IBM recently released a study, “Inside the Midmarket: A 2011 Perspective” (PDF), that details the shift of midsized businesses from a recessionary mindset to one of recovery. Specifically, more firms are looking to be innovative and customer focused as opposed to cost-reduction focused.
In 2009, more than half of medium-sized business firms were consumed by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. Today, customer focus (31 percent), revenue/market growth (30 percent), and innovation (18 percent) represent the most common priorities, with cost reduction tumbling 32 points.
According to the report, enhancing customer service (73 percent) and prospecting for new customers (67 percent) are top priorities among midsize businesses around the world. But while most companies cite customer acquisition as a priority, especially as it relates to adopting social media, one wonders if some of these businesses appreciate the subtle difference between buyer types (one of several social media blind spots).
Ten Types Of Buyers From A Marketing Perspective.
• Loyal Customers. Buyers who make purchases year after year, without any desire to change unless they are actively disenfranchised by the brand. They also tend to be the least likely to provide feedback and most likely to leave when the preferred vendor can no longer solve problems.
• Opportunity Hunters. Buyers who look for vendors that will further their long-term needs. They tend to want to leverage any relationship to further their own agendas and may or may not have an interest in purchasing any products. The time-to-return ratio is exceptionally thin.
• Comparison Shoppers. Buyers who look for the bottom line best price, even if it means accepting a product or service that is inferior in meeting their needs. They are most likely to hold off on making purchases until products are offered at a discount or on sale.
• Creative Influencers. Buyers who feel especially empowered if the seller can give them exactly what they want, even if the company can offer a better alternative. Sometimes creative buyers drive companies toward innovation, but other times they can drive a company away from its core buyer.
• Reward Gatherers. Buyers who continually want to receive something in addition to a purchase. This often takes shape in the form of a discount, coupon, or prize. They tend to have a high expectations to receive rewards on a regular basis, and sometimes expect rewards and perks to feel exclusive.
• Hard Negotiators. Buyers who are never satisfied with any sale, discount, perk, innovation, or any other promise. It is almost more important to them to win an additional concession on the product or service than any other motivator, even if it jeopardizes the relationship.
• Value Shoppers. Buyers who are predisposed to purchasing the best value and the highest quality products. Price is less of a concern and they frequently view discounts, sales, or perks as a distraction. They are the most likely to become loyal shoppers, assuming the company can meet their discriminating demands.
• Interpersonal Buyers. Buyers who resemble loyal shoppers, but hinge their loyalty on a specific person, spokesperson, or group of people within a company. They are the first customers lost when the interpersonal connection is broken. A fraction of interpersonal shoppers (service shoppers) may attach themselves to overall customer experience, but only when every interaction is equally exceptional.
• Consensus Checkers. Buyers who are most influenced by two different subsets, internal and external consensus. They are most predisposed to look at a variety of reviews in making personal choices or are most likely to make choices based on what they believe everyone in their group wants.
• Early Adopters. Whether a product or service solves their problem or not, they are most likely to try new products, proclaimed innovations, and the next bright and shiny object. They tend to shift products and companies frequently because they are motivated by creating an illusion of authority. Occasionally, they become loyal shoppers for innovative companies.
The State Of Social Media And Buyers.
Naturally, people do not fit into neat and tidy compartments. Do keep in mind that some people fit within several columns while others might fit within different columns depending on the industry. Of course, some might not fit anywhere on this starter list.
This is important because the real challenge, especially for social media, is to stop focusing on two primary types while abandoning the rest. Specifically, social media experts lean toward attracting interpersonal buyers (for presumed engagement) and reward gatherers (direct response).
Sure, some strive to reach early adopters (for presumed influence), creative influencers (as the loudest voices), and opportunity hunters (active promotors) as a secondary consideration or because they feel forced. But mostly, social media experts over focus on interpersonal buyers, people they can connect with and then serve as the tie between the consumer and the brand. They might even call it humanizing the business.
The reality is that most companies attract different kinds of buyers (and all of them have neglected loyal customers). For example, WalMart attracts comparison shoppers; The Four Seasons caters to customer service buyers; Starbucks, despite its higher prices, chases after reward shoppers; and Apple tends to reach loyal buyers and early adopters. They are all different companies. They are all different buyers. Get to know them before you assume who they might be.