Buyers buy things and they buy into things
That’s what every brand wants them to do and to do so in increasing numbers, spending more money, more frequently, across more products and services and for a longer period of time.
Brands also want buyers to buy into them so much that they spread the word about the brand to their peers – who will then become buyers themselves – and so it goes on. Increased loyalty and advocacy from rewarded and emotionally engaged buyers is worth its weight in gold.
This is all vital for business growth and forward motion. It is also vital for sales and marketing operations – responsible for achieving required sales results and for ensuring that they do so with good ROI in spend on these areas. The more loyal the buyers, the less spend on sales, marketing and customer retention.
So why do Sales, Marketing and Brand organisations make it so difficult for buyers to move to and buy from them?
We have made what we do more complicated than it needs to be
The science of brand, sales and marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and complex over the last few years. We are drowning in data, analytics, automated operations, theories and principles about how to conduct effective marketing and sales, how to create effective brands, how to run effective businesses. This is all great and has led to some exciting new ways of talking about old (and still valid) ways of doing things, as well as many diverse theories about how to best deploy new, technology led opportunities to communicate with buyers.
We have too much advice – and not enough ideas about what to do with it
The problem is that in the same way as we are drowning in data, we are also drowning in good advice. Most brand, sales and marketing people are already beleaguered by their businesses without being further hamstrung by the plethora of ways in which they can sell and market more effectively. The more this happens and the more that these professionals try to adopt new and wide ranging practices, the further away they get from the only important thing – how to actually engage meaningfully with buyers in the ways they now want.
We’re forgetting that buyers don’t want to be hassled
The irony here is that buyers do not want to be engaged with any more unless it is on their terms. Brands strive hard to do something that buyers don’t want. Businesses talk about being customer centric whilst ignoring the central requirement of customers – to be left alone and to make their own minds up. Buyers state clearly that they will find brands themselves. Paradoxically, the brands that don’t sell will sell more.
We need a real, general change of mindset
Now I’m not suggesting that all sales, marketing and brand professionals pack up and find other careers – far from it. What I am suggesting is that the focus of attention now really does need to be on a complete change of mindset that creates a real shift in these operations and addresses fully and completely the needs and wants of buyers.
We need to stop getting in buyers’ way
Lets face it, buyers actually want to buy. They really do. 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, based on the information they acquire by themselves, in the many ways that they can do this – and only seek 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 now predisposed to looking for reasons to change their mind rather than to help them make their mind up in the first place. They need affirmation rather than information.
B2B and B2C buyers all want emotional and value-based triggers to buy
The criticality of buying decisions still varies hugely between B2B and B2C buyers – driven by different motivations and emotions – caused by different market and business landscapes, demographics, offers, influences and priorities, but the buying cycle itself remains the same, from awareness to understanding, through belief to adoption and on in to loyalty and advocacy. The really big change is in how buyers themselves choose to move through this cycle and, therefore, how brands must change the way they impact on and influence each stage of decision making.
Because of this the onus is now considerably less on B2B marketing and selling, and considerably more on awareness building to enable (very human) buyers. We must help them to find brands that resonate with them enough to begin the cycle, before giving them the affirmation to help them through to the next stages. Because the REAL (product/service/benefit) differentiation between offers and choices has lessened, and because buyers have much more information that they can acquire, the need now is to build education (informing rather than information), awareness and affirmation routed in much more profound and higher value ideas and ideals. Brands must resonate with buyers in a differentiated way for sure, but do this via real truths that buyers can not only recognize and learn from in their human selves but are willing to associate with and be proud to pass on to peers.
Buyers’ state of mind and need for values and emotional triggers is key to the new buying cycle
In combination, the dual ideas that buyers don’t want to be sold or marketed to and that they need high values based and fundamental affirmation of their choices at each stage in their buying cycle, creates the need for profoundly different sales and marketing operations – and the way that brands define and develop their offer sets. Businesses (brands) need to take things like brand values, ideals, culture, DNA – the heart and soul of the organization – more seriously than ever before – and they must truly live by and express their defining credo in ways that are clear, routed in buyers needs and wants and that resonate with buyers own ideals, preferences, credos and personalities. They need to talk about these things as a matter of priority, consistently and in the places that buyers go. They need to create real bond-ship.
Sales and marketing need to jointly enable buyers, not sales
We 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 they sell to. A marketing team will always view a buyer as someone that needs to be driven in to a pipe and a brand team will always battle against a business that views awareness building as surplus to requirement. The result is always the same – no desire to understand the true, single picture of the only people that matter – buyers.
And because buyer enablement is key, we’re all responsible for brand development – even in B2B
B2B brand development as it needs to be conducted now, to identify the true higher values that inform an organisations meaningful credo, to define the right ways to profoundly resonate with todays buyers and to create awareness across diverse markets, is the responsibility of everyone in business. But as long as the divides between Brand, Sales and Marketing operations exist, as long as the priorities, remits and attitudes remain separate, and as long as business leaders promote this separation rather than compelling meaningful change, there will always be diverse and warring views of buyers – and a resulting lack of ability to deliver against true buyers needs.
To get to buyers most effectively, you need consistent Brand Conduct and Buyer Enablement
We have written before about the concept of Buyer Enablement and Brand Conduct. They are our two credos and methodologies to affect change and create strategic differentiation across organisations and in their markets. We have suggested that instead of distinct Brand, Sales and Marketing functions – operating at global and local levels across enterprise businesses – organisations should create Buyer Enablement Communities instead, designed to include everyone involved in understanding, developing products and services for and communicating with, buyers. This community would be driven by a common goal – to understand, educate/enrich and resonate with, and deliver choice affirmation to, buyers in the ways that they now require. You can read more on this here.
So let’s get a better buyer mindset – and grow our business together
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 Buyer Enablement and business growth.