CEOs and Consumers Decide Differently

By Chuck Sink | August 6, 2018

B2B and B2C Marketing target the same emotions but different motives.

Does your company sell mostly to individual consumers? If so, your customer targeting can get complicated and may require a high degree of personalization. Consumers’ tastes and preferences in features/benefits run in multitudinous different directions and with choices at their fingertips, you need to build customer personas and tailor multiple sets of messages to different groups or individuals today. That is if you want your brand to stand out and lead your consumer category.

Does your business sell mostly to other businesses? Then your target audience is easily defined! You sell to the CEO or the business owner, often the same person. Simple. And how nice that is for helping you determine your branding and positioning strategy!

This approach is fundamental to having an authentic and effective brand in the business products & services (B2B) world. But some salespeople and even some business owners argue that end users of equipment, software or services highly influence decisions and must be sold first. Engineers, specifiers and purchasing managers are the ones who do all the “shopping” and make the final recommendation and therefore, can seal the decision – or so you may think.

The target of ALL B2B marketing is the CEO.

CEOs and senior executives have a unique mindset and language. CEO’s don’t think like everyday consumers when making business buying decisions. They wear a very different hat for that. Business buying decisions are just as emotion-based if not more so, but for very different reasons.

Think of the business meetings you’ve had with CEOs present. They cut through the minutia and get to the key points fast (even when being patient with others out of courtesy). They are starved for new information that can guide their decisions.

Consider what a respected millennial digital marketer, Miranda Casey, has to say. “Working in the tech industry and targeting CEOs, I’ve come to understand the importance of getting to the point fast and ‘proving the why’ as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s not every day that a company decides to make a thousand or million dollar decision…”

Additionally, the CEO may have his or her own personal motives for choosing a supplier for their business, and nobody can know exactly who else the CEO knows or what else could motivate their decisions. Remember that “blood runs thicker than water” and relationships make a difference, sometimes all the difference — all things being equal, or even not so much. The lesson here is to take the time (and be patient) to build relationships with the CEOs in your target market.

Talking with End Users only FEELS like sales work.

Seasoned B2B salespeople know that top-down selling works much better than the bottom-up approach. Business owners and executive leaders are constantly on the lookout for the best suppliers and partners to help improve their companies and gain competitive advantages. Sure, they are loyal to proven providers but keep an eye on the consistency of quality and value received. If it’s clearly demonstrated to the CEO that replacing a supplier can solve real problems and increase profitability, the old one gets the boot and the new supplier celebrates a business win

Marketing:  Your Intangible B2B Sales Force 

The same principle applies in B2B marketing. Position your brand only for the CEOs in the industries you serve. Don’t try pushing your list of features. That’s a consumer-based commodity approach! Explain, rather, the actual and differentiated results your solutions provide clients, maybe even their competition.

As your messages get through to your CEO targets with the ringtone of relevance, your brand will begin to develop a subtle (even if at first subconscious) mental interest. Then a natural value-focused curiosity will make learning more about your product/service part of their to-do list.

With a continued consistency of strong messages, your pricing and business model will be investigated or directly inquired of – your opportunity to close new business.

Demonstrate category leadership to your target company CEOs and they will wonder if they should be doing business with you.

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