The Customer Purchase Cycle is Rarely Cyclical
By Rod Griffith
October 5, 2015
So maybe it’s time we give it a new name.
So much of our standard marketing principles are based on traditional consumer marketing concepts. But in today’s highly complex world of B2B technology marketing, many of those concepts don’t really align well with modern business customer behavior.
Take, for example, the concept of the “Customer Purchase Cycle” (also referred to as the “Buying Cycle” or the “Decision Cycle”). The major flaw in this nomenclature is the word “Cycle”.
Is there any technology company that assumes today that once a customer purchases its product or service, the customer will repeat the same purchase cycle over and over again in a continuous loop? Sure, we perhaps dream of customers being that predictable and loyal – but that’s hardly reality.
Then why do we call it a “Cycle”? Yes, in the world of B2C marketing, it’s quite likely that a customer that purchases your cereal product may well end up continuing to make the decision to buy your product – or other cereal brands – for years to come, using the same basic buying process and parameters. For commoditized products (like cereal), the decision criteria is generally based on taste, price and the convenience of availability (i.e., Do I like it better than other cereal choices? Is it reasonably priced? And does my preferred local store carry it?)
But marketers of complex B2B technology want commoditization as much as ski resorts want warm, dry winters.
Perhaps a better name for the “Customer Purchase Cycle” is the “Customer Decision Quest”. After all, isn’t the process of investigating, comparing and selecting a vendor for a specific initiative really a quest – a journey to reach a specific goal? Isn’t that purchase really a decision to invest in the solutions and strategic relationships believed necessary to achieve that goal?
The Customer Decision Quest is, in essence, the complete set of efforts taken by the customer to explore, consider, identify and decide to invest in the acquisition and relationship(s) required to achieve the desired goal.
One thing is certain: there is no guaranteed “Cycle” involved here. The customer may or may not choose to repeat the journey. And if they start a new quest, there’s no guarantee that they have not changed the goals, the processes, or the criteria for buying. Assuming that the quest will be repeated with predictable parameters is potentially a great miscalculation that could prove fatal – unless, of course, you’re selling cereal.