• Buying is a group activity in B2B, but most B2B organizations can’t identify the groups that are already on their website
  • Collective or group behavior is likely to be a more reliable buying signal than the behavior of any one member of the group
  • Buyers are already working as a team before you interact with them

Many of you are familiar with the term “hive mind,” which was popularized in science fiction (e.g. Star Trek’s Borg) and New Age philosophies before making its way into the business world. In the real world, the “hive mind” sometimes used to describe the behavior of animals whose movement is largely observed in flocks (in the case of birds), herds (in the case of quadrupeds), schools of fish, and swarms (and hives) of insects.

beehive honeycomb closeupWe marvel at what appears to be harmonious, unified action without any obvious communication or effort causing it. The more spiritually minded among us may be tempted to think that these behaviors speak of a collective intelligence the birds share – maybe even a common will that allows them to move so gracefully, so uniformly and seemingly without error. Birds, after all, turn hither and thither in their travels through the air at high rates of speed, and we never see one elbowing the other for position, or see one go blithely on its lonely way east, failing to notice that the rest of the flock took a turn back at Poughkeepsie, heading south. They all just seem to know what the others are going to do.

We’re never tempted to look at the behavior of a single member of a flock or herd or swarm and wonder what it’s doing there. One would never single out a bee and say, “I wonder what made that little fella leave his comfy hive and fly over here into my picnic.” You would fight it off and get back to your cucumber sandwiches. But if it were a swarm of bees, cucumber sandwiches or no, you would take flight yourself.

Likewise, in B2B, seeing one person from a prospect account poke around your website is hardly ever a momentous occasion. But if you detected a swarm of individuals from the same account, certainly your organization would leap into action to find out what all the interest was about.

That’s what you would do, right? If you noticed that herd of buyers from the same account on your website, you would set in motion all the engagement and selling machinery at your disposal. Right?

The very curious thing about B2B marketers is that we completely fail to notice that our B2B buyers travel in flocks (or herds, or swarms) all the time. They are already there on our digital properties, and we fail to notice them. We swat away at the individuals we notice, but we completely fail to react to the swarm. When we look at marketing automation lead data from our clients, what we typically see is that any set of a thousand leads (e.g. hand-raisers, form-fillers) represents between 50 and 200 prospect accounts.

In other words, for every account represented in your marketing automation data, there are probably 5 to 40 (or more) individual hand-raisers. If your offering is expensive and intended for large organizations, your number will be on the high end, and if it is intended for smaller organizations or is a lower price-point solution, it will be closer to the low end. What we almost never see is a 1:1, 2:1 or even 3-4:1 ratio. In other words, your buyers travel in flocks!

And just like the birds, bees and wildebeest, your buyers communicate with one another in a way we cannot readily detect. They are part of a team. They have their own hive mind (which is probably mediated by something like a conference call in real life). Yet, we look at each of these buyers individually, one at a time, failing to account for the rest of the flock. 

At SiriusDecisions, we are very focused on helping our clients notice and take account of buyers’ hive minds. Noticing and taking action on the signals our buyers give us merely through their presence is one of the most important things B2B marketing organizations can do to improve their effectiveness.

Today, go to your marketing automation data and look for those flocks. They are there. Once you see them, you can’t unsee them. Then take action. Ask what it means that you have 10 visitors from an account this month, but normally only two or three. If you are a SiriusDecisions client, check out our recent briefs describing these concepts here:

Identifying and Resolving Second-Lead Syndrome in Demand Management

Identifying and Overcoming Buying Group Blindness

Capturing Buying Group Dynamics in the Buying Decision Process

Profiling Buying Centers and Buying Teams

If you are not, check out your data, then let’s talk. You need to tap into that hive mind.