification and requirements and think of processes that needed to change. In the end he had made a shortlist of a number of marketing automation providers, and website builders that could integrate the marketing automation into our website.

Now comes the most interesting part: he had done this research on-line, created his idea on what we needed based on what he could find on-line, and created a shortlist of vendors based on the information he could find on-line and how well these vendors met his requirements. Yes, he did talk to some vendors to clarify some element or to get budget indications, but there was no classic sales process involved.

So in essence, this is the way this buying process went:

  • Employees go on the web to make what they believe to be an informed buying decision.
  • They test their idea inside the company, find out which requirements the different departments have
  • Then pitch it to the board and have a budget allocated
  • And plan the whole project before they even talk to a vendor.

Depending on how high the investment is, you’ll do more or less research, involve more or less consultancy, but your initial starting point is the web. Or think of yourself on how you buy a new smartphone, car or anything else: you talk to people and seek for advice. You talk to them off-line, to your friends and family, but you also seek advice on-line. Which can be Facebook, if you are from the Y-generation, or your trusted contacts on LinkedIn, or product review sites, or blogs. The web is so rich of information, that that’s the place you turn to, first !

The circle of trust

The decision-making of B2B buyers is done in a cloud hovering over our company but not touching it. What that means is that people are more inclined to trust parties that are not trying to sell something to them, you could call it their “circle of trust”, and base their buying decisions based on that. In many cases this “circle of trust” is found on-line through social networking, blogs, review sites, whitepapers, etc…

As a marketer or communication professional, how do you intend to react to this? I would even like to argue that this post about the changing buying cycle is only relevant for marketers and communication professional. The topic that I describe in this post  very much involve you as a product manager, marketer, VP Sales, COO, CTO or CEO. Because if we do not market and communicate our products or services properly, what’s the use of making them in the first place?

What do smart sales people do ?

When customers meet with your sales people, they are more informed than ever, because these customers have their own “circle of trust”. How do you go about with this “circle” ?

  • Smart sales people realize this immediately and prepare themselves to provide unique insights into the pains and challenges of the customers’ business. That’s what differentiates them from their competitors who talk about their products and the values they bring.
  • Smart marketers work together with their sales force by bringing in these unique insights to the web and use them in different sales supporting materials.

How do you intend to get into the “circle of trust” of your buyers, before they make their buying decision?

Thank you for reading, and please share your comments with me.

Best regards,

Tom De Baere