AIDA Doesn’t Work For B2Bs

Today, I was fortunate to have been able to carve out some time over lunch to read and think today (compared to rushing harriedly from meeting-to-meeting, to-do item to to-do item)… so, naturally in my geekiness, I was thinking about branding and marketing.

While sitting down to jot down some notes and put structure to my thoughts, I ended up on this very fascinating blog post (from last year!), “AIDA Doesn’t Work For B2B” by Lindsay Willot of The Marketing Practice.

Her essential premise is this that the AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) model of a customer’s path-to-purchase is based on an emotional aspect that is relevant in B2C industries, which is not suitable in a typical B2B decision making process that is based on rational justifications.

Instead, she offers an alternative model for B2Bs:

We’ve got to ask whether AIDA is fit-for-purpose, we shouldn’t be using a tool designed for an emotive B2C environment to guide our B2B thinking. I’d like to suggest the following as a more precise model. It focuses on understanding the business pressures decision makers are under. It also maps to the B2B sales cycle. We have called it LEADS:

Locate: In a B2B environment, leads are found, not made. Your first challenge is to locate a business need or goal and to accurately identify the decision makers and influencers in an organisation based on an educated understanding of the market and organisational pressures in play.

Empathise: The catalyst to interest for enterprise level solutions is likely to be either a business problem (eg high customer churn) or business goal (eg, improved customer profitability). It is not enough simply to catch the attention of the decision makers. We must show that we understand their business challenges/goals and articulate clearly how the solution could help address them.

Articulate: The messaging must be firmly grounded in business-led argument. There are examples where emotive language may work to good effect – inspiring fear or aspiration amongst individual targets whose decision to act as sponsor to a solution might affect their career. (ie. no-one ever got fired for buying IBM”) But even in this case, any support for a solution will be based on a rational belief that it will directly benefit the business. Aspirational or fear-based messaging can therefore only be used successfully if it builds on objective argument.

Direct: It is also important to draw a distinction between B2C and enterprise-level B2B marketing when it comes to the call to action. In a B2C scenario, the action is likely to be simple – a one or two step path to purchase. For an enterprise level B2B solution, any decision to purchase is likely to be a lengthy process involving a number of interactions with the suppliers’ marketing and sales teams. It is crucial therefore, that you can illustrate clearly how any solution could be implemented with minimal impact on the target business.

Support: the longer the sales cycle, the greater the need for information at each stage. You need to work with the sales team to support them throughout the process and provide ready access to all the information needed at every stage.

Very fascinating stuff that has got me thinking. Thank you Lindsay!

What do you all think?

  • Are the branding and marketing principles really that different between B2C and B2B environments? If yes, how so?
  • Does AIDA really not work in B2B environments? Otherwise, is LEADS merely a restatement of the same AIDA?

I’d really appreciate a discussion in the comments…

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