In the consumer market a very large percentage of purchase decisions are made by a single person. As we discussed in the Consumer Buying Behavior tutorial, there are situations in which multiple people may be involved in a consumer purchase decision, such as a child influencing a parent to choose a certain brand of cereal or a husband and wife deciding together to buy a house, but most of the time purchases are individual decisions.
The business market is significantly different. While single person purchasing is not unusual, especially within a small company, a significant percentage of business buying, especially within larger organizations, requires the input of many. In the marketing literature those associated with the purchase decision are known to be part of a Buying Center, which consists of individuals within an organization that perform one or more of the following roles:
- Buyer – responsible for dealing with suppliers and placing orders (e.g., purchasing agent)
- Decider – has the power to make the final purchase decision (e.g., CEO)
- Influencer – has the ability to affect what is ordered such as setting order specifications (e.g., engineers, researchers, product managers)
- User – those who will actually use the product when it is received (e.g., office staff)
- Initiator – any Buying Center member who is the first to determine that a need exists
- Gatekeeper – anyone who controls access to other Buying Center members (e.g., administrative assistant)
For marketers confronting a Buying Center it is important to first identify who plays what role. Once identified the marketer must address the needs of each member, which may differ significantly. For instance, the Decider, who may be the company president wants to make sure the purchase will not negatively affect the company’s bottom line while the Buyer wants to be assured the product will be delivered on time. Thus, the way each Buying Center member is approached and marketed to requires careful planning in order to address the unique needs of each member.