According to industrial marketing specialist Thomas, “the desire for relative anonymity among millennial (and younger) buyers has them guiding themselves through as much as 70 percent of the buying process before they initiate contact with a supplier.” I can quite believe this. Yet so much marketing training and advice still seems to date from a time when the buying process was quite different. Many sales managers still act that way too, imagining they’ll be involved directly and personally from a prospect’s first step.
Thomas says that there are six stages in the industrial buying process, hiding no fewer than fifteen steps that buyers take:
- The buyer defines a need for a product or service (establish the need, then define the define the requirements from the product);
- The buyer performs research to learn about possible solutions (determine what products to consider, if a new product is necessary, and if a new product can be justified);
- If executing a new design, the buyer researches product data (define the product evaluation criteria, prioritise the criteria, evaluate products against the criteria, select the product needed);
- The buyer evaluates potential suppliers (define the supplier evaluation criteria, prioritise the criteria, evaluate suppliers against the criteria, determine which to consider);
- The buyer creates a shortlist of the best suppliers (evaluate the suppliers, select the supplier);
- The buyer makes a purchase from the winning supplier.
It gets more complex still. While moving from phase to phase and from step to step, buyers apparently accomplish a series of more than 225 smaller tasks.
Does this all matter? Well, yes. How can any of us hope to market products and services successfully without being able to put ourselves in the place of the customer? Delivering something to help the prospective customer at every stage of the buying process will increase your chances of making it through to the next stage immensely.
Does your marketing material (especially that available to prospects you have no knowledge of) cover all the stages above?