The Buyersphere Project

the-buyersphere-projectBelow is a recap of the SES San Jose 2009 session The Buyersphere Project. For those of you not familiar with The Buyersphere Project it was a major research initiative conducted by Enquiro, with input provided by Google, Covario,, Demandbase and Marketo focusing on understanding B2B buyer patterns.  

Buyersphere Defined

Buyersphere™ is a business-to-business term used to describe the use of the internet for sharing information on purchasing decisions. More specifically, it is defined as “the total universe of online content that influences buyer behaviour.” (

The Panelists Included:

Gord Hotchkiss, President & CEO, Enquiro
Mark McMaster, Sr. Planner B2B Markets, Google
Jon Miller, VP Marketing, Marketo
Susan Chenoweth Scarth, VP Marketing, Demandbas
Ben Hanna, VP Marketing,
Matthias Blume, Chief Analytics Officer, Covario  

The panel started by introducing the 5 key areas of the research findings they would be discussing:  

  1. The Risk Gap and the Myth of the Funnel
  2. The Need for Mapping
  3. Better Integration Between Online and Offline
  4. The Buyer-Doer Gap
  5. Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives

1. The Risk Gap and the Myth of the Funnel

Gord got the session started by reviewing the ever importance of face-to-face communication for building trust in B2B selling. He reminded the audience that risk of purchase is based on fear and that fear is an emotion which is irrational. He then pointed out the large role brand development has in managing this fear.  

3 different types of purchases were then identified:  

  • Repeat: these include things you buy over and over again and specs always remain the same: ex. paper, toner
  • Repeat Modified: these include things you buy over and over but the specs change  therefore more research is needed: ex. laptop, software, mobile devices
  • Blank Slate: these purchases are things you have never bought before and since you are starting from scratch these will require the most amount of research: ex. enterprise software, equipment.

As illustrated below the further you go down from 1-3 the more risk is involved with the purchase decision; and the more risk the greater the need to provide supporting documentation like white papers and product reviews.  


Other Key take-aways:  

  • Building awareness is not just a one shot deal. Remember that buyers store awareness until they make the buying decision.
  • A huge risk control mechanism is talking to existing vendors; having more trust in a relationship results in the more you can influence what that buying process will look like
  • Remember that the buyer has 1-2 minutes a week to understand your product; make it simple, cut down on the dimensions
  • Take time to put yourself in the buyers shoes so you can understand their language and how they interrupt your product or service
  • These results are very timely because of what is happening with economic pressures, and the bottom line is more scrutinized than ever so cost is examined and risk is increased

2. The Need for Mapping

The panel suggests that since you need to understand how your customer views your product/service/company (their mind-scape) the best way to do this is through mapping.  In particular mapping across 3 dimensions: the product-space, the buyer-space and the market-space . You need to answer questions such as: How is your offering relative to the competition?  How do users perceive it?  Do they see the differential value?  


Through mapping you can understand where your prospects are going and when their purchase risk will emerge so you can intersect it at that time.  

Risk = fear, and fear = a greater need to establish trust. The more trust that is needed to be earned the longer the purchase cycle; the more people that need to be involved, the more research required and the more touch points needed. This means more opportunities to intercept the customer but it also means you have to be there to build the trust at every point.  

3.  Better Integration Between Offline and Online

Gord mentions that this is “the biggest thing”: the total separation of online and offline marketing and sales strategies. He mentions that this silo effect occurred when traditional marketers were first introduced to digital marketing and didn’t understand the medium.  This eventually  resulted in competing strategies being executed. The research showed that “No Integration” is where a lot of companies are today. The final thought on this topic we are left with is :”Your prospects do not separate their online and their offline worlds why wouldn’t our marketing practices be the same.”  


The panel then jumped to what they call the EQ/IQ model. The model is focused around different friction points that happen during the buying process. IQ friction points  are informational: the sales process will slow down as there is a need for information.  Online is an ideal medium for getting information out and thus getting you past the IQ friction points. EQ friction points are emotional: for these friction points you need to have face-to-face communication to build trust, or figure out what is required in order to build that trust.  

The key to having the EQ/IQ model run smoothly is knowing how to use your online components to support and/or maximize opportunities for face-to-face.  

Gord also points out:  

The old model of marketing used to mean you had to identify you market, develop the market, develop your presence in the market then you could sell to that market and if you were successful you could service the market. But you had to tilt the soil before you could farm. You couldn’t just go in and do a harvest. With online we said the whole world is our farm all we need to do is harvest. But you can’t skip the spade work if it is a high risk situation. Use online to do that more effectively.  

B2B and B2C are very similar in this point. B2C will see online orders coming in and then cut offline budgets when the offline is really driving the results. Look at deeper metrics; 93% of B2B companies can’t see anything beyond the last click in their analytics–lots of us are flying blind. Most companies are doing marketing, online sales, offline and never sending customers the other way. Half the deals people are doing are following a fairly linear sales process, basically Marketing —-> Sales—> Sales Cycle. No sales team can cover all the bases and junctures needed, yet another reason sales and marketing need to be integrated.  

4. The Buyer-Doer Gap

The Panel categorizes Doers as:  

  • the people who use the product–very hands on
  • the people who visualize how this will be implemented in their lives to make their job easier
  • the people who do the product evaluation: they will sign up for the webinars and white papers
  • the people who qualify the product to make sure they can live with it
  • the people the drive the buying process early in the cycle
  • these people do not have control over the budget because they will spend into oblivion
  • these people define risk on the product set and on how it will make their lives easier

The Panel categorizes Buyers as:  

  • the people who make the formal procurement as they control the purse strings
  • these people do not assume too much risk as they would not last long at their job if they did
  • these people define risk based on: can we live with this vendor? is this a vendor we want to work with? do we trust them? are they financially secure?

The panel said the Buyer-Doer Gap is the difference Doers and Buyers have in defining risk. The stress is up to you to determine when that risk changes in the sales process by addressing the specific needs of the buyer. Sell the right information to the right person as there is never just one person making the decision  

The final suggestion related to the Buyer-Doer gap was that all information geared toward Doers on your website be accessible without registration, sign-up etc. However, content geared toward buyers should be gated because when these people start to engage in the process the business is further along in the purchase process.  

How this all fits together:  

Slide by: Enquiro Research

5. Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives

For me the digital immigrants and digital native research was the most interesting. I have always said it is not the technology that has put us into the 2.0 information age but the adaption of these technologies to a particular generation to utilize them.  

Gord defined Digital Natives as people born in 1985 or younger, stating that this generation was at a specific stage of human cognitive development when web 2.0 technologies were emerging. He also stated they are responsible for the innovative Social Media Development we see today, as online has literally become part of their social makeup. Gord proposed this to the the audience: What will happen when DN’s start to take over Corporate America or what is left of it in 5 to 10 years?  

Here is the graph he shared on DI vs. DN in regards to their usage/engagement of technology:  


Near the end McMaster mentioned that according to stats from Google, searches on mobile will exceed in a mere 10 years.  With these stats it is clear the importance that mobile will play in the future.  

More info:  

Pre-Session Video: