- Buyers are overwhelmed with content and desire experiences
- Buyer behavior is changing rapidly and requires BIG insights
- Buyers are on a quest to be demand fulfilled
- Buyers are developing complex networks that collaborate
- Buyer decisions models are transforming
- Buyers are seeking to further their intelligence, not read more content
This article looks at how buyer’s values are changing and how organizations can utilize a values-based versus outmoded needs based marketing and sales approaches. (Image "Go where your buyers are" by Kenny Madden © All rights reserved)
Buyer Trend: Buyers are changing their values and they are changing decision-making
Product centricity has been the driving force behind marketing and sales for decades and practically all of the 20th century. As we entered into the 21st century, roots were planted that have created a shift towards customer centricity centered around initiatives such as customer experience, customer focus, voice of the customer, and numerous other phrases that describe customer centricity. However, this shift continues to occur at a slow pace in the B2B marketplace and many B2B organizations have product centricity wired into their organizational DNA.
Product centricity causes selling organizations to not only focus on the merits of their product but also to have prescribed views of existing customer and prospective buyer needs. Products, in general, are designed and produced to fulfill needs. This thinking has spawned the functions of product management and product marketing – all designed to fulfill needs. To be sure, products must fulfill needs. A key buyer trend that is occurring is that buyer values are changing rapidly while buyer needs have more constancy. This trend, along with the introduction of new values spurred on by the convergence of the Internet and the Social Age, is having a drastic affect on buyer decision-making.
Needs-based thinking, as the dominant driver, has been a focal point for marketing and sales for a few decades. Efforts to correlate products with needs that relate to fulfilling tasks or an objective that buyers undertake permeate much of marketing and sales. The focus on identifying what buyers use as criteria for decision-making still relate heavily on a product’s performance ability to fulfill a task or reach an objective. What is not so surprising is that buyer needs and objectives having a high degree of constancy built-in. For example, a constant need or objective is to grow revenue. While the metric may change yearly, say from 2% to 5%, the need or objective remains constant. Another example related to tasks is a product fulfilling the need of ease of use. I doubt we would ever hear a buyer change that criterion to harder to use.
The impact of the changing world related to the Internet, social technologies, global economic uncertainty, and shifting marketplaces is having a direct impact on buyer values as they relate to buyer goals. These values extend far beyond decision criterion based on needs related to tasks and objectives. Values correlate strongly to buyer goals and thus have a big impact on why buyers are making organizational as well as purchase decisions. Buyers desire more reflection of their values in products or services. Oftentimes, these are difficult to ascertain and for buyers to articulate clearly. But be sure – they are there. A simplified example can be that a high-tech organization has a value related to being “green” and environmentally friendly. How this value gets articulated and expressed may change significantly year-to-year and even be supplanted by another value due to a global event – while needs such as ease of use and revenue growth will remain constant.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s Do?
C-Suite leaders today can play a role is shifting organizational thinking from solely needs-based to that of value-based thinking. The leaders of today will need to work in concert to put into place efforts that not only focus on creating value but places a premium on keeping a pulse on the changing values on the part of buyers. While needs will have more constancy, individual and organizational values will be more transitory and influenced by internal as well as external factors. This means organizations will need to consistently engage buyers qualitatively to understand how values are shifting. Doing so will be no easy feat since buyers characteristically have difficulty in clearly articulating values and goals – oftentimes they are couched in the unarticulated world of thought.
This difficulty places an imperative on organizations to invest in as well as establish a foundational understanding of their buyer’s values – supported by ongoing engagement with buyers to help them realize these values. The ongoing engagements including efforts to learn how these values are being modified as well as how they are affecting decisions. Grounded in informed qualitative business insights on values, the modern C-Suite can take a “Value Leadership” role in helping existing customers and prospective buyers to articulate as well as define values more clearly and turn them into actionable strategies.
Buyers in the future may very well adopt a commoditized view themselves of needs and objectives. Establishing expectations that require selling organizations to be well aware of what these needs are well before any direct relationship. The dominant driver affecting purchase decisions will be transitory values that change over time significantly. What we can expect is that new world events, social technologies, market conditions, and buyer behaviors will not only alter values but alter the way business is conducted in the future.
Key questions to ponder for the future are: What is your organization doing today to shift from only needs-based thinking to that of incorporating value-based thinking? Do you know your buyer’s values and can you help them to articulate more clearly? Are buyer values reflected in your products, services, marketing, and selling efforts?