7 Ways B2B Buyers Are Like Children

I’ve always felt that being a Mom has made me better at marketing. After all marketing is about making an emotional connection to our buyers and there’s no one with whom I have a tighter bond than my children. Every day they find new ways to stir the largest emotions in my life – laughter, love, fear, pride. And let’s be honest no one can make you more frustrated than your children. It’s like they have a remote control to your frustration nerve and know just how much pressure to apply before you explode.

Even if you don’t have children of your own, you know putting your hand between the couch cushions of a family with toddlers is an act of bravery. And you also know kids fall for advertising.  My usually sensitive 9-year-old turns into one long “I want list” every December. Most items he’d never even heard of before the holiday rush of ads.

As it turns out adults never outgrow the “I wants”. Marketing is all about tapping into the children in all of us.

#1 We Want the Shiny New Toy Who’s waiting outside the Apple store for the latest iPad? Lots of people. A significant portion of which are executives who want the latest toy to make their business day more productive. While most organizations won’t create an Apple like cult following, I’ve seen raving fans fly across the country to present at a user conference. I’ve seen hundreds of people tweet about a new release of business intelligence technology. We never outgrow the desire to have a shiny new toy.

BEST PRACTICE: Make buyers want your offering. Too much of our messaging, packaging, product development focuses on what buyers need. While you can’t take your eye off generating value, don’t forget to make people WANT what you sell.

#2 Kids See Right Through False Promises  If you’ve ever made a 5-year-old a promise to go to the park, you know they don’t forget even when it’s raining out! Despite popular belief, kids are not easily distracted. They whine, they complain to friends and they torture you with reminders about the “time you promised to take me to the park and didn’t”. They know when you are feeding them a pile of false promises, and they read right through it.  Our clients are the same way. You can’t fake sincerity and when you do you turn potential advocates into disgruntled challengers who vote not only with their wallet, but with their social voices – via Facebook, LinkedIn, tweets and good old-fashioned lunchtime conversation.

BEST PRACTICE: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

#3 Look at Me!  Even the most shy children have proud moments they brag about to their friends and family.  Children talk about the movie they just watched, the latest music they purchased, the family trip they are about to take.  When they are excited children are never quiet. B2B buyers are much the same way. When we have a great experience we shout about it to our peers and we like to be congratulated on our success.

BEST PRACTICE: Congratulate your customers regularly. They should be proud of making the smart decision to work with your company.

#4 Sharing is Discretionary Have you ever asked a 40-year-old man to borrow his brand new convertible? It’s a mistake you only make once. He may want to drive you around in the car, but he’s not ready to let you have it. Just like children we may want you to know we got an awesome new tool, but we don’t always want to share.

BEST PRACTICE: Once a buyer has seen your offering they may be drooling to try it. Make it easy for them to act on this temptation. After all, their friend isn’t always going to turn over the keys.

#5 Ask and We Shall Tell  Kids don’t have a filter. If they don’t like what you prepared for dinner, you’re going to know. Never, and I mean never, ask your children if they like your new haircut. Nothing good can come from that! While adults have built up a filter of socially acceptable comments, if you ask about your offering in the right way, they will give you an honest assessment. It’s not enough to find out if someone likes your service. Ask them why. Don’t just find out they were referred to your website after reading an article, find out what portion of the article was compelling.

BEST PRACTICE: Ask questions. The more you ask, the more you will understand.

#6 We Love Games If you have ever driven 10 hours straight in the car with children, you know the only way to get through it is to play games. The license plate game, I spy, 20 questions are classics that make regular appearances in my van.  Our love of games never goes away.

BEST PRACTICE: Gamification gets a lot of attention these days and there is good reason. Make engaging on your website fun. Reward clients for making referrals. Playing with your company is as important as buying from your company.

#7 We Want Things We Can’t Afford Kids have all kinds of creative strategies for getting us to buy them presents they don’t need.  I mean really – how can my son who already owns 25 stuffed animals really need another penguin toy? But at the end of our visit to the Aquarium in his mind he must absolutely have it. But we all have limits and on that day it’s ice cream on the way home, or ANOTHER stuffed animal. Sorry, stuffed animal the other people in the car got a vote. As adults we are constantly challenged with the need to make these types of trade-offs. We want more for our businesses than we can afford. As marketers we can make someone WANT us, but we can’t make them afford us.

BEST PRACTICE: Target your marketing to people who will not only want your product or service, but who can afford to make it a business priority.

Marketing is about more than getting someone’s attention. We must keep their attention and generate action. If we remember that even B2B buyers are just grown up kids we open ourselves up to new ways of creating an emotional connection that drives activity. May the kid in you inspire your next marketing project!