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Marketing to B2B Buyers' Personal Needs


by Sandra L. Howe

Suppliers, manufacturers and other companies who market B2B solutions may want to address the buyer’s personal needs in order to boost their bottom line.

As revealed in the article “Connecting with Customers’ Emotions” (INSIDER, July 12, 2010), customers buy based on emotion, not logic. This reality, long known by reputable copywriters, is also validated by a large but little-known body of neurological research. Any marketing to customers must address this reality to fully succeed.

The B2B buyer is also “wired” to buy—or not buy—based at least partly on emotion, according to reputable marketers and copywriters who generate higher-than-average return on investment (ROI) for their clients.

However, while both the customer and the buyer buy based on emotion, the customer tends to buy a product strictly to meet personal needs for herself or her family. Those needs could be to have more energy and stamina to play with her children or grandchildren, or to experience greater aliveness and joy through increased libido, or to feel younger and more desirable by having fewer wrinkles.

While the customer has more straightforward needs, the B2B buyer typically has a “split personality” as far as typical buying behavior. This means the buyer is pulled simultaneously in two different, often opposing directions, while searching for the right solution to a challenge. This is because the buyer has two different sets of needs: business and personal.

The buyer’s business needs are usually more obvious and better recognized. This is where the buyer must consider how he can best help his company to thrive. Typically, the B2B buyer seeks a solution that increases sales, reduces costs, boosts productivity, increases efficiency and generates a good ROI. Enchanting the customer’s experience can be another business need. Many natural products B2B companies are already familiar with what their target population are looking for, and can market accordingly.

The buyer has personal needs as well, however—needs that profoundly influence the decision-making process and can prevent that person from considering even a seemingly perfect solution. These personal needs are less obvious—at least “on paper”—and not necessarily openly discussed in formal business environments. However, for marketing to optimally succeed, these needs must be addressed.

The buyer typically has different personal needs. Avoiding unnecessary risk is one such need. Making several bad business decisions can lead to demotion or losing one’s job, and the buyer knows this. She thus may be more wary about a completely new B2B solution that hasn’t been tried before, that no other natural products company she knows has implemented as yet. She’ll back out of an otherwise perfect solution as a result, seeking a less effective but more familiar solution.

Or, if it’s a major new software program or a new manufacturing process, she may wonder: Will implementing this solution lead to huge deployment headaches? Will other people at the company resent this solution because they are forced to adapt to it, even though it works better than the old system?

Another personal need is the desire to reduce one’s heavy workload—or at least not add to it. The ideal solution may lead to increased productivity or profits, but may add to the buyer’s own overloaded plate, making his own hours even longer. This obviously pulls the buyer in two opposing directions.

This “split personality” tends to emerge only with major purchases or services that entail a much higher degree of risk. Purchasing paper clips, for example, won’t trigger its existence; finding and implementing an e-commerce solution will though.

Given the multi-dimensional nature of personal versus business needs, it can be difficult for the buyer to make a decision that meets both the business and personal needs. The long and complicated sales cycle is slowed down further by this basic reality.

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