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Custom Research Case Study

Customer Decision-Making Assessment

The Question

How do we identify the decision-makers at our customers’ organizations, and how do we talk to them?

customer decision-making assessment

The Client

ISR was engaged by the Global Marketing Director at a Top 20 CDMO with the above question. The client had years of experience in marketing their brand to prospective customers but had recently begun to question the efficiency of their marketing spend. The client wanted to demonstrate to their company stakeholders that their marketing efforts were not only hitting the right targets, but that the language used in those efforts reflected their customers’ needs. Knowing this information would allow the client’s marketing department to move away from broad, product-based messaging focused on how good their services are, to messaging focused on how their services address their customers’ concerns.

The Solution

A deep dive into the decision-making unit and decision-making process.

Why research decision-making?

Whether you’re an experienced pharma marketing executive, or someone from outside the industry taking over the marketing function at a service provider, understanding who the relevant buyers are for your services is imperative for increasing marketing efficiency. There are two main concepts to know when considering decision-making research:

  1. The Decision-Making Unit (DMU) —The individuals making up the group that picks, or has influence over, which service provider will win the bid.
  2. The Decision-Making Process (DMP) —How the DMU makes that decision, in terms of how the group circulates information, how much authority group members have, who in the group has the power to make the final decision, and how motivations differ among different DMU members.

By conducting a needs and behavioral analysis of these decision-makers, our clients are able to identify discrete sets of needs at their customers’ organizations. Using this approach allows the client to tailor their communications directly towards those need sets. This analysis also reveals to our clients additional segments to target that they may not have previously considered to be part of the decision-making process. For example, identifying that a head of data management may have much more influence on the buying process than initially expected.

The Project

In order to conduct this deep dive into DMUs and DMPs, ISR proposed a project similar to a segmentation study, conducted in two phases. The first, quantitative phase would involve 200 or so individuals with decision-making power. The goal of the first phase is to categorize these 200 respondents into 5-7 different roles involved in the buying process. The second, qualitative phase would consist of 20-50 in-depth interviews with the goal of learning how members of the DMU interact with each other during a DMP.  To kick off the first phase of the research, ISR consulted with the client to identify their needs and primary outcomes, as well as to understand their services and buying segments. After this first week, the next week consisted of drafting a survey instrument that can deliver those primary outcomes. This survey included questions like:

  • What decisions do you have influence over? How much influence do you have over those decisions?  
  • Who begins the buying process? 
  • Who makes the final decision? Is it up to a group consensus, or is it up to one person with the final say?  
  • Does anyone have veto power over the decision?     

With the instrument approved, the next 3-4 weeks were spent collecting data via the surveys. After a couple weeks spent analyzing the data, a presentation with the findings of the first phase was delivered to the client.  The second phase began with the creation of an interview guide using the data gathered in the first phase. ISR conducted multiple in-depth interviews with this instrument, asking questions such as:    

  • What does the process for approving an outsourced service look like? 
  • How many meetings are there to discuss the proposals? With which stakeholders?  
  • Who holds the budget?  
  • How are the proposals evaluated? What kind of attributes and characteristics do you judge them on?   

These interviews were conducted over the course of three weeks. After another two-week analysis period, ISR delivered the final results of the project.

The Result

A quantitative understanding of decision-maker influence, further resulting in more efficient marketing spend.

Before conducting this project, our client targeted their marketing spend by catering their content towards what they had identified as their buying segments. By utilizing the findings from this project, our client was able to come to a more complete understanding of the individuals involved in the purchasing process. The client was able to more confidently allocate marketing spend towards these segments based on the percentage of decision-making influence per segment identified in the first phase. They also identified new segments to target—individuals who were not involved directly in the final decision, but were crucial in identifying vendors and had definite influence over the decision-makers.

These data allowed the client’s marketing resources to be spent more efficiently, while the qualitative phase gave them the tools to make those resources more effective. Using the language sourced from actual decision-makers meant the client’s communications reflected those individuals’ actual needs. If your organization is interested in creating more interest in your services, contact us to develop a custom project that will let you talk to more of the right individuals using more of the right language.

Start a custom research study with us today.