How you can influence your customers’ decision landscape

In my previous article on the topic of the decision landscape, I examined how we as humans make purchase decisions and how selling organizations need to adopt its products, services, and marketing to fit changes in the decision landscape — the complex set of internal-to-us and external factors that we, as humans, use to make a purchase decision.

To recap, the decision landscape consists of the following components:

  • Heuristics: Meaning a slew of experiences and perceptions any buyer calls up from memory when deciding to make a potential purchase.
  • External factors: Things that influence the buyer to make a buying decision.
  • Circumstances: Events surrounding the purchaser at the time of a purchase decision.

I also established that a selling organization could affect two of the three components of the decision landscape, some external factors, and some buying decision circumstances. By involving these, the seller can influence how the buyer decides to make a purchase. Or not. Now, this might sound quite theoretical, but the way I think about this is in the form of the 4 Ps of Marketing. But it becomes more complex as each of these 4 Ps of Marketing affects each other and the buyers’ decision landscape. Why then can the seller affect the subset and not all the components of the decision landscape? Well, because as a seller, you cannot always affect all of the buyer’s circumstances, nor can you affect the buyer’s heuristics. But the 4 Ps of Marketing you definitely can affect.

If you are not familiar with the 4 Ps of Marketing, they consist of the following:

Product: The product or service you sell. (Features, functions, and benefits.)

Place: How and to whom you sell to. (Buyer profile, sales channels, sales methods.)

Promotion: How potential buyers will become aware of your product or service. (Marketing channels, marketing messages, brand, product presentation, messages, website, etc.)

Price: The price of the product or service. (Pricing strategy, structure, and levels.)

The reason this gets complex is that each of these 4 Ps of Marketing affects the others. If you change one, the others need to change too. This is important to remember!

Consider this:

The better your product or service fits the specific needs of the customers you target, the more inclined they will be to make a purchase. Sound easy enough? But it is not. Any product or service has certain features, functions, and benefits. Those will better match the needs of the place, a specific buyer profile, than another buyer profile. And with that match comes the promotion that needs to appeal to the buyers’ profiles that are more likely to buy at the price that generates the highest sales volume, revenue, or profits.

So, in short, the product or service needs to fit the most desirable buyers’ needs with the proper promotion and the right price. If it does, these 4 Ps of Marketing becomes like the tide that raises all the boats in the harbor. It’s very tough to get all this right. All at the same time.

Let’s try to break this down into manageable steps:

If the product or service is “right” for one buyer profile, it will not be as “right” for another buyer profile. “Right” here means that it will lead to the sellers desired outcome that could maximize their sales volume, revenue, or profit. To meet that goal, companies:

  • Need to know the feature, function, and benefit requirements from all different potential buyer profiles.
  • Need to know how the different buyer profiles react to various promotional activities and channels.
  • Need to know how sales volume at various prices is affected by different buyer profiles, features, functions, benefits, promotions, promotional channels, sales methods, and sales channels.

There is a lot of variables here. All of them affect the other variables at play. Consider how do most companies manage this complex set of variables. Well, they typically start defining a product or service that is developed because they see a gap in the market, because they see an unmet need, or because they believe they can better meet the needs of customers than the alternatives already in the market. The data and information they typically use are from their own experience and from talking to relatively few potential customers. Sometimes it’s also from generic market research. Does it work? Sometimes it does, at other times, not at all. Many times it works so-so. Not a complete failure, but also not a real success.

I speak to a lot of entrepreneurs. Some obviously more successful than others, but one thing comes up repeatedly — the need to do A/B testing. This is relatively easy to do when selling online. Unfortunately, harder for those who don’t. But what never appears to dawn on these entrepreneurs is the size of the A/B testing task. Consider this A/B testing case:

  • Five different buyer profiles.
  • Five different product/service features or benefits used in promotion.
  • Five different promotional channels.
  • Five different marketing messages.
  • Five different product/service names or brand names.
  • Two different sales channels.
  • Five different price points.

So it is 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 2 x 5 = 6,250 different combinations! Mind-blowing!

