What is a Buying Center? - Definition & Example

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

If you want to reach all the people responsible for making a purchase in a business, you need to acquaint yourself with a buying center. In this lesson, we'll define it and see how it works inside an organization.

Buying Power

Who had the buying power in your household growing up? Maybe Mom was tasked with grocery and clothes shopping, while Dad took care of household and maintenance purchases. Maybe those roles were reversed and Dad did the grocery shopping while Mom was the primary bread winner. Or, perhaps Mom or Dad handled all the purchases together.

A buying center includes everyone who helps make purchasing decisions.
buying center, purchasing, money

There are any number of ways that households might be set up to help make purchases of clothing, food and household necessities. Typically, as kids, we don't give much thought to how things come into our house; we just know that when we open the snack cabinet, our goodies are there!

In business, however, there's a more complex system of making purchases, with all the key players referred to, collectively, as a buying center.

What is a Buying Center?

The term ''buying center'' might sound unusual. Maybe you're picturing a large shopping center or strip mall complex with lots of individual stores. But, a buying center is actually all about people. The idea behind a buying center is that several people are usually responsible for purchasing decisions. Think about it: A CEO wouldn't decide on a new printer for the marketing department to use, would she? At least not by herself. It would likely involve the marketing director, the marketing employees, someone in upper management and the person who actually makes the purchase.

In a really big firm, you might have an entire department dedicated to making purchases, sort of like professional shoppers. Wouldn't that be a cool job? In smaller businesses, these purchasing decisions may fall to just one person. Or, it could be somewhere in the middle, with a couple of employees involved in the final decisions.

Buying Center Benefits

So, what's the big deal about buying centers anyway? The best thing, for marketers, is that buying centers provide a way of understanding how companies make purchases. Take the purchase of that printer for the marketing department, for example. The marketing director probably wants something that produces good quality products, while the marketing employees want something that is quick and efficient. The upper management employee wants a good buy, and the purchasing agent hopes for quick shipping and free delivery. Because each person in the buying center has different wants and needs, a marketer can try to identify those and market to each person accordingly.

Key Roles of the Buying Center

We've already established that each buying center likely has several people involved, or it could be one person handling all roles! Here are a few of the common roles you'll see in a buying center:

User Ursula

User Ursula is the person who'll actually be using the item day in and day out. Remember the printer for the marketing department? The user (or users) are the marketing employees who have daily tasks to handle and jobs to print.

The user in the buying center identifies the need for the new product, looks around for something they think will fit the need and then decides whether the purchase was good or bad after using it for some time.

Influencer Ivan

Influencer Ivan wants everyone to hear his voice or opinion about the printer being purchased. Maybe he has a friend at a particular print company or has previous experience with the brand you're considering.

The influencer helps by lending his or her expertise to make a recommendation about which product to ultimately buy.

Decider Dominic

Decider Dominic gets to make the ultimate decision about which product or service the company will go with. Someone has to have the final say, don't they?

In this role, the decider has the responsibility of saying yes or no to a particular purchase or company.

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