Simply defined, the buyer’s journey is the process a business conducts when preparing to make a purchase. For most businesses, it is a four-stage process. The first thing to know about a buyer’s journey is that it can vary from one industry to the next. For example, there are differences in how business to business, or, B2B buyers research and prepare to buy goods and services and how business to consumer, or, B2C buyers do.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the stages of the buyer’s journey might look like for a B2C company:
- Awareness – buyer realizes a business need or a challenge to solve
- Interest – buyer shows an interest in learning about trends, product, brands
- Consideration – buyer actively researches the information available to them and begins evaluation process
- Purchase – buyer chooses a solution and commits to it
These stages are the foundation for any company’s buying decisions whether the buyer is a small business or a large corporation. You need to know what your customers’ buying journeys look like and the behavior they exhibit throughout their experience. So, it makes a difference when and how you reach and talk with customers and prospects. We recommend that you keep the conversation going at every stage. The key is knowing what to talk about.
We recommend engaging in a variety of activities to educate yourself and gain insights about your customers’ readiness in the sales cycle and purchasing decision. You may conduct interviews, send out surveys, and set up focus groups with customers and prospects. The data that you gather then becomes the basis for or the framework for crafting a successful digital marketing strategy.
Research illustrates that if you don’t have an in-depth understanding of your buyers, you are going to be challenged when developing your marketing efforts regardless of the media and methods used. Remember, the buyer’s journey begins at the point of needing a product or service to solve a problem.
According to one of the most recent studies conducted by SiriusDecisions,Inc. “Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the buyer’s ‘decision’ is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales.”
It seems logical then that businesses need to reach their prospects as early in the journey as possible. That translates into the need to be proactive and that’s why it is crucial to be well informed before you create your marketing program.
That is why it is critical to be proactive toward initiating the conversation with your prospect by staying top of mind. You accomplish this by having a constant and consistent social media, advertising and public relations program that creates and sustains visibility, credibility and awareness of your company.
Having an engaging, informative website is just the beginning. You will use email marketing and digital media, white papers, and other educational tools that will assist you in creating value as a company that your prospects will want to create a business relationship with and buy from again and again.
When you market to your prospects in a thoughtful, targeted way, you will be demonstrating your understanding of their needs and your ability to solve their current and future challenges.
Every touch that the buyer receives from you – whether a print piece, an email, a data sheet, case study or marketing video — contributes to their perception of your brand. They receive information from you that empowers their buying decisions.
Once you have learned about the purchasing process of your prospect from your data gathering, you can create a marketing plan that outlines the specific actions needed to convert your prospect lead to a customer. Here is summary:
During the awareness phase – focus on the common pain points the prospect may be experiencing. (they may have begun Google searches for products, and online research at this point) you will need to create content that is industry focused, utilize social media, advertising and PR outlets to create awareness.
During the interest phase – focus on solutions, educate and assist prospects who are evaluating buying criteria. Create and curate content that in many forms: white papers, case studies, eBooks, webinars, special events, digital videos, market reports, and more.
During the consideration phase – offer insight on your business model and what it is like to work with you, vis a vis, demos, data sheets, trials, seminars, vendor comparisons, implementation processes.
During the decision to buy phase – validate prospects decision to purchase your product make the sales/close process easy, facilitate contracts and documentation, provide live training, recorded webinars and other tools to make the implementation process seamless, exceed expectations.
Finally, by applying the buyer’s journey framework to content, marketers can create content that aligns with the stage of the buyer’s journey the prospective customer is in. Marketers can create targeted content designed to move customers through the buyer’s journey and towards a successful sale. It is vital to view the buyer’s journey as the entŕe into your new customer relationship. Reaching prospects early in their journey will provide you with the leverage you need when the buying decision begins because you will have become a trusted source of information and assistance toward their goal.