Why can’t we make faster business decisions?

  • Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, argues that the lengthy procrastination that often takes place in decision-making is ‘post self-justification’, because we actually make up our minds pretty quickly. It’s a fascinating thought that perhaps we should trust our rapid assessment of a situation, and just go for it, saving man-hours and moving our lives and our work forward with gusto.

    The role of emotion in decision-making

    We know that human beings make decisions using a combination of rational and emotional factors. Emotion is more automatic and what we use most frequently in our everyday routine. Emotion is also used when we need to react quickly, in an emergency for example. Stevens & Hague, in their paper ‘How Businesses Buy’, have argued that the same mix of rational and emotional factors are used in business, and often the decision is made rapidly, but then slowed down by business structures and protocols. In other words, we procrastinate, because we are forced to.

    The process is a whole lot easier if it’s all down to one person, but typically, small committees of individuals support larger decisions, each unique in where they are in the decision-making cycle, adding complexity that draws out the procrastination.

    Building brands to create an emotional response and enable quicker decisions

    The role of a brand for any business is to generate an emotional response in its audience. A strong brand will have high awareness and understanding of its brand values across its target market. Ultimately, it will create an emotional reaction – belief and trust – that drives preference when faced with a purchase decision.

    Recognising how decisions are made in financial services B2B

    In the case of financial services, when businesses are trying to influence other businesses or intermediaries to buy complex products, the role of emotions in decision-making remains important – see our previous article about the characteristics of B2B marketing. This is where a brand, or emotional connection, comes into play.

    1. A complex, or new idea, will not be comfortable for a target prospect to consider. If it is complex, with a lot of detail to weigh, it is difficult to process and the brand becomes the factor that supports the final decision. When decisions are tough or big, people often retreat to the best-known brand, because it is the easiest decision and covers their back. The famous saying “nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM” is very much true, and demonstrates how a name, and the values behind it, can provide a ‘go-to’ when decisions are difficult.

    2. Similarly, if two suppliers look very similar, it is the brand which helps us decide which one we marginally prefer. Within B2B, the decision-making cycle is longer than within B2C, and our marketing programmes are geared to this, addressing different stakeholders at different levels of awareness. A crucial way to speed the decision-making process is to focus energy on the brand, building awareness and trust in the name.

    Supporting fast decisions

    The role of your brand is not only to get you into the game in the first place, but to make sure you are the final choice at decision time. Of course, content that supports rational thinking and logic, such as feature comparisons, is critical, but so too is communicating what you think and believe, to connect at a deeper level with the people you are trying to influence.

    Here to help

    Please talk to us about how we can help you put these elements in place in your business. We can provide consultancy and advice to support your own implementation, or handle the implementation and ongoing management of programmes on your behalf on an outsourced basis.

    Whichever approach you choose, following this approach should put you several steps along the path to influencing your buyers and achieving rapid and sustained growth.

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