Why you're making it hard for customers to buy from you

17th Jul 2014

Buyers buy things and they buy into things. That’s what every brand wants them to do, in increasing numbers; while spending more money, more frequently, across more products and services, for a longer period of time.

Brands also want buyers to buy into them to the extent that they spread the word to their peers, who become buyers themselves. Increased loyalty and advocacy from rewarded and emotionally engaged buyers is worth its weight in gold.

This is all vital for business growth. It’s also crucial for sales and marketing operations to achieve results, with good ROI. So why do sales, marketing and brand teams make it so difficult for buyers to buy from them?

1. We have made what we do too complicated

The science of brand, sales and marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and complex. We’re drowning in data, analytics, automated operations, theories and principles for conducting effective marketing and sales, creating effective brands and running effective businesses. This has led to some exciting new ways of talking about old (and still valid) ways of doing things, as well as diverse theories about how best to deploy new, technology-led opportunities to communicate with buyers. But the more we try to adopt new practices, the further away we get from engaging meaningfully with buyers.

2. We’re forgetting that buyers don’t want to be hassled

The irony here is that buyers no longer want to be engaged with brands unless it is on their terms. Brands strive hard to do something that buyers don’t want. Businesses talk about being customer-centric while ignoring the central requirement of customers: to be left alone to make up their own minds. Buyers state clearly that they will find brands themselves. Paradoxically, the brands that don’t ‘sell’ will sell more.

3. We need a real, general change of mindset

I’m not saying that sales, marketing and brand professionals find other careers. What I am suggesting is that the focus of attention now really does need to be on a complete change of mindset. One that creates a real shift in these operations, and addresses fully and completely the needs and wants of buyers.

4. We need to stop getting in buyers’ way

Let’s face it, buyers actually want to buy. They want and need to part with their money for many and various reasons and they want to affirm their good choices by talking about them – and the brands they buy from – with their peers. They want to explore, experiment and make their own choices themselves, only seeking advice and information from brands once they have narrowed the focus. What they search for now are reasons to not buy from their preferred choice, rather than reasons to buy. They are predisposed to looking for reasons to change their mind rather than to help them make up their mind in the first place. They need affirmation rather than information.

5. All buyers want emotional and value-based triggers to buy

Buying decisions still vary hugely between B2B and B2C buyers; they are driven by different motivations and emotions. But the buying cycle remains constant, from awareness to understanding, through belief to adoption and on to loyalty and advocacy. The big change is in how buyers choose to move through this cycle and how brands adapt accordingly.

The onus is now less on B2B marketing and selling, and considerably more on awareness building to enable buyers. Brands must resonate enough with them for the cycle to begin and give affirmation to help them through the next stages. Because the differentiation between offers and choices has lessened, and because buyers have access to more information, there’s a need for awareness and affirmation rooted in more profound values; truths that people recognise and are happy to pass on.

6. State of mind, values and emotional triggers are key

The fact buyers don’t want to be sold/marketed to, and that they need high values, creates the need for profoundly different operations. Businesses must truly define, live and express their credo with clarity, reflecting what buyers actually believe and want. They need consistent communication at all touch points, building real bonds with buyers and make them care about them above all competitors.

7. Sales and marketing need to jointly enable buyers, not sales

I believe that most sales and marketing operations need a profound change of mindset. In fact, the idea of sales and marketing as distinct functions is being increasingly challenged. B2B marketing is still geared around supporting sales, no matter how much marketing protests that its remit is broader. Sales enablement is still the driver. It is the barrier, too.

A sales team will always view a buyer as someone it sells to. A marketing team will always view a buyer as someone that needs to be driven into a pipeline, and a brand team will always battle against a business that views awareness building as surplus to requirements. The result is always the same – no desire to understand the true, single picture of the only people that matter: buyers.

The new B2B brand development is the responsibility of everyone in a business. That means management needs to break down barriers between brand, sales and marketing or there will always be diverse and warring views of buyers – and an inability to deliver against their needs.

8. We need consistent brand conduct and buyer enablement

Buyer enablement and brand conduct are two methodologies to effect change, creating strategic differentiation across organisations and experience differentiation across markets. Instead of distinct brand, sales and marketing functions, businesses need 'buyer enablement communities' to uniformly understand, develop and communicate products and services. The common goal: to understand and resonate with - and deliver choice affirmation to - buyers in ways they now require.

We think that brands and businesses need to create a fundamental psychological shift in their approach to sales, marketing and brand. The changing psychology of buyers is well understood. The psychology of brands and the businesses they serve needs to be explored, debated and changed to deliver meaningful brand conduct, buyer enablement and business growth.

Steve Cook is in charge of brand strategy and planning at Marketing Team Direct.

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