December 3, 2020

Will The Real Customer Please Stand Up

Erica MacKay

The starting place for all business owners, marketers, product developers, designers, entrepreneurs and freelancers is the target client (also known as Ideal Client, Customer Persona etc).

And there are numerous resources available telling you what information is needed to fully understand your customer.

But who is your customer really?

For many products and services, it is easy to identify the client. If you sell Ladies Gym Memberships, it is easy to identify your customer as a woman looking to lose weight and get fit. And perhaps you have seen that she is generally 45 years old (let’s call her Sally) and an executive in a corporate job, deskbound all day. But what if you want to offer the gym memberships through Corporate Wellbeing programs? Or as gifts for Christmas? Although Sally will still be the user of the gym membership, your marketing and selling needs to be directed differently. And so we need to consider the Decision Making Unit (DMU).

Consider the selection of a family car. The teenage son may have suggested buying a new car. A neighbour might advise the family on the kind of car to buy. The husband might choose the make. The wife might have definite needs regarding the car’s size and interior. The wife might make the financial offer. The husband might use the car more often than his wife.

And in Business to Business sales (B2B), this can become even more complex. Within organizations, major purchases typically require input from various parts of the organization, including finance, accounting, purchasing, information technology management, and senior management. In some cases, the DMU acts as an informal ad hoc group. In other cases, the DMU is a formally sanctioned group with specific mandates, criteria, and procedures.

There are generally six roles within a DMU.

In the simplest case all 6 roles are played by one person. A business needs to identify these roles because they have implications for designing the product, determining messages and deciding on the right marketing channel.

These roles are:

1.    Initiator: The person who suggests purchasing a product or service

2.    Influencer: The person who tries to affect the outcome decision with their opinions or advice

3.    Decider: The person who have the final decision or part of the final decision. This can be whether to buy, what to buy, how to buy or where to buy.

4.    Buyer: The person who makes the actual purchase and who is responsible for the contract. The person who pays.

5.    End user: The person who actually uses the item being purchased and experiences its benefits. They are also likely to be one evaluating product performance after the purchase.

6.    Gatekeeper: The person who control the flow of information. In B2B this could be the secretary or receptionist.

If you are lucky enough to have a product or service where you have one person fulfilling all these roles, then business alignment is easy. But if you have multiple people in your DMU, then you need to ensure that all aspects of your business are aligned to fulfil the needs of each role.

What are the needs of each role?

1.    The Initiator will be affected by your new client acquisition marketing messages and advertising. Including your website.

2.    The Influencer could also be affected by your marketing messages and advertising, but there is equally a chance that they are an existing customer and are affected by your customer service.

3.    The Decider is also affected by the marketing message but also the process of selling to new customers. Is it easy and without obstacles?

4.    The Buyer will be affected by the purchase process, payment options and contractual documentation.

5.    The End user will be affected by the actual product or service delivery and well as the post sales onboarding process and customer service.

6.    The Gatekeeper is affected by the introduction message whether you call them or send an email.

And once you have identified all the role players, it becomes easier to reap the benefits of knowing your customer.