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):
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.
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.
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.)