As B2B marketers, we are told the psychologies which drive consumer tech purchasing are markedly different from those which drive B2B technology purchasing. However, this is becoming less true as B2B tech marketing learns more from the consumer side. For the consumer, a number of complex psychologies come into place when purchasing a new mobile phone, for example. Choice supportive and groupthink are three bias’ which spring to mind immediately.
- Choice-supportive bias or ‘post-purchase rationalization’ is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected – the opposite to ‘buyer remorse’. So, we feel the need to defend and justify our purchases to others.
- Groupthink is more nuanced and makes us believe something because other people believe it. We feel simpatico with those who have made the same choices as us, which is why we feel a sense of fandom and belonging when our friends purchase the same iPhone as us, for example. This is why people prefer Android to Apple, XBox to PlayStation, PC to Mac.
- Anchoring bias is the tendency to be overly influenced by the first piece of information that we hear about something. So, if the first thing you hear about a new technology is positive, that’s where all of your future opinions are anchored from, and vice versa.
None of these seem too relevant when thinking about a CTO’s considerations for a new ERP system. After all, what use is choice-supportive if the tech doesn’t align with the business needs? Who cares what other people have done? Likewise, is groupthink as important to a B2B buyer as a consumer buyer?
I’d argue these biases are more important than ever, and why ignoring them could mean the difference between success and failure. Here’s why:
- You confuse me! – one of the perennial issues with B2B tech companies is that their often engineering-led strategy confuses and complicates their offering. We often see prospects with many disparate products rolled up into a confusing platform story, with little rhyme or reason as to the problem each solution solves, and therefore the relevance of the platform is confused. This is less an issue for tech-savvy buyers, but gone are the days when technology procurement was the sole remit of the IT team. Today, non-technical lines of business (Marketing and finance spring immediately to mind) frequently need to procure and deploy complex technologies to help them achieve any number of goals.For non-technical buyers, confusing product sets and overly technical messaging will cause significant frustration and see smarter, more easily to buy from vendors, grow as the non-technical choice. With this in mind, it’s important to recognise that these non-technical buyers are more likely to lean on the cognitive bias’ detailed above to justify their decision. Without the technical knowledge to make a decision based on the technology itself, the opinion of peers will be much more important. This has obvious ramifications for the strategy of the marketing team tasked with making a product or platform aligned with the needs of non-technical buyers, rather than the traditional technical buyer.
- A lack of thought leadership/brand awareness – The B2B buyer lifecycle is more complicated than a consumer’s. This much is obvious. However, the early stage of evaluating a purchase by carrying out research is mirrored in both sets of behaviour. As both professionals and consumers, we turn to the Internet to help us solve our problems. In the first place, we validate our problem by looking for others that face the same issues, and seek out information in the hope our problem has been solved by another.What does this mean for B2B tech vendors? Simply, if you don’t have a presence online, then you won’t be found. Clearly, I don’t mean a website – what I mean is providing buyer personas with access to high-value thought leadership, in the publications and touchpoints of relevance. These are the communities and places prospects hang out to discuss work issues with peers. Whether that’s Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or SubReddits, these communities are vital for B2B marketers to pay attention to. Why? Just last week, we saw the power these online communities of amateur experts wield in the GameStop r/wallstreetbets debacle. Brands with the ability to pinpoint where personas hang out to solve their issues will have a strategic advantage over those vendors that choose not to, therefore putting buyers off, by forcing them to not know they exist.
- It’s not me. It’s you. Similar to the above point a brand could be doing all of the right things in terms of being able to seed content to the correct buyer personas, but the content could be wrong. A common issue is a misalignment between what sales people are hearing on the frontline and what marketing people perceive as reality. B2B tech marketing has an endemic problem of caring too much about how massive industry analysts such as Gartner and Forrester perceive the world, and become so blinkered by this, they often forget to remember there is a real world out there with real customers and real prospects which have the power to provide much more detailed feedback on messaging, positioning and perception.
Getting it right takes time. It’s not going to happen in a single day, maybe even in a year. Taking the time to fundamentally understand buyer perceptions, needs and expectations is the first major step to success for any marketing or communications professional.