Why the dog makes the big B2B buying decisions

A typical family is going on holiday. It’s usually Dad who researches and plans it, so it’s Dad who decides, right? Wrong. It’s Mum, because Dad wants her to have the holiday she wants, so he puts her needs before his.

But hang on a second. Mum is only going to have a good time if she knows the kids are going to be happy, so she will put their needs first. Dad – you’re now in third place. And it goes one step further. There’s no way that the twins are going anywhere that won’t allow dogs in. “Mum, can Rover come on holiday with us this year, please?” “Please?” “PLEAASE?”

You may hold the wallet, Dad, but it look’s like you’re a distant fourth in terms of decision-making power.

This wonderful inverted pyramid really happens in the world of family holidays. But a few recent projects made me wonder if there isn’t a lesson to learn in B2B as well.

I’ve been helping a large IT provider market their employee wellness program. Instinctively, the first selling angle is to identify the main business proposition and somehow communicate it to the C-level, the HR department, IT or anyone else who will listen. You talk ROI, you talk integration, you talk ease of use, because that’s what they care about.

But we perhaps have an inverted pyramid here too. It only works if the employees want it to work. Sure – the ultimate benefits go to the company, but the company should sometimes be led by employee needs first.

And the employees know what they want. Give them data security. Give them a simple interface. And, above all, don’t ask them to work without their pet devices. Android, iPhone, FitBit. Whatever it is, they want you to let them use it their way. You can’t make them to do it your way any more than you can force a six-year-old to enjoy a cultural trip round an art gallery when it’s sunny outside and he wants to be on the beach playing with Rover.

You have to factor in the business needs of course, but think about who’s at the other end of the buying-power pyramid, because it may just turn out to be upside down. Dismiss their needs too readily and you may find the next few years are not much of a holiday.


*PS: I acknowledge not every family fits this stereotype. Not everyone has a dog for a start.

** I also acknowledge no one calls their dog Rover anymore.