Identifying decision makers in the B2B customer journey


Laura Britten

Head of Marketing

B2B Marketing

A key difference between B2C and B2B marketing is the number of decision-makers involved in the sales process.

While the B2C customer journey has become arguably more complex over the years, there is still typically just one person involved in the decision making – occasionally two depending on the product or service.

In contrast, a B2B sale can have as many as five plus decision-makers involved, each with different areas of expertise and different agendas. Furthermore, different decision-makers might be involved at different stages of the customer journey or sales funnel.

This means that, at any given stage of the sales funnel, B2B businesses need to tailor their content and messages to multiple decision-makers so that everyone involved can access the information needed to be bought in.

Understanding which decision-makers are likely to be involved in the buying process for your product or service is key to creating an effective digital marketing strategy.

Why are there multiple decision-makers involved in the B2B buying process?

Most business purchases affect multiple people and areas within a company; take, for example, a piece of software. There will be the people who will be using the software on a day to day basis whose priority is making sure the software improves their ability to do the job. There will be the people in charge of those using the software, who want to ensure the software improves efficiency and quality of work. There will be the financial team, who want to ensure the cost does not run over budgets. And there will be the board, who want to ensure that there is an ROI from investing in the software.

Typically, the more strategic a purchase is, or the more expensive it is, the more people are involved.

Identifying which decision-makers are involved in your business

The person in charge of making decision purchases for a business can vary depending on the purchase cost and the strategic importance a purchase has.

Purchase cost

Low-cost purchases (less than 5% of annual budget) usually require less higher-level input, which means these costs can be signed off without directors or the board having a final say.

Strategic importance

Low strategic importance (e.g. it doesn’t impact the ability for work to be carried out) again requires less higher-level input, whereas high strategic purchases will require the relevant higher management to sign off.

Low spend, low strategic importance

There is usually one decision-maker for these types of purchases – typically someone in a supporting role. There may also be management involved for the final budget sign off, but not for the research stage.

How to help the customer journey

There is usually little time dedicated to low spend, low strategic purchases, so make the customer journey as quick and easy as possible; logical site navigation, a search bar, and a quick and simple checkout process will make it quicker for decision-makers to purchase. Onsite content, metadata and ad messaging should focus on the efficiency of delivery, as these types of purchases are often left to the last minute once supplies have run out.

High spend, low strategic importance

High spend, low strategic importance purchases normally have two to three decision-makers involved, with specialist-staff or management conducting the research and middle management signing off the budget.

How to help the customer journey

While the product itself is not of big value, the cost of these purchases can make a significant impact on budgets, so highlight financial USPs on meta descriptions, landing pages and ad copy to entice people in.

Low spend, high strategic importance

There are two to three decision-makers involved in low spend, high strategic purchases: technical or specialist staff, management and middle management.

How to help the customer journey

The key to making this sale is to differentiate your product. Website content, ad copy and meta descriptions should focus on your USPs and quality of the product or service, and the expertise, reliability and trustworthiness as a brand. Having a content strategy which includes thought leadership and service or product pages detailing the offering is useful here.

High spend, high strategic importance

Management, middle management, senior executive management and specialist-staff are all involved in high spend, high strategic purchases. Depending on the size of the company, there can be as many as six or more people involved in the decision making for these purchases.

How to help the customer journey

These kinds of purchases are financial and strategic investments, so you need to sell both the benefits of the product and the value of the brand as a long-term partner.

You will need plenty of in-depth content on site to distinguish your products from competitors and position your brand as an industry leader and strategic partner, including:

  • Service pages which highlight the product’s benefits and USPs
  • ‘About us’ pages highlighting the company’s experience and expertise
  • Informational onsite content e.g. blogs, articles
  • Downloadable expert content e.g. whitepapers, videos.

Your strategy will need to cover content at all stages of the sales funnel, and target both specialists/ experts, and all levels of management involved.

Once you have identified the decision makers for your particular product or service, you will need to create detailed personas using analytics, CRM and social media audience insights. These personas can then be used to shape your digital marketing strategy, as you will better understand who your customer is, what content they want to see, and where they are likely to see it.

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