In response to my last two posts, an “Open Letter to Buyers” and an “Open Letter to Buyer-Enabled Organizations”, I have tried to articulate the evolution in the conversations I’ve had about why social is disruptive to business as we know it, why a buyer-enabled approach is so critical to the long-term viability of your business, and why your team needs to pay attention now.
In its simplicity, buyer-enabled means “it’s not about you, it’s about them.” Buyers are tuning out self-serving messaging. They crave context and the ability to compare. But perhaps, it would make more sense if we look at our evolution which has now brought us to buyer-enabled.
In our infancy, as a sales-centric organization, we were very reactive to the market. Our initial belief was that the market was craving a strategic forum for social. If a buyer approached us within a specific need that we could fill, we wanted to centralize it for them. We quickly realized that all things social meant that you could not satisfy everyone. We advocated for thought leadership, but early interactions were vendor driven conversations.
As we began to package our discussion into executive thought leadership proactively, a more product-centric approach to social, we would push unique perspective with the hope that the buyers would let us know when what we had was something they were interested in. A better acceptance in the market, but a lot of work to evangelize. We got a smattering of feedback from buyers. We thought that maybe evolving into an industry association would help to bring sponsorship and create more compelling engagement.
As we matured and gained knowledge and experience about the ways in which our buyers approached social products and services, our value proposition, we could begin to predict how buyers would engage with us around this solution-centric approach. Again a much better uptick in actual buyers engaging with buyers around decision support. Vendors were interested in reaching the executives in the group, but we continued to lock down the engagement to keep out self-serving messaging.
The challenge was that we needed to evolve our thinking as to why the SEC existed. We felt torn between a loyalty to both vendors and buyers. About 6 months ago, we made a decision to stay true to our buyer-centric focus. We let go of the anxiety about creating an “organization” and rather focused on trying to create the best social buyer experience. We figured that if we focused on helping buyers frame their decision making appropriately, we would help the market. As a result of that focus, we have gotten to have a tremendous amount of conversation with executive leaders who are willing to share their perspective on their needs. We have fed that back into the SEC which has fed more conversations. Which has led to our belief that the real value of social media on business is the ability to become more buyer-centric.
So, before you say anything, I know that regardless of where your organization is in your own maturity curve whether sales-centric, product-centric, solution-centric, or whether you may be hitting your revenue goals, I would suggest, that our experiences are not isolated and probably more instructive and reflective of the future in terms of buyers demanding that organizations put them in the middle of the buying process rather than merely focusing on selling advocacy.
Why? Because we’ve heard this in almost every conversation that we’ve had in the last several months as we’ve discussed buyer-centric. Senior executives are reflecting on themselves as both executives with P&L responsibilities, as well as, their frustrations as actual buyers. Talk about hitting a nerve.
We can’t lead the market if we don’t immerse ourselves in the world of our buyers. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. A movement has to start with a “moment”. As buyers ourselves, we hope it starts soon.