A buying center (also known as a decision making unit or DMU) is a group of employees, family members, or members of any type of organization responsible for finalizing major decisions, usually involving a purchase. In a business setting, major purchases typically require input from various parts of the organization, including finance, accounting, purchasing, information technology management, and senior management. Highly technical purchases, such as information systems or production equipment, also require the expertise of technical specialists. In some cases the buying center is an informal ad hoc group, but in other cases, it is a formally sanctioned group with specific mandates, criteria, and procedures. The employees that constitute the buying center will vary depending on the item being purchased.
In a generic sense, there are typically six roles within any buying center. They are:
- Initiator who suggests purchasing a product or service.
- Influencers who try to affect the outcome decision with their opinions.
- Deciders who have the final decision.
- Buyers who are responsible for the contract.
- End users of the item being purchased.
- Gatekeepers who control the flow of information.
Because of the specialized nature of computer and software purchases, many corporations use buying centers that are specialized for information technology acquisition. These specialized buying centers typically receive information about the technology from commercial sources, peers, publications, and experience. In this process, top management, the IT director, IT professionals, and other users participate together to find a solution.
A better buying center for marketing might include: