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    New ways to identify B2B buying group members

    New ways to identify B2B buying group members

    Understanding and engaging the buying group is critical for B2B success. When companies need to make major purchases, they typically assemble an internal team — known as the buying group, buying committee or buying center — to evaluate options and make the decision. This group can comprise anywhere from a handful to over a dozen members, each with their own roles, responsibilities and agendas.

    Marketing to buying teams is not the same as marketing to accounts. Accounts, especially at larger companies, may have a number of different buying teams looking at different buying opportunities.

    Traditionally, salespeople had to rely on networking and intelligence gathering to painstakingly identify the members of a target account’s buying group. However, with B2B buying journeys now occurring primarily online before sales’ involvement, marketers are turning to new data-driven technologies to pinpoint potential buying group members earlier in the process. Here’s how AI-powered platforms are enabling more effective identification and engagement of B2B buying groups.

    Traditional buying group identification

    Identifying the members of a buying committee has traditionally been the responsibility of a salesperson. They contact the target account, network and gather important information about the group members, their roles and their interests related to the seller’s product or category.

    Roles come in many flavors, most commonly specifiers, influencers, users, decision-makers, gatekeepers and purchasing agents. Depending on the purchase category, other roles may be involved, like champion, blocker, ratifier and maybe even the secret, “real” decision-maker behind the scenes. 

    Each role will have an agenda, meaning what it cares about and what motivates it. Here’s an example of the types of agendas that may be characteristic of different buying roles. The point is that your marketing messages should vary based on each member’s particular interests. 

    SpecifiersHow is this thing better than the competition?
    InfluencersMake my job easier.
    UsersEasy to install and use.
    Decision makersBottom line results.
    GatekeepersProtect the executive from vendor-side salespeople.
    Purchasing agentsSave money.

    What’s on the minds of business buyers, by role

    Traditionally, marketers have relied on job titles as a clue to the identity of a possible member. Titles like finance VP, IT manager, CEO, engineer, plant manager and purchasing agent come to mind. But who knows if the person in that job is involved in buying your particular product or service? 

    Data companies have tried to enhance the rate of success by attaching a “persona” descriptor to each name, in hopes of finding the right member. But, as I like to joke, “A persona doesn’t have a phone number.” You still don’t really know who is buying what. 

    Dig deeper: 15 cutting-edge tools every B2B marketer should know

    New efforts to identify buying group members via technology

    In a world where the salesperson is often shut out of the buying process until the last minute, marketing teams are doing their best to step into the void and get relevant messaging out to buying group members — and others in the target account — to help move them along in the seller’s direction. And a number of new tools and platforms have come along to help them out. 

    Demandbase

    Let’s begin with Demandbase, which recently released its new Buying Group AI product. This GTM (go-to-market) platform allows you to create your own “ideal buying group,” a set of demographic characteristics similar to an ICP (ideal customer profile), to identify people by persona, job function and seniority who appear to be researching in your product category from the anonymous web. 

    The tool then automatically recommends likely buying group members based on existing contacts from your CRM and net new contacts from Demandbase’s 150 million active contact profiles. After that, you can build and orchestrate campaigns via Demandbase’s B2B advertising DSP (demand-side ad platform), third-party ad channels like LinkedIn, Meta or Google and your own marketing automation channels, like HubSpot, Marketo, Sendoso and others. 

    The idea here is to get a relationship going early in the buying process, which these days happens almost entirely online. According to product leader Marc Perramond, Demandbase is releasing additional AI features each quarter, like enabling the seller to confirm buying group membership and bringing in the seller’s CRM opportunity data to automatically detect ongoing changes in the buying group’s composition as they occur. 

    Anteriad

    Another B2B data company active in the buyer group realm is Anteriad, with its Audience Identification and Activation solution. Nikki Candito, Anteriad’s VP of integrated marketing, freely admits that identifying the members of any given buying group is hard. “We cannot really know, but we try to get as close as possible,” she says. 

    Anteriad’s approach begins with thoroughly examining the client’s historical data — their CRM, their marketing automation — for insights into response drivers from the past. ICP profiles are developed with the client’s sales team, looking at typical characteristics like company size, revenue, industry, geography and services spend. The buying role is inferred from the job title. 

    While they can’t share client data, Anteriad marketers internally tried this approach with their own programmatic advertising campaigns, with promising results. Candito adds, “We had run programmatic client-acquisition campaigns for a while, but when we layered on the ICP and intent data, our average spend per account to drive engagement — either a site visit or some on-site activity — fell from $160 to $20.” Remarkable. 

    Dig deeper: How ABM systems are evolving to meet changing B2B buying behaviors

    6sense

    Now, let’s look at 6sense, which claims to have the best process for identifying target accounts in the market for your product and the buying group members inside. It’s important to gather every possible signal in a target account and be aware that most of them will be anonymous at first, according to researcher and thought leader Kerry Cunningham. 

    6sense assembles a variety of tools, including device IDs, IP addresses and intent signals, using suppliers like Bombora, G2 and TrustRadius and supplemented with AI to build a custom model for clients based on their opportunity evolution history for what Cunningham calls “intent monitoring.” In other words, it looks at whether any given account is somewhere along their buying journey in your category. 

    At this point, marketing can develop campaigns appropriate to the target account’s buying process stage. If early, the messaging might be via ads and emails. If later, it would be ABM-style demand generation. Eventually, if the account becomes a “6sense Qualified Account,” or 6QA, it will be handed over to BDRs and sales executives for follow-up. 

    The 6sense platform, Revenue AI, sits alongside your CRM, and each account receives a “fit score” based on keywords they are searching on, a timeline of buying group activity and scores for each person involved, the group and the anonymous members. Clients can then buy additional contact names and personas, assuming the anonymous members will be among them. 

    Orchestrating your approach to the buying group

    Forrester’s Terry Flaherty recommends that the ideal approach to identify, verify and build business with buying groups is for the three relevant parties — marketing, sales and BDRs (phone-based business development reps) to work together as a team. Marketing uses tech to identify potential group members in their target accounts — accounts that fit your ideal target profile and have given off some intent signals. The BDR team then goes in to verify, validate and expand the group members. When a certain threshold of members and engagement is reached, it’s time for the account executives to follow up and start selling. 

    Flaherty believes that the recent focus on buying groups in B2B is the solution to the outdated emphasis on MQLs (marketing-qualified leads), which has been a key area of interest for industry analysts in B2B for a long time. Salespeople need to be talking to the entire buying group, not an individual, he says.

    In marketing terms, it’s far better to have access to five individuals who each researched once in your product category versus one person who downloaded your content five times. While the BDRs and salespeople are doing their work, marketing must keep an eye on the ongoing intent behavior in the account, continually adding updates to the data pool or what Flaherty calls the “opportunity container.” 

    Having researched this concept since 2017, Flaherty is gratified to see buying group marketing strategies and software having their moment. “New tools and approaches seem to be popping up every minute,” he says. We’ve looked at Demandbase, Anteriad and 6sense here, but others, like Adobe Journey Optimizer, LinkedIn, LeanData and probably more, are arriving. These are promising new developments for B2B marketers all over. 

    Dig deeper: The false allure of B2B intent data

    The post New ways to identify B2B buying group members appeared first on MarTech.

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