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Don’t You Forget About Me

For those of us in high school during the 80’s or those who have watched The Breakfast Club,  this title is likely to hit the internal “play button” on a song from the band Simple Minds.

Recent research, however, suggests that, when it comes to motivations around B2B purchasing, the mind is not so simple after all.   It may seem counter-intuitive, but the research proves that even in business purchase decisions, emotional motivators are extremely important.

The research identified 40 distinct kinds of value that B2B offerings provide customers, and these value drivers fall into a 5-layer pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid are the table stakes (e.g. meeting minimum specifications, an acceptable price, and regulatory compliance) and functional values (e.g. product quality, expense reduction, or enabling the buyer’s topline growth).

At the top of pyramid are more personal types of value, such as reduced anxiety, fun and perks, reputational enhancement, career marketability, and growth and development.  Like it or not, these factors are increasingly important in differentiating your offerings. In other words, don’t forget about the emotional motivators.

The good news is that these underlying motivators can be identified in research, but not in a traditional format.  Through our own work with B2B customers, we’ve honed a process that allows us to uncover those emotional drivers. First, there must be a high level of trust between the interviewee and interviewer.  This is developed deliberately and using several touchpoints prior to the formal interview.  The format of the interview is typically one-on-one, and it is better when conducted after-hours, where there is more confidentiality.  Lastly, there is a science to asking questions and “peeling back the onion.”  Leave that to the trained moderators.

Want to learn more?  We strongly recommend The B2B Elements of Value.  First published by Harvard Business Review last year, it has been an invaluable framework in our research efforts.

As B2B offerings become ever-more commoditized, expand your learning to better understand how you can leverage these more subjective value drivers.  While the mind is not so simple, the process for getting at these insights is within your reach.

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