Buying Circles

Here’s a little tidbit of info that gave me pause:

As many as 21 parties are involved in a $25,000-plus purchase decision at companies with more than 1,000 employees, according to a 2007 survey by MarketingSherpa. (This is according to Ruth P. Stevens in an opinion piece in BtoB Marketing magazine.)

It’s hard enough to convince one person to buy your product or service, but 21?  All at the same time?

They’re called buying circles.  But is that even smart to get so many people involved in one decision?  Doesn’t it undermine productivity?  Don’t you wonder if a decision made by that many people can possibly be the right one with so much input, pondering, pushing and pulling?  Does the Alpha dog personality in the group always win?  Does the shy-but-smart-guy lose out to the loudmouth?  Does the outcome become the product of politics rather that practicality?

It seems overly cautious to me to assign that many people to one buying decision, with possible bad results.  But if that’s the reality, then we marketers have to understand each one of the 21 people and what their priorities are.  We already know the purchasing guy is all about cost.  And the engineer needs to know that your widget will really perform as specified.  What about the other 19 people?  How do we craft messages that target them?

We can only do that if we know who they are and what they need.  And that’s not going to be easy to find out.  It will be different for every company.

Maybe that’s why they call them buying circles.  In order to market to them effectively, they have us running in circles.

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