Clarifying Buyer, Buyer Collective, Buying Committee, and Account-Based Marketing Concepts

Andrew Moravick

Everyone knows buyers matter in marketing. The rise in popularity of account-based marketing, however, has changed the context in which many marketers evaluate buyers. Rarely, is there ever just one buyer in a given business to business (b2b) scenario. In the healthcare information and technology space, there are actually an average of 9 common contributors to a purchase decision for a given account or opportunity. Of course, through the lens of account-based marketing (ABM), the nature of groups of buyers working together is a given. When an ABM practitioner is talking about targeting an account, ideally, they’re talking about targeting the key buyers who are involved in advancing a purchase decision.

For clarity and precision, at HIMSS Media, we have a specific term for the buyers and influential individuals who contribute to the purchase process. We call it the buyer collective. We believe this term is important because, while the idea of reaching an account, ideally, is synonymous with reaching the buyer collective, in actuality, the ambiguity between the two terms can often lead marketers astray.

Why Do Distinctions About Buyers, The Buyer Collective, Buying Committees and Accounts Matter?

What kind of damage could a misunderstanding about the meaning of an account really do to marketing performance? Take a simple ABM goal like the idea of reaching an account. If an account isn’t actually interpreted as the buyer collective, but instead, is more akin to at least one individual target buyer at the organization of an account, “successful” account engagement won’t fully translate to effective purchase process advancement. Reaching one buyer at an account is only an entry point, especially in an environment like healthcare IT where, again, there are roughly 9 contributors at play. It’s certainly a positive start, like having a few puzzle pieces to begin pulling a picture together. It’s not, though, an all-out win like hitting a bullseye. If expectations for marketing objectives around accounts are misaligned, like misaligned gears, the power behind such positive developments won’t effectively translate into movement for the business. You may have 100% account reach, but if most accounts only have 1 buyer reached, or say, 11% of the buyer collective engaged, you’re not nearly in as advantageous situation as you thought.

In short, on paper, your measurable account-based marketing or general marketing performance might look great, but if the business doesn’t end up seeing returns from that performance. It’s basically a false reading. It’d be like navigating with a beautifully admirable compass that doesn’t point north. You have something that looks good leading you to believe you’re going in the right direction when, really, you’re only getting more lost.

Understanding the Connections Between Buyers, Buying Committees, the Buyer Collective, and Accounts:

While we could explore and expand on the implications of semantics, expectations and marketing objectives around buyers, the buyer collective, accounts, and account-based marketing, by now, hopefully you have the gist. From here on out, a simple breakdown of terms will help you make the most of the point of this post. Bit by bit, here’s how we break down the key terms and how they relate to each other.

  • Buyers: Naturally, your buyers are the people with a distinct stake in and a direct contribution to a purchase. What’s important about buyers, though, is that they’re like the atoms of any account or opportunity. They’re the most foundational, uniquely identifiable units within the system.  
  • The Buyer Collective: Functionally, the buyer collective is like a molecule – it’s the organic (in the sense of naturally occurring) combination of buyers who come together out of compatibility and utility. These are the people, buyers and influential stakeholders alike, who have a say in the purchase process.
  • Buying Committee: A buying committee is more like a synthetic molecule – it’s a group of individuals, often direct buyers, commissioned or voluntarily collaborating to manage a purchase process.
  • The Buyer Collective / Buying Committee Dynamic: A buying committee can be the entirety of a buyer collective, or it can be a portion of the buyer collective, but the distinction is that the individuals on a buying committee are actively or intentionally participating in the purchase process, while members of the buyer collective are foundational to the purchase process. The buyer collective is always there, but buying committees may or may not be created at an organization. Reaching the buyer collective means having influence into a buying committee, but in cases where a buying committee is engaged, there may be additional members of the buyer collective to tap into to influence or expedite the process.
  • Accounts: If buyers are the atoms, buyer collectives and buying committees are the molecules, think of accounts as the solutions (still in the chemical sense, of course). Solutions being mixtures of two or more substances, accounts can be seen as a mix of two basic types of contacts – buyers and non-buyers. Since marketers and sales people are primarily focused on targeting buyers, the non-buyer grouping at accounts often gets overlooked. However, it’s important to emphasize, the buyer collective isn’t all buyers. It’s buyers and non-buyers alike. Like hydrogen atoms in water, buyers in the buyer collective are often more numerous, but those two buyers still need one balancing oxygen non-buyer atom to fit together to make the water molecule of a buyer collective. If we see accounts as water-based solutions, the key elements are consistently recognizable, but the chemistry of the other components also becomes an advantage. Non-buyer contacts (the additional elements that are still in the mix) can be leveraged to get in-roads to members of the buyer collective (the water of a water-based solution), and the nature if the account’s properties can be understood and harnessed. 

Overall, while we’ve dug pretty deeply into buyers, the buyer collective, buying committees, and accounts, the key point is to help you more clearly understand what you have to work with. When you know the nature of your buyers, how they fit into the buyer collective, and what their places are at accounts, you can more effectively leverage those relationships to drive business performance. When you have a scientific understanding of what’s happening, you can plan and strategize with scientific level precision for what you want to happen in terms of marketing outcomes.

 If you’re looking to see better results from any marketing objectives specifically tied to the healthcare information and technology space, please contact us today!

About the Author

As a Senior Marketing Manager for HIMSS Media, Andrew Moravick leverages extensive B2B & B2C marketing experience to oversee and optimize HIMSS Media's content marketing and demand generation efforts. In previous roles, Andrew has worked for Aberdeen Group, Snap App, PUMA, and Eloqua.

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