Sunday, October 07, 2012

Selling Technology in the B2B World

Adam Hartung has been having some fun smacking around Meg Whitman's plans for rebuilding HP. If she can do it, as she claims she can, it will be no small feat. The company sells technology hardware to both businesses and consumers. Selling to companies can be hard enough, but when you're trying to figure out how to motivate scores of consumers, you have a real job ahead of you.

Hartung has a lot of reasons for thinking Whitman will fail and he's happy to outline them in his Fortune article. I'm not convinced she will fail, having seen more than one turnaround in my day. What I am sure of is that she'll find getting consumers back on the HP bandwagon a lot more challenging than selling to businesses. I realize not everyone thinks this. I'll tell you why I do.

Consumers buy things for many reasons, some of which they don't even understand. People buy on impulse, just one of these reasons, and sometimes don't even seem to realize they're doing it. ClickZ recently posted 20 different reasons that consumers buy -- and then pointed out that their list was incomplete. Of course it is. There are as many reasons for a person to buy things as there are people. Having lots of reasons for a consumer to buy may seem like an advantage on the surface, having too many reasons to buy something makes it very challenging on a marketing department, unless you have an unlimited marketing budget.

If viral videos have taught us anything, it's that unless your product is as cute as a baby animal, as wild as Gangnam Style or is endorsed by a supermodel, it's very challenging to get a critical mass of consumers all on the same page. Each reason that makes one consumer want what you have is reason enough for someone else to spurn it. Things are simpler in the B2B world.

Since 2007 or so, when we started helping financial services technology firms sell to banks, we've only identified about 4 reasons that business buyers buy anything. I talk about that in a short video that will be hitting our website soon. If you can't wait, drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you the only four reasons most companies ever make a purchase.

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