Industrial Buying and the Rise of Buying Committees

Multiple people are behind every B2B buying decision. Your marketing should consider all of their needs.

The industrial buying journey has never been easy to manage, given the challenges in closing the hefty deals needed to invest in manufacturing, packaging and distribution equipment — or the complexities and interdependencies of a supply chain, upstream or downstream.

But in the good old days of trade shows and personal networks, the industrial buying journey was more simple. Your best path to close deals with industrial buyers was to get to know the decision makers for your ideal customers and prospects.

As the world has become more digital, the B2B buying process has become more complex. Way more complex. Industrial marketers are dealing with buying committees from multiple departments of a company that are doing massive amounts of online research independent of each other before anyone engages with a seller. It’s an elongated, non-linear process. And that means it is more important than ever to understand industrial buyers and when those multivariant touch points take place in your manufacturing marketing.

In the latest episode of the Industrial Marketer podcast, Joey and Nels discuss how to break down the industrial buying journey to ensure that your messaging is reaching the right industrial buyers.

What Is a Buying Group or a Buying Committee?

Industrial marketing is evolving at a quick pace. It is no longer enough to know you have to deliver technical information to an engineer/operations person and efficiency and ROI-related material to someone on the finance side. Yes, you still must deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. But for many industrial buyers, the number of stakeholders in a purchase is growing. You will be reading a lot more in the near future about buying groups and committees. 

A customer buying group may or may not be a real thing for your prospects and customers. Yes, some manufacturers use a committee process to align on a capital purchase. They bring together stakeholders from multiple departments to meet, assign roles, set a timeline and gather information. But for our purpose, the terms “buying group” or “buying committee” also apply to unofficial groups of stakeholders who are likely to participate in some way, at some time, in the industrial buying journey. 

A typical industrial buying group could include 4–9 people. A committee and an unofficial group could be remarkably similar in makeup, each with:

  • Decision makers and influencers
  • Representation from different areas, such as operations, facility, safety, finance and more
  • Stakeholders looking self-directed answers to their questions

Let’s think about what that might mean for your industrial marketing approach. If you have qualified four contacts from the same company as leads, it might be worth gathering your key internal stakeholders to compare notes and sort out how to proceed. Perhaps it’s not the best approach to bombard each with a flood of email messages. In essence, we are talking about looking at this through the lens of account-based marketing (ABM). The growth of buying committees, official or unofficial, is fuel for putting ABM into action. 

How to Modify Your Personas and Messaging

The presence of industrial buying committees does not mean that you have to greatly expand your target personas. Keep in mind that not everyone is a decision maker, and not every internal buying influencer has the same degree of influence. When building out your personas, you should be looking for commonalities in the questions people are asking and the problems you are solving for them. 

You should still be looking for persona “markers” in building your contact database — geographic, psychographic and technographic insights. A list of CFOs or CEOs is going to be valuable for many reasons. But you should also be gathering information about how your contacts consume your manufacturing marketing content — you might be surprised to find out how many stakeholders are looking at your CAD drawings, spec sheets and product videos. (Hint: The more that buying committees take hold, the more important visual content will become.)

If you are like most industrial marketers, your target personas are going to come from these work functions within any given company:

  • Leadership – an owner or decision-making executive
  • Operational – engineers and on-the-floor managers
  • Assets – someone who manages people, materials, facilities or some type of asset
  • Finance – someone in purchasing or accounting or at a corporate office doing work related to multiple facilities

The Presence of Industrial Buying Teams Will Impact Tactics More than Strategy

The emergence of industrial buying groups may not fundamentally change your manufacturing marketing content strategy. You are still addressing your prospect’s pain points and how you will help them solve problems and remove friction. But if you think about the continued changes in workforce and societal content consumption, you will not be surprised that more people prefer self-directed answers that are visual in nature. They prefer to learn via videos, presentations and skimmable content vs. longer-form text. 

That does not mean the white paper is dead and that everything needs to be a short video. It means you will probably have to find ways to deliver both. (Datasheets and CAD drawings are the two most popular forms of content that engineers find useful when researching to make a significant purchase for work, according to the 2022 State of Marketing to Engineers report.)

The evolution of the industrial buying journey has become more complex, but it has brought clarity for industrial marketers: Your website should have updated and easy-to-find content for stakeholders of all kinds, which will allow them to do research on their terms.

Listen to the Podcast for More on How Industrial Buying Is Changing

For more insights into how industrial buying and marketing are changing due to the rise of buying committees, tune into Episode 29 of the Industrial Marketer podcast.

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And if you have any ideas for topics you’d like us to cover on the podcast — or here on the Industrial Marketer website — send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!


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