The Buying Center is an informal group of people in organizations who influence the decision to buy your product or service. Members of buying centers have different degrees of influence and things can get pretty political and unpredictable. It is therefore important to tailor your marketing content for each role in the buying center. Marketing content includes advertising content, direct mail content, trade show messaging, and also the sales pitch. This post is about marketing content for the "User" (with U capitalized for this post) member of the B2B buying center.
You might wonder what influence can a lowly machine operator have on the buying decision of a million dollar factory machine? Surprisingly, quite a bit. If the machine operator has seen your working machine at a trade show. Or has seen ads online while searching for a technical problem with the current machinery then your brand has a distinct edge. Depending on your industry and country culture you can expect the machine operator to be involved in different ways. In high power distance cultures (Latin America, Asia ) the boss is always right but if the competent subordinate has a suggestion, it is always heard, if not entirely with evident respect. In low power distance cultures ( North America, Western Europe) there is more equality and the operator has a say and in fact can be both the initiator and the user. Either way bosses have to get the work done by the User, so bosses are reluctant to upset Users. Worldwide, it is important that the User is on your side from the get go.
User: In a funny way ,the word "User" can be thought of for our purposes as"used to". Users have become "used to" whatever they are currently using. In an organizational role whether it is a machine operator operating a machine, or finance folks using software, or teachers using a particular book.
There is inertia on part of the User because of three reasons:
- The User is comfortable with the current system.
- The User spent considerable time and effort trying to learn the existing product.
- The User figured out ways how the User's work output will fit into inputs for other people in the organization. This last one should not be underestimated. A financial software (eg. mortgage document processing software) might have certain fields that are "frozen" i.e. the headers can't be changed. Also there might be limitations in size of the document that can be uploaded. Who wants learn all this for a new system? And who knows about unknown glitches?
Keep in mind that, if the organization buys your software - all the "real" work will need to be done by the User. This is after you have you had coffee or drinks with the CEO and played golf with all the various VP's.
Now think of the User writing her annual performance report one year after they buy your product. Descriptions of how the User overcame software glitches does not look great on User's annual self-performance review. Instead of hugely improving the User's output (number of mortgage applications processed) the User will need to admit that mortgage applications were slower because he/she was figuring out: how the new system works.
When reaching out to the User, marketing content should do the following:
1. Build awareness: The User should become aware about your product and should hear for the first time from the bosses. Social Media advertising is a great way of building this awareness.
2. Assure and deliver easy transition: Talk about how you will ensure a smooth transition from old to new. Consider training support . In addition, you need genuine customer success resources including a "customer success specialist." In fact, you should be constantly building on the User experience in engineering out User problems from the design of your product . This way your "customer success " does not become mere "customer service". Customer service that is telephoning in with multiple "Press 1 for tech support, Press 2 for account details..." is a nightmare that must be avoided.
3. Ensure User satisfaction-Make the User look great: The Users are a community. Machine operators know other machine operators from other companies and are friends offline and on social media. The goal is to make the User so happy that he/she posts positive experiences online.
The User is really the co-creator of value here. If the User uses the all the great features of your product - only then will the client organization see the awesome benefits of what you provide. To appreciate the gap between "features offered "and "features used" ask some people about their smart phone features. You'll be surprised at the large number of folks who do not use features like apps, calendars, games, social media, navigation, email on their smart phones.
In later posts we will discuss marketing content for each member of the buying center. About StratoServe Digital Marketing Services.