Now, of all these combinations, most will make little difference, but a few will make a considerable difference in sales volume and revenue. If A/B testing is the only choice, the only way to find out is to test all of these combinations. This will take some considerable time. In some cases, so long time that the product or service is not relevant anymore as the market has changed once a company is done with the testing phase. Is there a better way? Absolutely!

Well, let me tell you a little bit about my story. I’ve been running companies in Europe and the US. We did experiments with pricing. Some of these experiments were very successful (like, subsequent quarter revenue is increased by 25%); in other experiments, the opposite happened. Business school learnings did not help me to understand why some experiments worked and others did not. Because, at the time, I did not understand how buying decisions are made. I did not realize how the different factors, circumstances, and heuristics of the buyer affects the buying decision. But now I do. In fact, I developed a process in which the decision landscape can be mapped out in great detail without the need for tedious A/B testing. This process consists of a particular kind of online market research — from it — it is possible to predict how sales volume and revenue are affected by all the various aspects of the decision landscape. It is much quicker than A/B testing making the result relevant and timely.

By knowing how revenue is affected by the various external factors for different buyer profiles, companies can maximize their influence on buying decisions, which leads to an increase in sales volume, revenue, and Pricing Power. (Pricing Power is a topic for another article.)

Let me make this more concrete by providing some examples.

Buyer profile:

  • A personal health coaching company sold its services to wealthy males. But sales volume doubled at almost twice the price by focusing on affluent females instead.
  • A construction rental equipment company increased the closing rate by about 25% by focusing on contractors involved in constructing buildings as opposed to infrastructure.

Marketing message:

  • A manufacturer of golf clubs could increase prices by 10–15% by changing the market message away from “craftsmanship” to “high-tech manufacturing.”
  • A startup SaaS vendor of software for architects saw a 50% increase in revenue when they changed their marketing message from “save time” to “minimize mistakes.”

Circumstance:

  • Consumer buyers of flooring who claim to be knowledgeable about the product choices available generate 20% higher revenue than those who are not. Meaning it’s wise to develop education/knowledge for your buyers.
  • Business buyers of SaaS to manage digital assets and who expect rapid growth of the number of digital assets will generate 30% higher revenue compared to those who already have a large number of digital assets. Meaning you should qualify potential customers by their growth expectations.

I hope that these few examples will give you some hints on the importance of knowing the decision landscape. Once a company knows how the decision landscape looks, they can then focus on the right customer, with the right product or service, using the most effective marketing channel(s) and messages, and the right sales channel(s) and methods, and the right price.

Per Sjöfors
The Price Whisperer™
Founder
Sjöfors & Partners Inc
www.sjofors.com

Pricing has always been an interest area for Per. As a serial entrepreneur, running companies in Europe and the US, he did pricing experiences. Some of these worked spectacularly well, some did not work at all. As a result, Per founded Atenga (now Sjöfors & Partners) out of his frustration that what business schools teach about pricing is too abstract, too academic for a business executive to act on. Likewise with books about pricing. Consequently, he set out to make pricing practical and actionable. Pricing for business people. Since then, he has been at the forefront as thought leader in everything pricing and he is a sought-after speaker for a variety of conferences and business circuits.

Per appear regularly on business radio shows and gets quoted regularly in the financial press, including Forbes, Fortune Magazine, Inc., IndustryWeek, Business Insider and the Financial Times.

About Us: Sjöfors & Partners has developed a unique method for data-driven pricing based on price-specific market research, that generate precise measurements of customers’ willingness to pay or buy for a product or service. Armed with this knowledge, companies can focus their sales, marketing and product development efforts towards the market segment with the highest willingness to buy at the highest prices. The measurement also allows Sjöfors & Partners’ clients to accurately predict the results of different prices, taking the uncertainty out of pricing decisions.

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Per is an author, speaker, and authority on all things pricing and the Founder Los Angles based Sjöfors and Partners.

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Per Sjofors

Per Sjofors

Per is an author, speaker, and authority on all things pricing and the Founder Los Angles based Sjöfors and Partners.

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