Business-to-Business thrives on the simple basic principle of buying and selling. With all the hoopla over the past few years regarding digital technologies and social media, it is easy to lose sight of this most basic principle, which has existed for centuries. The impact of digital and social technologies on the nature of buying and selling, however, cannot be understated. They have changed how businesses interact and engage in the acts of buying and selling.
One constant, research in the social sciences have proven, is the acts of buying and selling are by and large goal-directed activities and behaviors. These goal-directed behaviors and activities are powerful influences on decision-making in the world of B2B buying and selling. So powerful, in fact, B2B decision makers often select strategies, short-term plans, and long-term plans based upon the personalized goals they may be striving for.
Buyer Personas Represent Goal-Directed Motivations
At the core of buyer persona development is the use of a goal-directed research and modeling methodology designed to move beyond just understanding the process of decision-making. It is intended to identify and illuminate goal-directed motivations and emotions, which reveal insights into why and how decisions are made. Personas, in general, originate from the concept of understanding goal-directed behaviors. This concept is fundamental to buyer personas.
For business marketers, the goal-directed concept and methodology serves as a ready marker to distinguish authentic buyer personas from the glut of misinforming buyer profiling content masquerading as buyer personas. These buyer profiles basically emphasize the traditional process-based and product requirement-based views of buyers.
B2B Is Too Fixated On Process And Journey
This is an important distinction for business marketers and sellers continue to seek understanding on the why and how of decision-making. The game of guessing also continues as made evident by the various annual surveys showing 70% or more of content is found to be irrelevant by buyers. As mentioned, the impact of digital and social technologies has made this need more urgent. It has, in many ways, shown how fundamentally flawed the traditional approach of understanding buying behaviors entirely through the traditional staged buying process of Awareness-Consideration-Decision really is.
The current state of B2B marketing and sales is one of continued fixation on the process, funnel, or the new terminology of the same thing, journey. This approach, in the modern digital world, is very inadequate in helping organizations to understand the underlying goals driving the why and how of decision-making. Yet, the fixation continues as we try to “automate” these processes via sales automation and marketing automation.
To truly understand such processes and journeys, we must do so by understanding them through the context of goal-directed activities, behaviors, and choices. Otherwise, they offer none to very little revelation to goal-directed decision-making. (One such company I have had the pleasure of helping in making this important contextual connection is Thomson Reuters, as described by CMO Tobias Lee and interviewed by CMO Vala Afshar in this Huffington Post article: Avoid The Bermuda Triangle Of Leads.)
Deep Understanding Of Goals And Goal-Directed Behaviors
Understanding decision-making comes through attaining a deep understanding of the underlying goals, as well as, the goal-directed behaviors driving decisions. When I refer to goals, I am not doing so superficially. This has to be stated for I have seen a few profile-based templates, mislabeled as a buyer persona template, include a heading of, goals, but they do so confusing objectives with goals. Nor do they do so with understanding of the research-based types of goals and their behavioral influence on decisions.
B2B buyers are making decisions within the context of both organizational and personal goals they may be striving to accomplish. These goals often can reside both on the conscious and subconscious level. They can also often go unarticulated directly by buyers. This is what makes qualitative buyer research, conducted with the right research techniques to uncover underlying goals, so important to buyer persona development.
Gaining a deep understanding of goals and goal-directed behaviors are what B2B marketers and sellers need to make the connection to understanding decisions. It helps to illuminate the path buyers are taking to accomplish goals and their relations to solutions under consideration. Most importantly, it takes the guesswork out of how to communicate with buyers. You do so by communicating and demonstrating how you and your organization help fulfill goals.
Goal-Directed Decision Making
Despite the tremendous forces of change occurring in the digital era, fundamental buying and selling in B2B remains largely predicated on goal-directed activities and behaviors. These goal-directed activities and behaviors lead to outcomes. Primarily B2B decisions are outcomes based on, as well as, driven by profound and meaningful goals.
The path for B2B marketers and sellers to be successful today is one, which leads to understanding goal-directed decision-making. It is not the quick and easy path promised by erroneous profiling templates or online tools. It is a path where the emphasis and responsibility becomes one of helping businesses and people to fulfill their goals.