Re-thinking the Buyer Adoption Curve


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Hiding in the dark corners of the marketing world are those who believe that nearly 80% of the available buyers in a market…don’t buy. I’ve always believed that if, all things being equal, I could get to a buyer earlier I could beat my competitors. But what if I could tap an ocean of buyers that no one can seem to get to? No, these aren’t hidden buyers, they are out there looking. They are just confused and can’t make a decision because no one is really helping them solve their problem during their problem solving phase.

Using the term “problem” is a simple way to view this; but one that is digestible. Actually, we each have

  • Jobs to be Done – The purpose behind the purchase of a product or service
  • A Situation – The context of the job to be done
  • Problems – The important and unmet needs (or desired outcomes) relative to the job (or a step in the job) that Buyers will use to measure how successful your solution is in helping them get the job done satisfactorily.

In the B2B world, our problem is also our Buyer’s problem; we all want to sell more and we’re finding it increasingly difficult to attain the role of trusted advisor.

There is this phenomenon that has arisen over the years as access to enabling technologies and platforms have emerged…we’re calling it the social customer. The social customer doesn’t necessarily have a Twitter account (they probably don’t). They are not the ones out their screaming at you when they have a bad experience (necessarily). Instead of trying to describe them in a sound bite, allow me give you a firsthand example. Although this is a B2C story, it’s still applicable to the B2B world (I live in the CRM software world currently, and it applies – trust me!).

I started an outdoor cooking website about 4 years ago. The focus was on reviews for gas grills. There was quite a bit of search demand for them and the monetization options (conveniently) aligned with anything to do with gas grills. It sounded perfect so I dove in and began creating content about gas grills. Upon closer examination, I realized that there was a not so obvious interest in BBQ. In fact, there was even more interest and passion in that topic than for gas grills (or grilling). Once I investigated that path, I quickly realized that gas grills did not rule in that world. I had a minor dilemma; should I start another site for charcoal grills, combine the two or doing something else?

Long story short, I found, upon further research, that people didn’t simply want help selecting which grill to buy; they wanted me to help them with the consumption chain job of using a grill (either kind) in their particular situation(s). So, I slowly marched down the path of becoming their trusted advisor on things like “How to grill a Ribeye” (low monetization) while continuing to provide content on grill features (high monetization). Since grills don’t last forever, they come back to their trusted advisor when it’s time to replace an old one.

An increasing number of Buyers no longer seek information from sales people. In my example, consumers seeking to purchase a new grill or smoker don’t go to a store and seek the advice of a salesperson. Many of them do go to the various brand sites and look at all the features and specifications. But, this just leaves them confused as to how these features will solve the problems that arise in the various outdoor cooking situations in which they find themselves:

  • Grilling steaks for the family (just a few people, high heat)
  • Grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for the neighbors (large gathering, high heat)
  • Smoking a pork shoulder (low heat, temperature needs to remain stable for 16-19 hours)

When these Buyers visit the various manufacturing sites, they get a portfolio of product models, each with their own language. So, the buyer deals with a hierarchy of brands, categories, models, styles, features and performance specifications and they are expected to figure out how this solves their problem(s) all by themselves. This is compounded by inconsistent language across seller content. This is when they turn to a site like mine – which they find through search.

I show them how to do the things they want to do, I provide some basic information on the hierarchy I just mentioned but I also invite other experienced Buyers into the conversation to provide their situational opinions on various products. There are also areas to talk about the best products in a category, and why. They can’t learn this from one specific vendor site. This approach works for me…even with the Google dance, I’m still extremely profitable because they find me before they go to a store or make a purchase online. I am solving their problem, the sellers are not.

So how does this fit into what your business experiences when competing for sales?

  • Do you find yourself constantly discounting to win deals?
  • Do you know why customers drop out of your sales funnel?
  • Do you feel as though you have no influence over their purchase decisions?
  • Do buyers already have a list of requirements before they contact you?
  • Do you have any idea when Buyers actually enter the market?

I’m going to elaborate on these problems a little bit more in my next post, Aligning Market Adoption to Buying Behavior. The era of the high-priced salesmen and personalities is over, and the era of systems is upon us. So, stay tuned…

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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