When your customers make a purchase decision, they don’t make it alone. There are others involved in their Buying Journey. These people influence their decision to purchase. For your marketing to be effective, you need to know who these people are and the strength of their influence on your customers.


As John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island” or as Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders and Wong, wrote in the ‘Principles of Marketing’, “Group members can influence purchases in many ways… the Decision Making Unit (DMU): All the individuals who participate in, and influence, the consumer buying-decision process.”


Let’s look at who are typically in a DMU. You can then map out, for each of your segments, who is in their DMU, determine how influential they are, and what you need to do about it. If you need help identifying your segments, then read this blog post of mine.


Your customers’ decision making unit

A typical DMU consists of the following:

  • Initiator  – The person who first suggests or thinks of the idea of buying a particular product or service
  • Influencer – A person whose views or advice influences buying decisions
  • Decider – The person who ultimately makes a buying decision or any part of
  • Buyer – The person who makes an actual purchase
  • User – The person who consumes or uses a product or service


As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive or considered your purchase, the more people are likely to be involved in your customers’ DMU; if you are selling Business to Business or Business to Government, then you will have a complicated DMU.


How to apply the DMU

First, choose one of your segments. Now, map out who is involved in their buying journey.

Real example

One of my clients has a segment, “Primary School Class Teachers”. We mapped out the DMU for this group. They had more than one person in some of the roles in the DMU. 

  • Initiator: Head of Year telling them to look for a suitable provider
  • Influencer: Other teachers – they ask them first for ideas; Head of Year – they set parameters around the type of provider; Head Teacher – they have to be happy that the provider being approached is suitable.
  • Decider: Head Teacher – the buck stops with them so they can stop the purchase if they aren’t convinced about it.
  • Buyer: The Primary School Class Teacher makes the purchase, sorting out all the paperwork, but ultimately it goes to the Head Teacher to sign off.
  • User: The Primary School Class Teacher uses the products. They need to be satisfied so they will encourage repeat purchases.


Now my clients knew already the Head Teacher was influential in the DMU. However, having it laid out like this showed them just how much influence throughout the Buying Journey the Head Teacher is.


What next?

Next, you determine how your marketing has to work to influence everyone in the DMU.

Let’s go back to our Primary School Class Teacher. A key figure in their decision to purchase is the Head Teacher. They clearly need to be positively influenced to help the teacher choose your services.

Head Teachers, like most leaders, are incredibly difficult to get hold of. They are busy. They are protected by, “gate-keepers”. So how do we influence these hard to reach leaders?

We equip the people who do have access to them. We equip them with marketing communications so they can say, “I’ve found a provider, here is some key information about them to help you see why I have chosen them”.

We equip our clients for the internal sell.


This works in all segments, whatever you are offering your clients.

If you are selling a personal product, it could be your client has to persuade an other half (“this is a good use of money”) or even themselves (“if I buy this one, while it is expensive, it is a better quality and will last longer”) or friends (“this was the most eco-friendly”).

When it comes to marketing B2B or B2Gov then you have to think how long does your potential customer have in front of this key person? Minutes? An email? How can you equip them to sell in that time?


Here are some ideas:

  • Develop a Key Facts Sheet about your product or service – no more than 2 sides of A4, laid out with lots of white space, box on the top right of page one saying, “Essential Facts”.
  • Create a short (up to 90 seconds) video, “Why choose us?” with subtitles so it can be watched on mute. Fill it with Facts e.g. costs, satisfaction rates, what you get and testimonials, “We loved this product at our School / Office / Business”
  • Give them a presentation – I’ve worked with some clients where they have needed to present to a Board to get the Purchase decision through. If you know this is happening, provide them with material that will help them sell. Have a slide pack ready that they can take and make their own.


You need to help your prospective clients sell to the people in their DMU. It is your marketing responsibility.


To conclude…

When I work with clients, we look at their customers’ DMU as part of my “Strategic Marketing – all about your customers” phase of work. During this workshop, we really focus on getting to know one of your segments. A core part of this is looking at who’s in their DMU and how you can influence them.


If you’d like to know more about this, then do get in touch.

Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant based in Hampshire, UK.

She believes in empowering her clients so that they understand the process behind marketing and can apply it again and again.

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