Buying center targeting

To target their efforts properly, business marketers have to figure out:
· major decision participants
· Type of decisions they can influence
· Their level of influence
· Evaluation criteria they use

Consider the following example:

A company sells non woven disposable surgical gowns to hospital personnel who participate in this buying decision include the vice president of purchasing, the operating room administrator, and the surgeons. The vice president analyzes whether the hospital should buy disposable gowns or reusable gowns. If the findings favor disposable gowns, then the operating room administrator compares various competitors’ products and prices and makes a choice. This administrator consider absorbency, antiseptic, quality, design, and cost, and normally buys the brand that meets the functional requirements at the lowest cost Surgeons influence the decision retroactively by reporting their satisfaction with the particular brand.

The business marketer is not likely to know exactly what kind of group dynamics take place during the decision process, although whatever information he or she can obtain about personalities and interpersonal factors is useful.

Symantec Corporation

Internet security provider Symantec Corporation has moved from being primarily a provider of consumer software (under the Norton name) to a provider of enterprise security solutions for financial services, health care, and utilities industries, as well as key accounts for the US Department of Defense. To reach these new markets, Symantec had to restructure its sales force to develop high-level relationships. So Symantec launched the Executive Sponsorship Program in 2003. The 13 Symantec executives enrolled in the program are paired with vice presidents or C-level executives within 19 key customer organizations in industries ranging from banking to telecommunications and manufacturing. The goal of the program is to foster better understanding of Symantec’s customers and their business concerns. So far the program has enabled Symantec to be seen as a valued partner and enabled the Symantec executives to gain insights into how they can develop products that fit customers’ needs.

Business marketers must periodically review their assumptions about buying center participants. For years, Kodak sold X-ray film to hospital lab technicians. Kodak research indicated that professional administrators were increasingly making purchasing decisions. As a result, Kodak revised its marketing strategy and developed new advertising to reach out to these decision makers.

In defining target segments, four types of business customers can often be identified, with corresponding marketing implications.

1. Price-oriented customers (transactional selling). Price is everything.

2. Solution oriented customers (consultative selling). They want low prices but will respond to argument about lower total cost or more dependable supply or service.

3. Gold standard customers (quality selling). They want the best performance in terms of product quality, assistance, reliable delivery and so on.

4. Strategic value customers (enterprise selling). They want a fairly permanent sole supplier relationship with buying company.

Small sellers concentrate on reaching the key buying influencers. Large sellers go for multilevel in-depth selling to reach as many participants as possible. Their salespeople virtually “live� with high-volume customers. Companies will have to rely more heavily on their communication programs to reach hidden buying influences and keep current customers.