The quest to uncover how and why people and businesses engage in the act of buying is becoming an endurance race. Spurred on by increasing social technologies advances. The result is many organizations, whether academia or business, have focused on the science of buying. What we may be losing is critical understanding of the art of buying.
What we are witnessing in the new digital age is the old rules of near total dependency on understanding processes and rules associated with buying is no longer the sole winning ticket. Buying processes and rules have been dissected and analyzed many times over throughout the past few decades. We clung to the belief of knowing the how will lead us to systematic knowledge of how to close more business with buyers. The problem marketing and selling organizations face today is the how – processes and rules – are not as easily defined or structured as in the past. Social technologies have made it possible for new networks and collaboration amongst buyers – causing plenty of flex in processes and rules.
The Why of Buying
If the science of buying has focused on the how of buying, the art of buying is a heightened quest for understanding the Why of Buying™. The focus on how businesses buy in B2B marketing and sales has led to many different spin offs of stages, processes, cycles, and funnel shapes. These exercises do have value. However, here is a way of looking at what is missing:
A pure focus on process and stages, for example, creates a focus on what buyers are doing rather than what they are thinking and why it is important.
My point of view goes something like this:
Despite all the hype and efforts made in demand generation and content marketing, organizations are still struggling in these areas. This is due to campaigns and programs designed to fit into established ideas of how businesses buy. We have even believed automating processes to fit into our view of how we believe buyers buy will speed up purchase cycles. This is happening at the expense of innovating marketing and sales to get at the core why of buying.
In the recent Software Advice B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey 2012, conducted in partnership with Eloqua and CMO, I was struck by how 45 to 60% of the 155 marketer respondents believed demand generation performance were below expectations. Those using marketing automation believing performances were better than those not using marketing automation. In recent CMI as well as eConsultancy surveys, 40 to 50% of marketers surveyed believed their content marketing efforts were not effective.
Effectiveness a Continuing Struggle
Effectiveness and performance continue to be ongoing issues when it comes to demand generation and content marketing. While organizations may be getting more productive and efficient at automating processes related to demand generation and content marketing, the missing link is an understanding of why buyers behave, think, and decide as they do. How buyers behave, think, and decide do not always fit squarely into boxes we have defined to go with processes, rules, or stages.
To become more effective at helping buyers, marketing and sales organizations will need to do this:
Put more investment and energy into understanding the why of buying as opposed to an over abundance on the science of marketing and sales. We cannot understand how to help buyers unless we are grounded in knowing the why.
Competitive advantage will be determined by knowledge of the motivations, beliefs, thinking, perceptions, goals, behaviors, and responses on the part of buyers. Marketing today must fulfill the role of understanding how buyers behave and think. Sales must become the enablers of buyers helping themselves.
The Stories of Buyers
The art of buying is represented through the stories of buyers. For every industry, there are compelling stories about buyers, which can be told. It is through these stories we can learn the motivations and goals of buyers, which open the door to understand the why of buying. For marketing and sales, the key to future success will be in understanding what stories are unfolding, why these stories are important, and how to become part of stories. To mold this key, it will take more art than science to achieve.