There may be as many as 15 or 20 individuals at a company who influence a business-to-business sale. For that reason, the b-to-b marketer must include in his customer and prospect database a rich matrix of influencers.
Because most business decisions are influenced and made by more than one individual, it is usually more desirable to include many influencers at a few companies than to include a few influencers at many companies. In other words, it is much better to have in the database 10 individuals at each of 1,000 companies than to have one individual at 10,000 firms.
Mail to all the influencers in a given company, from the CEO to the clerk who uses the product, if possible, to hit every level of influence. Be sure not to forget the financial and technology people who are also affected by the decision to buy.
Various third-party resources can help you determine which influencers should be included in your database and your circulation plan. Resources that can explain, in general terms, who influences the buying decision include trade associations, industry analysts, and trade-press editors and reporters. Information companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and business-press publishers can be helpful in identifying the correct titles for individuals who influence sales.
At a finer level of detail, publishers of leading trade publications can provide, for a fee, a list of every subscriber with a certain title or higher. Or the publisher could provide a list of all subscribers who reported on the subscriber qualification card that they recommend, influence, or make final decisions on purchases in the marketer’s equipment category.
Closer to home, you can identify influencers by interviewing your sales force. Among the questions to ask:
- Why do customers buy our products? Is it to solve business problems or technical problems?
- Does a technician drive the purchase, or is it the manager of a department?
- How high in the customer organization does buying authority rise, or how much budget authority is needed to approve the sale? Is it at the executive level or the manager level?
- Who in the customer company may be affected by the purchase but doesn’t make the buying decision?
- Who are the ones who say, “Well, they never asked me”? Those individuals may be the most important influencers to build a relationship with.
M.H. “Mac” McIntosh is president of North Kingstown, RI-based b-to-b marketing consultancy Mac McIntosh..