Do buyers think you’re risky

Head of Marketing, Katie Sandow explores the relevance of risk in B2B buying in her latest insight.

Last week I went to a Chartered Institute of Marketing event where Rory Sutherland, author and Vice Chairman of the Ogilvy Group was giving a talk.

Rory Sutherland was a copywriter and creative director at Ogilvy for over 20 years. He went on to co-found a behavioural science practice within the agency. This team takes on the contextual changes that can influence how people think and act. In contrast to the traditional areas of “bought, owned and earned” media. 

One of the topics Rory covered was B2B marketing and his view as to why it differs so greatly from B2C. Ultimately both of course are purchases made by people. But whereas in B2C a product or service is being bought by a single person with decision-making power, in B2B a host of different people are making purchasing decisions. Particularly within enterprise sales.

Rory’s belief is that the main thing that drives buyer behaviour and decision making in B2B is, in effect, ass covering.

His example: if you make the safe decision to go with a big three consultancy firm and it goes wrong, it’s the fault of the big three consultancy firm. But if you decided instead to appoint the little boutique agency and it goes wrong, it’s your fault for picking them. 

Why does this matter?

Particularly in the world of B2B tech startups and scaleups, we have to acknowledge that our product or service might be seen as a risk. It’s easy when you’re inside a business to get caught up in the excitement of the benefits of your product or service. Especially if it’s something which is new and innovative. 

But just because we might see it as exciting and groundbreaking, there’s nothing to say that this will translate across to the buyers with the impact we were hoping. Instead, we need to recognise that we might need to find ways to minimise the buyers’ sense of risk through the process. We need to balance out our exciting features with reassurances as to why they won’t get fired for buying from you. 

How can you reassure buyers you’re not a bad, high risk decision?  Some ideas:

  • Making sure to emphasise the credibility of the team / product / service 
  • Comparisons with other known services 
  • Pointing out things like break clauses in contracts 
  • Making sure they know about customer support 
  • Tailored collateral for the various buyer personas
  • Case studies and reference calls from similar buyers


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