Why B2B Buyers are Like 'The Bachelor'

One of my guilty pleasures is to watch ‘The Bachelor’ on Monday nights with my wife.  While it is true that this show may actually decrease your IQ as you watch it, I firmly believe that you can offset the loss of brain cells by making snarky comments about the participants, thus improving your quick wit and comedic timing.  (Plus, we also watch “Downton Abbey”, which makes you smarter just because it's English.) A few weeks ago, I was preparing for my presentation at the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, WA while enjoying my weekly dose of manufactured “reality show” drama.  My presentation started with a brief discussion of the B2B Buyer’s Journey – the path that buyer’s take when going from lead to satisfied (or dissatisfied) customer.  As I switched my attention back and forth between my presentation and the show, I had a shocking revelation: B2B buyers are exactly like The Bachelor!

How?

  • Both start with a large number of choices, B2B buyers with any number of vendors that may or may not meet their needs, The Bachelor with 25 young ladies who may or may not meet his needs.
  • Both begin the process with a little research, B2B buyers conducting that research online through websites, The Bachelor in a large cocktail party where he gets a few minutes to gather first impressions about each potential mate.
  • At this point, the B2B buyer will likely connect with people like himself on social media, most frequently LinkedIn and Twitter, to get opinions about his potential vendors.  Unfortunately, The Bachelor has to skip this step, as he is isolated during the show taping.  Of course, if he could check social media, he would immediately eliminate the “problem” women and much of the show’s drama would be ruined.
  • Both then start creating a short list, the B2B buyer doing that by engaging with the sales people of the vendors he likes best, and The Bachelor doing it through a series of one-on-one and group dates.  Overtime, they both start eliminating those they don’t like or are unsuitable.
  • Both then diligently start checking references on their short list.  The B2B buyer does this with calls to other customers and those that have done business with his potential vendors.  The Bachelor does this through visits with his final four “girlfriends” to meet their families and friends.
  • Once the final two vendors/potential mates have been selected, it is time to go for approval.  The B2B buyer does this with his management; The Bachelor does this with his parents.
  • Finally, it's time to make a decision.  The B2B buyer selects the best vendor and negotiates a contract; while The Bachelor selects the woman he can’t live without and slips a ring on her finger.

There is one final way these two are alike.  Even once they become customers, B2B buyers are still buyers.  Contract lengths are shorter than ever – a year commitment is a long one – and a typical customer will be continuously evaluating his options.  We know from history that The Bachelor is no different – within 6-12 months, he’ll be out looking around for another “perfect” mate!

I liked this analogy so much I decided to use it to kick off my presentation for the retreat, The Customer Path: From Lead Gen to Customer.  If you’re interested in seeing it, click on the title.  It's only 15 minutes and I’m pleased to say the story was well received and got a good laugh.

Next week, I’ll tell you how some of our marketing automation competitors are exactly like Mike “The Situation” from ‘The Jersey Shore’.  (Not really - I don’t think there is any exercise that would repair the brain cells lost from watching that show.)