I find it quite interesting to observe how purchase decisions are finalized. This process is even more fascinating when you look to see how the process has changed over time. As a marketing professional, it is critical to understand just how your target audience makes a purchase. If you don’t understand this process, you will likely waste precious resources, time and effort trying to encourage a behavior that might never occur.
Let’s first take a look at what I would consider to be a pretty basic purchase process – the decision to buy an ice cream at the beach.
A Simple Purchase
The first thing to consider is that this process will vary, depending upon if you are alone or with a group. In all likelihood, you will be with another person. In this case, the decision really isn’t yours alone to make. There is a time factor. Are you late to another destination with your companion? If so, then there will likely be no ice cream for you. L
Alternatively, if the weather is hot, you are with a group that is has time and money, then perhaps the likelihood could be quite high that you will have a cold treat becomes quite high. Not so fast … even in this scenario, there is a possibility that someone in your party is particular. Is it too crowded? Do they have my flavor? Are there Sherbet options? Only after navigating through these final considerations might a purchase be consummated.
As this example hopefully demonstrates, even a basic decision to purchase an ice cream cone at the beach will likely be impacted by the power of an influencers.
A Complex Sale
Given the above hypothetical scenario, one might wonder how a complex enterprise software solution is ever purchased! Sometimes, looking back on deals I was involved with, it is indeed amazing that they actually closed. Consider just some of the variables that must be addressed:
- Will the new software be compatible with the company’s existing IT systems?
- Will additional training be required?
- Can our existing staff support and run the program with training, or will new hires be needed? (If this is indeed the case, re-consider purchasing different software – the point here is to IMPROVE productivity)
- Is the new software necessary? In other words, can the problem be solved in a different way using the existing IT infrastructure, perhaps residing in another department or another business unit? Consider if you had just spent $1 billion on an ERP deployment, which still isn’t done, to really see the ramification of this consideration.
- Will I, the buyer, be out of a job if this new software is installed? (This might mean you are speaking to the wrong buyer.)
- Will this new software support our existing policies and process governance guidelines? Or, will it enable out-of-policy or procedures?
No Purchase is made in a Vacuum
What should now be abundantly clear is that the role of influencer is critical, so cannot be overlooked. As such, your marketing communications program and sales strategy must accommodate this reality. Any concerns or questions presented by influencers must be addressed. Of course, what this means is that topics for communicating to your audience must now include ancillary topics, perhaps some that might not have seemed intuitive when establishing your initial marketing communications strategy.
Sadly, those that neglect this expanded requirement for messaging will hit stumbling blocks at the worst possible time – when it comes time to closing a sale. An influencer may not be able to close a deal, but they can certainly block one by influencing a decision maker to defer purchase, or worse, select your competitor’s offering.
In my next post I’ll take a look at how social media has taken a role in helping facilitate the role of the trusted advisor or influencer.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in creating and executing marketing communications strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.