Do You Know What Your Buyers Value When Making A Purchase Decision?

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Tony Zambito

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Sunrise Pyramid version 2 (Photo credit: JoreJj Z. Elprehzleinn)

The importance of knowing what buyers value is unmistakable.  Yet, trying to understand what they are can be fuzzy.  Buyers are not always clear in articulating, which makes our ability to understand challenging.

Understanding buyer value drivers is important to developing a compelling value proposition.  You need to balance both sides of the coin to meet the goals and needs of your target buyers.

Influence Begets Complexity

Our traditional view of value drivers, through the term we know as buying criteria, has become inadequate in the new digital age.  It is a one-dimensional view, which can be un-insightful.  Buyers today are under a constant barrage of influence.  These influences are creating more complexity in the value drivers buyers rely on in making purchase decisions.

In a recent conversation with Dan McDade of PointClear, we touched on the topic of buyer predictability.  One way to be predictive about buying behavior is by gaining deeper insights into value drivers.  Moving beyond traditional buying criteria to a more robust ecosystem view.

Buyer Value Ecosystem

A buyer’s value ecosystem affects choices being made.  Choice is a powerful element into why buyers make purchase decisions.  While there is the ultimate choice related to purchasing, there are many sub-choices being made along the buying cycle from purchase to repurchase.  Value drivers influence these choices.

The use of an ecosystem model can help us see how different values can interrelate and play a part in buying decisions.  A helpful model for understanding buyer value ecosystems is the Buyer Value Model™.   This model focuses on three buyer value elements (behaviors):

Buyer Value Model: Available via link at end of article
Buyer Value Model: Available via link at end of article

Corporate: In B2B purchasing, there are traditional buying criteria, which influence buying decisions.  These can be corporate in nature.  Having to do with price, quality needs, expected benefits of the solution, and meeting procurement policies.

Personal: With the rise of personal branding and the redefining of our concept of career, personal values are becoming more important to understand.  These typically have to do with values related to reputation, perceived ability, career enhancement, esteem, and more.

Influence: Understanding buying behaviors in the new digital age calls for understanding values related to influence.  Influence can be external or internally related.  Buyers are placing an increasing amount of importance on such external value drivers as an organization’s social presence, standing among analyst reviews, and brand reputation in peer-review communities.  Internally, buyers are placing value on their own ability to influence as a result of the choices they make.

I also suggest using a ranking system to pinpoint the most important values to buyers.   What this helps with is being able to see how values differ between industries, vertical segments, product categories, and buyer categories.  The objective of this model and approach is to give us the deeper buyer insights into how buyers choose one solution over another.

Buyer Value Model Example
Buyer Value Model: Available via link at end of article

Deeper Analysis

To understand these values takes the effort of obtaining deep buyer insights through qualitative buyer research.  This is an effort well worth investing in.  It can help set you and your organization apart from competitors.  What it affords you is the deeper analysis you need to get beyond the inadequate one-dimensional view of buying criteria.

An example may help.  One I am seeing more often as well:

While conducting qualitative buyer interviews for a high-tech organization, one of the deep insights uncovered was the value driver of brand reputation in the engineering community.  This was discovered in on-site conversations and in observing how it was expressed as well as what tangibles they shared.  It turns out, it was a highly influential value driver, which was being neglected.  This insight gave the organization the direction needed to boost their standing in the engineering community and close more projects.

Ongoing Development

Understanding buyer value ecosystems is an important cog in the wheel for buyer persona and buyer insight development.  The deep insights obtained can help inform and shape content marketing strategies and tactics, sales approaches and strategies, designing of touchpoints, and enhancing support capabilities.  It requires ongoing development.

My hunch is buyers will constantly alter their value ecosystem as a result of new technologies and changing buying behavior.  It looks like we will need to stay on top of it.  Are you?

(I have made this model available here for you: Buyer Value Model™.  I welcome further conversations where I can help on how to use the model to gain insight into buyer values.  Please share widely – this is sure to be of value to someone.)

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3 thoughts on “Do You Know What Your Buyers Value When Making A Purchase Decision?”

  1. Tony, good post. Your closing sparked an additional thought:

    Buyers don’t want to be influenced by biased opinion. As we marketing-types find areas of opportunity and move beyond using it as a way to identify needs but, rather, to shape the needs a buyer perceives for themselves, buyers will shift preferences. Analyst reviews are a great example: as marketers increasingly influence the analyst community, buyers are putting less value on the perspectives of analysts.

    It some level, its a little bit like what day is the best day to send email. As soon as its “known,” marketers flood to it, it gets noisy, and it changes.

  2. Hi Eric,

    Thank you for your comment – appreciated. I like the perspective “as marketers use it to shape”. The old adage of too much of a good thing. This will certainly change buying behavior and buyers will alter their value ecosystem. Analyst reviews are a good example as you point out. Once it is perceived a vendor is in bed with an analyst firm – the value of analyst reviews diminishes. The essential point is marketers need to move beyond thinking about just buying criteria and think ecosystem – and like any ecosystem – it is under constant evolution.

    Thanks Eric!

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