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The 10 best strategic business slides of all time: #2 — Six buying roles


Nigel Malone keeps his favourite business slides – his “Ten Commandments” – close to his chest at all times. Okay, sometimes he puts them down to bathe, but they are never far from his thinking. In this series he shares the contents of these slides, which are drawn from a cross-section of sources, including the great business, brand and military planners of all time.

Also in this series:

Favourite Slide #2: Six Buying Roles

Given the tremendous adult and child obesity issue facing the western world and the flow–on effects of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and other complications crippling and clogging the arteries of our hospital and health services (not to mention the tax burden we all bear because of it), I find it sickening that government still lets fast–food manufacturers target their marketing directly at children.

Of course, companies such as McDonald’s deny that the free-giveaway of toys with children’s meals has any effect on what they claim is entirely a parent’s decision as to whether their children eat McDonald’s or not. If what they say is true, clearly the management or marketers of these companies’ have never heard of Wind and Webster’s ‘Six buying roles’ model.

Developed initially in the 1970s, this slide was designed to explain the many buying roles within a large organisation, but is equally applicable to a family unit facing the challenge of deciding upon what to eat for dinner.

Wind and Webster’s ‘Six buying roles’ model

Buying Roles,

Take a look at the above slide and let’s walk through the respective buying roles.

1. Initiator
First identifies the need to buy a particular product or service to solve an organisational problem. In our family’s case, nutrition is a long-established need identified by their homosapien forefathers simply for survival.

2. Influencer
Their views influence the buying centre’s buyers and deciders. This is where the children come into play, and place huge pressure on their parents, through the desire to secure a toy and to gain acceptance and equality with their peers. After all, the child that cannot go to a McDonald’s birthday party equates to a leper in adult life. So yes it is the parent’s ultimate decision, but some children have greater influence than some of the longest-serving lobbyists in Washington. Of course, I am assuming in this family the mother or father is not an influencer too, but that’s the beauty of this model — often one individual can play multiple roles.

3. Decider
Ultimately approves all or any part of the entire buying decision, whether to buy, what to buy, how to buy and where to buy. In our case, the first parent to succumb to the child’s pressure.

4. Buyer
Holds the formal authority to select the supplier and to arrange terms of condition. The parent that pays for the meal.

5. User
Consumes or uses the product or service. Generally the whole family.

6. Gatekeeper
Controls information or access (or both) to decision-makers and influencers. This is where the government comes into action, or at present provides a lack of action. Equally responsible is the Advertising Federations that take the government’s self-regulation requirement and conveniently allow fast–food marketing to continue.

This example aside, Wind and Webster’s model provides an extremely useful tool in figuring out who you are really selling to, as it’s not always or only the person making the decision or paying the bill.

Nigel Malone is a freelance brand strategist and writer, with particular expertise in the fields of tourism, finance, technology, sustainability and social change. Find out more at www.icycalm.biz