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One of the things I really love to do (apart from this sort of stuff) is say “I told you so”. I know, its petty and vindictive but by god it is satisfying. I don’t get to do that very often, so I’ve lowered the bar to: “See, some smart people have done quite a bit of hard work and they’ve produced some research that confirms a hunch that I’ve kinda had for a year or two.”

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B2B, buying, purchase, decision

Playing for the same team, but not necessarily on the same side.

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I got to say that earlier in the week when this article appeared in Forbes, shining a light on group dynamics in the B2B buying process. We all know that these kind of purchases are collegiate decisions (this is one of the key differences with B2C marketing), and the research was able to put the typical size of what we call the ‘buying cell’ at 5.4 people (based on North American companies). Patrick Spenner, who wrote the article, made the implication pretty clear:

“The punchline is, if your commercial approach

isn’t attuned to group dynamics, you’re in trouble.”

So far, so expected. But the new news here is not that there are several people who need to agree on a single B2B purchase, but that the lack of agreement starts very early in the ‘buyers journey’. By the time the buying is even a third of the way through the process (typically before your marketing has even shown up), they’re arguing. And they’re generally not even arguing about the price, or even which vendor, or even the solution. In a lot of cases, they can’t even agree on the problem.

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B2B, buying group, purchase

Show where the gaps are, and you can help the group structure a more productive argument.

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Yikes!

But also: “Yay!” – that’s pretty fertile territory for creative marketers to be working: defining problems, rallying groups, offering possible approaches to problem-solving. Notice how the product (arguably the least interesting bit of B2B marketing), doesn’t get much of a look-in?

What’s interesting here is how ill-equipped ‘funnel-oriented’ marketing automation tools and technologies are to respond to ‘buying cells’ in general, let alone one that might be in open conflict. The creative opportunities lie instead in the application of a little psychology and also through partnership with publishers.

Group dynamics, illuminated.

We’ve been exploring the idea of approaches that target the ‘buying cell’ in a particular company, where the offer (of distance education or networking or custom site visits) is made on the proviso that the entire cell takes part, as a cohesive unit. We’ve also had great success with publishers who track their users, not at the individual level, but at the company or even department level. When enough people from related roles in a single company start consuming a specific type of content (say, data centre migration), you can safely assume that a major data centre migration project is being kicked around.

The question then is, what can your brand offer that is genuinely useful (no, not another whitepaper) to this group, knowing that they are probably arguing mightily about whether they even need a data centre?

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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If you have any experience with mobiles, or South East Asia, or mobiles in South East Asia, you’ve probably come across QR codes several times over the past six or seven years and filed them quietly under ‘Only in Japan’. Get ready to take them out dust them off, as the general population starts coming to grips with the ease of ‘mobile bookmarks’ and people start dreaming up cool new uses for these pixilated black and white squares.

QR codes, and the companies hoping to ‘monetise’ them were at SXSW in full effect, reminding everyone that SMS started life as a test signal format for telco engineers and its current iteration is as a popular web service based on messages of 140 characters. You may have heard of it.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How To Throw A Party (Like You Mean Business).”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn more “How To Get (Rich And) Famous”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.