It is easy to fall into a trap and assume that B2B customers and prospects follow rational decision-making journeys. Psychology has long demonstrated that humans are not rational beings and that our decisions are largely based on emotions, instead of purely logical reasoning. No matter how objective we try to be, we are all consciously and/or unconsciously influenced by external elements and emotions.
Here's an article providing a quick overview of why people decide and buy the way they do in the B2B world.
We're Not As Rational As We Think
You would think that, in the B2B world where stakes are high, you'd be able to follow logical reasoning and make the best possible purchase decision. In reality, a B2B buyer’s thought process is a lot more complex and difficult to pinpoint. Sure, a potential buyer might want to make sure that what they're purchasing fits within their budget and will provide value. That is, however, not where the thought process usually stops. Some might also wonder how this purchase will make them look or how it will impact their reputation at the company.
The Fear of Failure and Regret Aversion
Purchasing a service or product that will help them do their job is a good first step, but they also need to ensure that their decisions will make them and their colleagues feel good. Decision-makers are therefore easily met by the fear of failure, as they have to take into account the impact that their purchases will have on their relationships (e.g., with superiors, colleagues). When a reputation is at stake and politics are involved, it's difficult to make purely rational buying decisions. In this way, while we all have to make decisions in the workplace, some are invariably more costly than others in terms of not just finances but also emotions. What's more, buyers want to avoid regretting the things they buy. "Regret aversion" can be a strong driver (or inhibitor) of buying decisions. Nobody wants to feel post-purchase remorse.
Photo by Charles Deluvio
There are quite a few roadblocks before a B2B buyer can get to a final decision. As most of us know by now, there is never only one person who makes major B2B purchase decisions; there are always multiple stakeholders involved in the process. Some will have to consult with their colleagues or superiors before giving their input, while others will have to check the company’s budget. The problem with having multiple people in a single buying committee is that increases the risk of running into decision paralysis.
When given too many options to choose from (too many products, services, competing offers), this could create significant cognitive overload in a buyer’s mind, which could then lead them to decision avoidance.
A decision-maker with too many options is a decision-maker who will likely not make a decision. Ironic, isn’t it?
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A COMPLEX B2B BUYER JOURNEY?
Because the B2B buyer journey is often highly complex, this lowers the buyers' chances of experiencing positive purchasing journeys, and therefore diminishes a buying group's ability to reach a consensus. The process gets slow and tedious.
To help facilitate the buyer process and enhance the overall experience your prospect's face in relation to your business and brand, here are three key things you can do.
1. Apply ABM
If you want to market and sell to an account, it is important to address the issues on an account-level (rather than on an individual-level) to avoid decision paralysis. If not, you miss out on the opportunity to reach the right people with the right message, at the right times.
Understanding your audience on an account-level and treating those accounts as their own entities allows you to create more impactful and personalized campaigns that help untie decision knots.
Click here learn more about ABM.
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2. Consider loss aversion
Another important thing to remember is that people's reactions are stronger in a situation that feels like a threat, rather than an opportunity. If an opportunity presents itself, there isn't really a reason to feel a fear of loss. Because of the sense of safety and security this brings, a strong impulse or reaction isn't always immediately warranted.
However, if a threat presents itself, there is more reason to feel fear -- fear of losing something or of missing out if you don't make a particular decision. In such cases, the impulse to take action is stronger.
When framing your offerings, you should therefore make sure that they appeal to your buyer's sense of loss aversion.
How can you prove and communicate that buyers can avoid losses or opportunity costs because of your solution? That is what you need to think about.
3. Develop buyer personas
While you don't have control over the environment decision-makers are in, you do have control over how you approach them, how you present your products and services, and how you position your company.
To optimise that control, you must get into the psyche of the buyer and understand where it is that they are coming from. A good way of preparing yourself to interact with different B2B decision-makers is to develop buyer personas.
Using different buyer personas can significantly develop your understanding of not just your audience's demographics, but also their various psychological profiles. Having this understanding can help tailor your marketing and sales strategies to the specific needs and preferences of your target market. By diving into a decision maker's role, goals and challenges at the workplace, you pain a clearer picture of who you're interacting with and how your messaging needs to be adapted accordingly.
Click here learn more about buyer personas.
4. Incorporate conversational marketing
Another way to encourage faster and more seamless decision-making is by incorporating conversational marketing -- communicating to your audience in a way that's more approachable, engaging, and instant than traditional marketing styles (e.g., using human-like chatbots to provide product information to website visitors as soon as they ask for it).
Conversational marketing, which is most commonly executed via chat solutions, speeds up the decision-making process because it adds convenience to a prospect's website experience and makes your brand more accessible to them at their most interested moments.
Overall, by giving your buyers a heightened sense of control over their own experiences and by thoughtfully presenting the right information to them at the right times, you make it easier for them to buy into your business.
Click here learn more about conversational marketing.
Photo by Charles Forerunner
In conclusion, buyers are subject to many different external and internal influences which dictate the way they think and come to a purchase decision.
The B2B buyer’s journey is full of all sorts of roadblocks -- financial, political, psychological, you name it -- that put strains on their logical reasoning and decision-making processes. You can't directly influence those pressures, but you can however take initiative in better understanding your audience and adapt your marketing approach accordingly.
About the AuthorFollow on Linkedin More Content by Zoe De Preter