Freaks, geeks and group dynamics in B2B

A fellowship of adventurers descending deep into the catacombs armed with a club, a crossbow and a 20-sided die, such was the glory of the pre-multi-screen days of Dungeons & Dragons.

I was reminded of the fantasy role playing game after viewing Judd Apatow’s cult TV series Freaks and Geeks with my kids. At the same time, I was working with the team at B2B Marketing magazine and Gyro on our new research paper “Group. Mind. Set: How Group Dynamics Impact B2B Decisions.”

For me, the report and show offer interesting parallels about social cues, the decisions we all make (young and old) and the power of groupthink.

Two points that really stuck out to me in the report:

1. 97 percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers say group members have a preferred vendor in mind before the purchase group is established.

2. 83 percent say they are more likely to buy from a business whose culture and personality closely match that of their own business.

Said another way, we are predisposed to pick people like us to not only work with, but also hang out with. We want like-minded individuals who share our values and passions. And by all means, I’m not saying we pick people who are just like us, but rather people who can inspire us.

To bring the D&D parallel forward, we want partners alongside of us who are willing to cast spells, fight orcs and, in turn, share in our victories.

Even though it is business, it’s not about weighing numbers, metrics or being rational. It is about feeling. It has to feel right.

How often have any of us made a decision that felt wrong and it was wrong?!

The other significant finding: 84 percent of buying groups have a champion who drives the decision forward. Let’s face it: most of us want a leader or dungeon master to help guide the way. We may not always agree with them, but someone always steps up and says, “This is what we are going to do. Who is with me?” These people tend to be your boss, but then again, there is a reason we work for them. Right?

The last two findings really delve into the personal nature of business. The first: 89 percent of business decision-makers said they want to feel understood. This was the biggest driver. Think about it. This was the entire premise of the Freaks and Geeks metaphor for society. They felt that ‘these people get me. I will work with them, follow them, fight with them and win with them.’ That’s what buying groups want to feel. Energy, smiles and shared experiences, success. All of that. That is the business world of today.

It is an exciting time that is wide open for entrepreneurs, creators, people with passion.

The other finding was the feeling that arrogance is the biggest turnoff in selecting a partner. Really, who wants to partner with someone like that? To invest all of that money, time, energy and all of that risk to be with someone who pretends to be too good for you? It doesn’t work on any level.

Whether it is role-playing games or before-their-time ‘dramedies’ like Freaks and Geeks or business, there is a constant that remains among groups: the desire to feel like you are with the right people and to align yourself with groups that fit in with the way you think.

It’s a lesson learned in middle school that lasts through mid-life, mid-career and beyond.

Kenneth Hein is global chief communications officer at Gyro. He tweets @KennethHein

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