Editor's note: Jeana McNeil is vice president of Isurus Market Research and Consulting, Burlington, Mass.

Set it and forget it is the attitude in many low-involvement B2B categories – data security, business insurance, telecommunications, commodity inventory, etc. These categories of products and services are important to the customer’s business but are often seen as necessary backroom operations that add costs. As such, inertia keeps most businesses from proactively evaluating alternative approaches or vendors. If the product or service is good enough businesses don’t have the motivation to evaluate their options. If the product or service is high-risk or complex it creates further obstacles: There are stacks of behavioral economics research that show people, including business buyers, are risk-averse.

Due to the set-it-and-forget-it approach, the purchase journey for products and services in this category consists of long stretches of inertia, interspersed with periodic spikes of intense interest in alternatives (Figure 1). During the inertia phase businesses pay little attention to the category. They don’t think about how things could be better or stay aware of vendors, etc. They remain happy with (or at least accepting of) the status quo until a product/service failure or a significant price increase jolts them out of their comfort zone. Then their attention to the category spikes; they scramble to find a vendor that can address their acute pain points. They reach out to peers and advisors, conduct online searches, read online reviews, take sales calls, etc.

But this intense interest isn’t always enough to overcome the status quo. As prospects begin to review their options a different type of inertia sets in: The hurdles and challenges inherent in internal purchase processes stall the decision. Buyers often decide that it would take too much effort to switch or that there is too much risk in doi...