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The Influencer vs. The Decision Maker: Who Should You Market to?

Posted by Casey Lewis on Monday, February 9, 2015

Topics: Inbound Marketing, General Business

influencer-decision-maker-who-should-you-market-toB2B companies differ from B2C businesses in various ways. A B2B company focuses on providing solutions for company-wide problems, or unique problems that only present themselves in a specific industry or business environment. B2C companies are able to provide products/services that are as broad or unique as they deem fit – there’s no restrictions on them, so long as there are individuals in the world that would be interested in what they have to offer.

Because these markets and business strategies can be so different, their marketing efforts naturally differ as well. B2C companies are able to target their ideal customer specifically, because B2C purchases are usually made by the person who will directly benefit from the product/service. But when marketing in the B2B space, one is faced with a bit of a conundrum. Often, the person or people who will benefit most from the product/service aren’t empowered to actually make a purchasing decision. Usually, it’s their boss that can give the go-ahead. 

For example, here at Rhino, our content specialists and designers work most extensively on the HubSpot platform, using it every day. It makes our job much easier. However, we weren’t the ones who purchased the subscription – that was our CEO (thanks, boss!).

This is the kind of scenario you’re going to find regularly with B2B marketing. And that brings about an interesting dilemma: do you focus your marketing on the decision maker (the person with purchasing power) or the influencer (those who would benefit most from the product but can’t authorize a purchase)?

The best answer is both. Yes, that’s a bit of a copout, but it’s true. You should be preparing content and marketing materials for both types of people. If I were forced to choose one over the other, I would give the edge to the decision maker: after all, you can do an excellent job of convincing an influencer to make a purchase, but that still won’t give them the power to do it. The buck will always stop with the decision maker, and therefore, they’re a bigger “get.” But to maximize your leads, you really should target both.

The decision maker

The decision maker is very important, because they’ve got the ability to approve a deal. But why do they have that power? Because they’re important to the company. Usually, they will be a vice-president, manager or other executive; for some small businesses, they may be the owner or CEO. And because of their privileged position, this person is usually very busy and therefore hard to reach.

What does this mean for you? It means you’ve got to make the most out of every marketing opportunity with a decision maker, because you’re not going to get many chances – they’ve got other stuff to do. When reaching decision makers, it’s important to give them succinct, bottom-line type information. Will your product save them money? Increase productivity? Make employees more efficient? Whatever your best selling point to a decision maker is, you’ve got to emphasize it quickly and effectively.

The influencer

This person is usually not an executive or manager; they’re most likely a lower-level employee that works under the decision maker. But they’re often the person that will gain the most from your product/service. If you sold a futuristic clothes-folding machine, this person would be the sales clerk at Macy’s: you’re making they’re job much easier.

Your job, as the marketer, is to demonstrate just how much easier their life will be with your product/service. You want the influencer to become akin to a hired salesperson, making the sales pitch for your product/service to the decision maker. Extoll the many virtues of what you’re selling, and don’t be afraid to give them fodder they can use in a discussion with the decision maker. Anything you can do to help them convince their boss is worthwhile.

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