How Does Collaborative B2B Decision-making Affect Personalization?

By | March 5, 2013

In the world of personalization, we rely on data on individual recipients to target and personalize content to be relevant and meaningful to them. But in the world of B2B, decision-making has been more collaborative. In fact, according to IDC, the number of stakeholders for each purchase decision has grown by 40% — from five in 2010 to seven in 2012.

Tom Pisello, also known as “the ROI guy,” has written two very interesting blog posts on this topic from the sales perspective that are worth the read (“More Stakeholders = More Sales & Marketing Complexity in 2013” and “Are Buyer Personas Dead?“).

From a digital printing and personalization perspective, the impact of the expanding number of stakeholders could be significant.

As the number of stakeholders in any B2B decision grows, this will impact the ability of marketers to use personalization to promote their products and services. But for the better or the worse?

On one hand, we could say that it makes personalization to the individual less relevant. Stakeholders can range from IT to product management to finance, all of whom have differing agendas and motivations. Even the best, most sophisticated personalization efforts cannot span them all. The higher the number of stakeholders grows, the more watered down the impact of any individual marketing effort to any individual person on that team becomes.

On the other hand, every project often has one individual champion within the organization who advocates for the decision and propels it forward. We never know which of those 5–7 stakeholders on the team it’s going to be.  Sometimes all it takes is one. The recipient of that 1:1 marketing piece could be the person who makes the difference.

What is your experience? How do you think the expanding number of stakeholders affects personalization in marketing?

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9 thoughts on “How Does Collaborative B2B Decision-making Affect Personalization?

  1. David Dodd


    The short answer is that you need marketing content that is tailored for each buyer persona in the buying group. Generic content simply won’t cut it!

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker

    Yes, in an ideal world. But how can the marketer know who all the individuals are in every buying group in which every individual on his list is involved?

  3. Robert

    Tough to get past the gate keepers to get to the level of the decision makers, but it can be done. Heidi, I do believe you have 10-20 seconds with your content to get the attention of the decision makers.

  4. David Dodd


    In a B2B setting anyway, you know (or certainly should know) who the members of your buying group are, by job title or job function. For example, if you’re selling marketing asset management solutions, your buying group will likely include the CMO (or another relatively high-leve marketing executive), the CFO, and possibly the CSO. If you’re working with a smaller company, the CEO may also be in the buying group. If you’ve developed buyer personas for these buyer types, you’ll know what issues are important to them, and that tells you how to tailor your content.

  5. Nigel Cliffe

    Just to extend the thought process a little – you are exactly right Heidi, in the B2B world the decision making process is a complex one. But why pose the argument around B2B? In the B2B world it might be argued there is less opportunity/volume in any event. In the B2C world there are fewer decision makers (usually just one!) and the reach is far greater. Isn’t that what we should be concentrating on?

  6. Kevin

    You raise an interesting question. I would argue that the increase in ‘decision stakers’ amplifies the need for personalization. The challenge becomes one of content creation on a micro-targeted (1-to-1) level and then automating it’s delivery.

  7. Jonathan Wilson

    Firstly, to Nigel’s point around the decision makers in B2C, i would argue that with social networks, peer purchasing is a much bigger factor, the purchase of one influenced by the many..

    Secondly, i think in B2B there is a need for personalisation, but perhaps at a group level, reaching or even knowing the personas within the project group is unlikely but if the message is tailored to their objectives in relation the purchase then this is a way to approach it.

  8. Hexigo

    Great post and insights into collaborative decision making.

    We are a small start-up that created a collaborative decision making tool specifically to address the changes and advnaces in corporate decision making that this post elaborates on.

    Checkout our collaborative decision making tool:

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