Stratifying the Hi-Tech BTB Buyer

As professional direct marketers, we continually look at data that could yield information useful for guiding our marketing programs. Upon review of several reports from the latest build of a PC product-buyers database, I noticed a phenomenon that occurred with the buyers at business address. Let's take a closer look.

The phenomenon occurs when stratifying the buyers at company level by employee size. By viewing the data by employee size, highly definitive patterns evolve depicting who is making companywide purchasing decisions.

In the smaller sized firms with 1-20 employees, it was evident that the presidents and company owners were responsible for product purchasing decisions. This was concluded by seeing that in the smaller-sized firms, there were only a few unique individuals making multiple purchases, with a high incidence of “president” or “owner” in the job title field. This makes sense because the entrepreneur of the company has the hands-on role of purchasing and decision making. As the company size rises, the involvement of the presidents and owners in the buying capacity drops sharply. Note that while job titles are not a highly populated title in a product buyers file, the amount of sample data available was enough to provide information that could be used for marketing purposes.

Moving up the scale to companies with 25-50 employees, we still see a high incidence of presidents and owners, in addition to a clustering of additional individuals who, in addition to the owners, are making multiple product purchases. We can consider these individuals as “super users,” which are most likely individuals with an early adoption role within the organization.

A change of major consequence starts to occur in companies of 50-100 employees. You have two distinct groups as buyers. Group one would be the de jure buyer, and this decision usually resides at the help desk. The second group is the de facto, or informal buyer — they are the “super users” and early adopters. In the larger-sized organizations, purchasing decisions are driven by the MIS/IT type individuals, who are responsible for the corporate data center as well as the client-side activities throughout the organization.

Regardless of the size of the organization, there is a significant thread that permeates throughout the base of buyers: the presence of the super users. Specifically, they are unique buyers clustered around what we have seen to be the logical or preferred buyer within an organization. Even in the smaller companies, we were able to identify other individuals who were making multiple product purchases, though in companies with 1-4 employees, the presidents or owners were, in fact, the super users.

In most cases, the super users are the ones with the early adoption roles within the organization. They are the enthusiasts and the champions, if you will, who get excited with the release of new technologies. They play an important role in corporate buying decisions, influencing who we've identified as the logical buyer while also possessing buying authority at their level.

So how is this information applicable to hi-tech BTB mailings? Much has been said about the number of prospect pieces to mail into a company. As a mailer, you may make a request to your broker that you, in fact, only want to mail a single piece, selecting only specific job titles for specific company sizes. However, with the majority of list rental universes, both the title of an individual and the company size information are either not available or costly to obtain. And while controlled-circulation lists might provide the information, they do not necessarily deliver the actual buyers (think of how you may have had fun filling out that special trade pub you wanted to receive at home).

If one decided on limiting a mailing, and the company size/title data was not available, a decision might be made to randomly select one or two individuals from an individual company. However, seeing the patterns in buyers at business address, the random selection could effectively miss your target audience, in addition to passing over good prospect names. If your marketing plan/budget calls for limited coverage at the company level, let's look at limiting names from a strategic marketing standpoint.

Let's say there is an incidence of five different names of buyers from five different lists, all from the same company. As a rule of thumb, you would assume that the company is a medium- to larger-sized organization. If we are to limit the mailing to one or two individuals per company, and the title data is available, then one method of selection is to parse the title looking for MIS/IT type keywords. If there is no title, keeping in mind that it is most likely a larger company, one could look to the five lists and select the one or two names that most closely align with an MIS/IT type individuals.

Obviously, the overlays work best, if the yield allows us to pinpoint exactly who we want to target. But, in general, the above rule of thumb can yield profitable results. Sometimes you have to rely on your intuitive direct marketing knowledge, rather than on a straight statistical decision. It's good marketing sense.

Roy Schwedelson ([email protected]; is CEO of Worldata Inc., a list marketing, electronic marketing and database services company specializing in the hi-tech and microcomputer markets.

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