Being regularly intrigued, to say the least, by the look in the eyes of my clients when I ask this simple question “Who are your customers? Who are you selling to?”, I thought it’d be helpful to share here some foundational notions for any B2B company reflecting on its value proposition and/or designing a marketing & communication strategy.

It all starts with who you are selling to, who is involved in the buying journey, and who are the users of your offer, product & service. As I previously covered, the B2B buying journey has been seriously transformed in the recent period, accelerating its morphing into a ‘Phygital’ customer experience because of the sanitary crisis and successive lockdowns, pushing all businesses to revisit their organization, processes, and systems in a blink. Ultimately, it is a sane exercise to get back to the drawing board to reconsider your value proposition.

B2B Buying Circle Persona

Simply put, a buying circle is the group of people involved in a purchasing decision. A powerful concept for better customer insights is understanding who is part of the buying decision process at your customer/prospect. Whether you are part of marketing, product development, or sales, it is key to put on this B2B Buying Circle lens to look at your market.

The B2B Buying Circle, or typical member of the buying team, decision-making body or buying center is the term used to describe all those stakeholders who have direct or indirect influences on the buying decision for your product or service. The term Decision-Making Unit (DMU) or Demand Unit is also often used. In B2B, this group ranges from 5 to 17 individuals depending on the size of the business you’re dealing with and the importance of the deal. The following roles can typically occur, in chronological order:

B2B Buying Circle Members
  • Initiator: the person who sets the decision-making process in motion by drawing attention to a problem or a possible solution. 
  • Influencer: either inside or outside the customer organization, points out the importance or urgency and recognizes the impact of a potential solution on the big picture. 
  • Recommender: users or customers of the product or service.
  • Gatekeeper: information selector, allowing only certain topics through to the other internal bodies
  • Decider: the person who makes the main buying decision
  • Economic Buyer: crunch the numbers in the buying process and want to get the best possible deal from suppliers for the customer organization.
  • Users: usually involved much too late in the buying journey, but later decide on the actual use or non-use of the product or service.

What is the role of the Buying Circle in B2B?

In the organizational B2B context, understanding the buying circle is of outstanding importance. In a business-to-business environment, larger transaction volumes require input from all departments in an organization. 

Senior management, the finance department, the operationally affected department, and the buyers all work together to decide on a major purchase from a company as a new supplier. The purchasing body often works as a group. 

If the purchase is technical or software related, the software team or technical team will also be involved in the purchasing decision. In the owner-managed mid-market, the CEO of a company usually takes on multiple roles at once when making the financial decision in addition to the fundamental decision. In B2B, the doorkeepers are usually secretaries or assistants who prevent direct contact with the decider.

What are the implications for the value proposition, Sales, and Marketing?

When crafting your go-to-market, sales & marketing combined, you should be paying a lot of attention to all the personas being part of the buying circle. They will have different Job-To-Be-Done gains and pains, as well as different drivers to make a decision. As a consequence, you need to make sure you adapt your value proposition to each audience.

Value Proposition Canvas

Having tried different frameworks to work on this, I do recommend using the Value Proposition Canvas from Strategyzer with your team. If you need help, please reach out.

Segment your audience in different personas on the basis of the job-to-be-done (JTBD), one persona = one JTBD. Each might require a dedicated framework, or more often they will require for you to adapt your value proposition to better resonate with each member of the buying circle.

Have fun, and please share your own experience as a comment to this post.


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