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What do Businesses Buy?

It’s actually a trick question; one of those questions that make you roll your eyes (and perhaps groan) when you hear the answer. Still, it’s worth considering, so I’ll give you a hint: What do BUSINESSES buy (as opposed to people)?

The answer is: NOTHING. Businesses don’t buy anything. People buy things, sometimes for their businesses.

Too often, we think “Oh, we’re going to sell this to XYZ Co.” or “I have Dynata as my customer,” but that kind of thinking leads us down the wrong marketing road.

At the end of the day, every purchasing decision is a personal one. We like to think of ourselves as logical, rational buyers, but the truth is that we buy from people we like, from people who are like us, and from people who like us. And the things that we buy are products or services that we can easily see fitting into the picture we have of ourselves.

Certainly companies don’t make big capital decisions based on emotion, do they? The answer is actually pretty nuanced. Think about this:

Which salesperson gets past the admin and to the customer’s office, and which keeps getting stuck in voicemail, is often determined by little more than personality. And, if you don’t meet with the salesperson, you don’t hear their pitch, no matter how valuable their product may be to your organization.

Instead of having a customer relationship with XYZ Co, you in reality have a number of relationships with individuals at XYZ Co; in their purchasing department, engineering group or IT team. If those people leave, they take those relationships with them. That can be good for you in one way, but bad in another.

As a marketing professional, you have to remember that people buy with BOTH sides of their brains. Your product or service needs to make good financial sense, but it also needs to be emotionally appealing. It needs to be attractive and well-designed. There should be an element of fun. (Even the most pragmatic of scientists would rather have the centrifuge with the blue LED’s on it.)

Your people should be the nicest and your company the easiest to deal with. They should be developing relationships which extend deeply into your customer’s organization; relationships with people who only casually interact with your product or service. Every old-school copier salesman knew the value of carrying a pocket full of hard candy and being polite to the receptionist.

About Rick

Rick Scherle is a founder and Senior Managing Partner at Zoe Street.

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