By Lauren Dichter, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing
Mapping a B2B buying committee is no easy feat. In fact, it usually takes excessive hours of research to get it just right. And even when you think you’ve got it just right… it could be totally different depending on the characteristics—both the static and in-flux ones— of the company you’re marketing to!
That’s when getting into the nitty-gritty details comes in handy. I’ll tell you a little story about a buying committee I was tasked with identifying this past month…
The Real-Life Example
Here at Heinz Marketing, our typical clients sell their products or services to other companies in the private sector, hence our specialty in “B2B marketing”. But, B2B marketing principles can also apply to B2G, a.k.a. Business-to-Government sales.
And fortunately our team has the right combination of related experience and grit to correctly transfer what we know about B2B marketing into developing successful, informed strategies for B2G marketing.
I was faced with a new situation, one where a tech company wanted our guidance on how to penetrate state governments’ buying committees. While I knew this situation was different from the rest, I first tried attacking the task the same way I’ve traditionally approached other buying committee-related tasks.
Trial and Error
In the end, it was a good exercise! Trying to fit this new situation into an old way of doing things forced me to realize that templates created in the past aren’t always the answer. Quickly, I pivoted my approach to consider the nuance of the sale at hand.
It became clear that the only way to wrap my head around this task was to switch my typical top-down way of thinking about the buying committee to a bottom-up approach. Instead of identifying key buyer personas and then categorizing specific titles and job functions under each, I looked at specific job titles and functions first.
After all, can anyone who isn’t actually working in state government themselves tell you about the roles and responsibilities you’d find there? Of course, us folks in the private sector know that state legislators exist, but can we confidently describe what they do day-to-day? That’s most likely a resounding “no.”
Figuring it Out, Slowly but Surely
I started anew by choosing a specific state and researching its government employees that may be involved in a buying decision for a new technology. Through collaborating with our client, I knew to research employees of the Officer of the Governor, state legislators, and other state government folks in addition to employees of specific state departments.
In total, I identified 53 individuals—by name—across 3 state departments and the general state government that would be involved in a technology buying decision.
Sticking with the ‘back-to-basics’ strategy, I chose these people simply by reading their titles carefully, learning more about what that role performs, and using my best judgement on whether they’d have any stake in or opinion on the purchase.
The state’s buying committee apparatus was hard to organize, but eventually I was able to confidently categorize the 53 people under the personas they most resembled. These persona groups were: Visionaries (elected officials), Decision Makers, Validators, Champions, and Influencers.
And after even deeper research, I further segmented by splitting the Decision Makers, Validators, and Influencers into 2 groups each: business-minded and technical-minded folks. The angle behind this extra level of persona segmentation is to be able to customize sales and marketing channels, tactics, and copy at a granular level.
Developing a granular buying committee isn’t ideal for all buying scenarios, but it works for organizations with layers upon layers of functions– Organizations like state governments!
Here’s the distinction between business-minded and technical-minded folks: business personas are always focused on—and haunted by—how a purchase will affect the company’s bottom-line, while technical personas are focused on analyzing exactly how a purchase will enable the company to accomplish x, y, and z.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
In the end, this resulted in 8 total personas across 2 selling situations, and the final list of personas included: Visionaries (elected officials), Business Decision Makers, Technical Decision Makers, Financial Validators, Technical Validators, Champions, Business Influencers and Technical Influencers.
Phew, what a mouthful! But imagine figuring all that out and the mental aerobics it took to package it up in such detail. It was so exhausting I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I had to take a nap if I wanted to get back to work with some brain function still intact! 😉
A Tried-and-True Trick
Throughout this time-consuming yet eye-opening process, I learned more about the roles within state governments and state departments than anyone needs or wants to know, but more importantly, I learned that sometimes the only thing to do is focus first on what little you know, and then build out from there.
At first, my approach seems loose and un-guided. But take a closer look and you’ll see that—when schlepping through uncharted territory—it’s in fact the smartest action one can take. And if all goes well, it sets you up nicely for a strategic and helpful discovery about your buying committee.
So, map it out with reckless abandon! And let me know what new and nuanced information you find in the comment section below.