No matter what type of product or service they are searching for, customers typically follow a similar decision making process, called the buyer's journey. Businesses need to understand the stages of the buyer's journey so that they can provide the right information to prospective customers at the right time. That way, they'll have the greatest chance of winning their patronage. Here's what you need to know.
Most buyer journey's (across industries and customers) can be thought of in three stages:
Let's break these down.
First, why do we need to know the buyer's journey?
As we can see from the handy infographic above, if we can develop a solid understanding of the process our buyers will go through we can begin to align our digital strategy and tactics to ensure that our business is there every step of the way, providing value, converting and nurturing leads and – ultimately – closing sales.
At this point, the buyer has realised that they have a problem in their life, but don't yet know what the cause is or how to solve the problem. Most people turn to the internet to search for information related to the issue they are experiencing to help them identify their problem, and what their next steps should be.
In this phase, people are looking for broad, general information and aren't yet ready to make a purchase. Take care not to engage in hard-selling tactics at this point, as that is likely to turn off prospective customers. Blog posts and website content should focus on common problems customers have and how your products or services can remedy those issues.
Tip: Buyers are in "research mode", so educate them. Answer their questions, help them understand their problem and why it might be happening and start to highlight potential solutions.
Once the buyer has identified their problem and a few possible causes, it is time to start looking for solutions. In the consideration phase, people begin to narrow down their search to specific products or services to help them address their problem. In this stage, people are seeking more detailed information and comparing and contrasting the various options available to them.
You should focus your marketing efforts on highlighting the key benefits of your products and services, and highlighting their points of difference compared to other solutions.
Tip: Think about your own experiences. If you're researching a product or service – you don't really care about the vendor just yet. Got a sore back? You're going to decide whether to use a chiropractor or a physiotherapist BEFORE you decide which chiropractor or physio to visit. Need a new TV? You're going to decide which TV you want BEFORE you decide who to buy the TV from.
The buyer has identified their problem, researched solutions, and is now ready to choose a vendor. Who is going to provide that solution to them? This is the stage where most businesses focus their marketing on. However, this is also the smallest share of your market at any given time.
Can you see the mistake you're probably making right now?
Many businesses make the mistake of only targeting customers in the decision stage, but this is setting you up to lose a lot of potential customers. By that point, many customers have already identified a few top brands that they might purchase from, so your efforts will likely be too little, too late.
Tip: People buy from those they know, like and trust. If your business has been helpful from the moment they entered the market (way back in Awareness) the chances that they'll buy from you skyrocket. If you're only appearing when they reach Decision, you'll be trying to close that sale with no relationship or trust built. And, you'll likely be competing solely on price.
Instead, you should start targeting customers at the very beginning of the buyer's journey. This will give you more opportunities to establish your brand as an authority in your industry. You'll also be able to build a stronger relationship with potential customers, making them more likely to buy from you in the future.
Be present at all stages of your target buyer's journey
When customers are aware of your brand right from the beginning, you'll be at the top of their minds when they are ready to buy. That is why it is so important to target prospective customers throughout the buyer's journey. Focus on providing content that is rich in information to provide the most value to your customers and maximise your chances of winning their business.