I continue to work on my course (yep - still working on it. It’s now coming in 2018. Here's the new intro video. Curious about thoughts and feedback). I think the reason why I'm having a hard time getting it out is that I keep finding new issues in each section.
When I was working on the section about personas for purchasing, using, and maintaining a solution, I realized that the B2B and B2C audiences have more in common than we typically believe.
We usually say that B2B and B2C purchases are similar because marketers are selling to people. But what if we compared B2B/B2C sales not from the perspective as the B2C standard (being simpler with fewer people involved and less steps), but from the perspective of the B2B standard, with multiple stakeholders and considerations?
What if the factors that influence a sale are based on philosophical questions like someone's perception of ownership, money, or product maintenance? What if those who will use the product and who will benefit impact the decision making process? Or if the individual is buying a solution to a problem, access to a solution, or simply accepting help or assistance?
What if a sale is really impacted by the number of stakeholders included in defining the problem - and the solution and the support?
Let’s consider a family looking to buy a car. This is a large purchase and often a decision isn’t made quickly by a single person. Larger purchases require more time for research and consideration into:
- The product itself (technical/mechanical, quality, aesthetics)
- Payment methods (more expensive purchases may require payment plans or savings)
- Individual experience feedback (other product users, those who will maintain the product, social influencers and stakeholders).
I'm sure there are issues I'm forgetting and not listing here.
On the surface, the parents or adults of the family would research different makes and models, test drive the top options, investigate finance options and make a purchase decision. That sounds simple enough, but there is more to consider. Here are some questions that someone may consider actively or subconsciously, depending on the individual buyer/product user.
- How does the buyer view car ownership?
- Rent or own?
- Purchase with cash or payments? Or a loan from family?
- New or used? Which is a better value?
- What about maintenance?
- Who will do that? A local car repair shop or someone in the family or the dealership?
- How often will it be needed?
- Are parts expensive? How about labor?
We usually don’t consider the role of the children in family decisions, but these are factors as well.
- What is the role of children in their family? How do the parents value their opinions?
- How do the parents react to the children’s feedback?
- Are the children old enough to start to drive that car?
- Will the children be in the car often? Does their comfort matter?
Families sometimes include more than 2 parents and/or children. There can be extended family members to consider or friends who are as close - or closer - than family.
- How do the parents view the opinions of others in this purchase?
- Do their parents matter? How about others?
- Will they use the car too?
- What’s the proximity of the other family members? Does this impact the decision?
And there is how the family will use the car to consider regarding the experience and the benefits:
- Long-trips vs short-trips
- Large family vs smaller family trips - how does everyone fit in the car?
- Are entertainment options required?
- Does anyone get car sick?
- Will a pet travel with you? How about the size of the pet? (Does the pet have preferences?)
As you can see, this decision is far more complicated than what you may assume. It’s not simply between the two parents in the household - it’s between the parents, possibly their parents and relatives, possibly the children, and possibly even the pet. These members could be considered stakeholders, silent stakeholders, or influencers, depending on how the parents view everyone's opinion. The car repair shop could be a silent stakeholder or influencer (the repair shop may not fix a particular car brand so you avoid buying that car brand so you can keep going to them, or the shop may give biased advice so you get a certain type of car that is in their sweet spot for repairs so they don't miss revenue). The technical knowledge of one of the parents to fix the car could be a factor.
As previously mentioned, how the parents view money and ownership could be a factor.
I didn’t even include the decision to rent or own the car. This gets to the definition of ownership which needs a blog post of its own.
You may be thinking that a car is an expensive purchase, so of course it is complicated. So, let's consider a cheaper yet large purchase - a couch.
When choosing a new couch for the family living room or play room, same factors exist:
- How does the family perceive the opinions of the children in the purchase?
- Who will use the couch?
- Is maintenance a factor? This could apply to fabric selection.
- Does the opinions of extended family matter? How does the family view the opinions of others?
- How does the family view ownership? Some may choose to rent a couch rather than buy.
- How about money and payments? What does the family think about debt? Is a couch worth the debt?
Still too high budget of a purchase? Well, let’s now look at a family buying something less expensive and more day-to-day like a box of cookies.
- Who likes which types of cookies? Who eats them?
- Who should or should not be eating the cookies?
- What’s the cost? How many are in a box? How long will they last at home before they are all eaten?
- How does the family view baking them vs buying them (ownership)?
- Is there budget to purchase cookies? Or is money very tight?
- Are cookies seen as an occasional treat? Or a daily treat?
- Is buying cookies for a family member like buying a present for them?
- Does the family need to buy cookies for visitors who want a snack? Is that part of the family custom?
- What's the nutritional value of the cookies? Is there a healthier option?
Consumer decisions are not always simple and could involve many hidden stakeholders, influencers, and those who simply benefit from the purchase and use of the product. The problem is that these questions are often answered subconsciously, so we don't know if or how it's happening. But rest assured - it is.
This is why I propose that the B2B purchase model extends to the B2C space and we stop saying that they are different. Both businesses and individuals use the same purchase process in general - the difference between the two is the type of solutions that are accessed (food to solve hunger or a car to help with transportation vs a data center to help with managing customer information) and the size of the group involved in the decision, from stakeholders to influencers to users to maintainers. Oh yeah, and how ownership is defined (again, that's another post).
When it comes to B2B and B2C purchases, it's less about what is being purchased and more about stakeholder roles and influence during the purchase decision and how they are perceived by the person accessing the solution for himself or a group.