What is a buyer’s journey and when does it begin?

  The Buyer’s Journey

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:

Buyer’s actions:

  • 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.


Marketer’s actions:

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.

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Continuity Matters in Messaging and Visual Communications

Small business owners may have great intentions when it comes to marketing their company, but if the information about the company or your products is confusing or not conveyed in a clear, consistent manner by all concerned, it can affect your customers’ overall comprehension of what your company offers.

It’s vital to convey consistent messages when you are advertising and promoting your products and services. It is equally important for each employee on your team to be able to speak with one voice too. It’s easy to look at a profitable month or quarter and believe the company is growing and all is well but managers and owners should take the pulse of their employees’ customer communication language, techniques and methods to ensure that money isn’t being left on the table due to miscommunication.

While a company may have a well written brochure, corporate DVD, great website content and a strong well-maintained social media program, they may have employees giving out company information that is not quite as accurate as your marketing pieces. Sometimes, they may speak casually about your product or service and unwittingly convey wrong information.

The best way to supply consistent messages for your staff to deliver to prospective customers and existing clients, is to keep it fresh and relevant. Sales reps appreciate updated scripts, facts, figures, and content that is easily found, is engaging and accurately reflects your company’s business values. Refresh that five year-old data sheet and product brochure and seek out ways test your employees’ knowledge of your corporate messaging. A great way to do this is to provide training and set up a shared digital desktop folder that includes corporate standards, mission statements, value proposition documents, social media positing guideines and proposal templates that are the official documents to be used company wide. This sets the standard for continuity and eliminates mixed messages and misrepresentations to customers.

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Helping You Conquer Your Fears

Starting a business can be a scary experience, however, the ups are far greater than the downs. You may never match the exhilaration and freedom you feel in the first months and years of becoming a business owner and master of your own future, but, you may also learn that having control of everything means your time is significantly impacted by tasks and concerns that draw you away from your core passion – your business.

Marketing is just one of those concerns and a large part of your start-up time will be consumed by the creation and execution of meaningful marketing programs to establish awareness with your prospective customers and grow your business. Whether you go to workshops for new entrepreneurs or participate in an online webinar, one of the common themes you will hear over and over is you must identify your prospects and discover where they are and what they like.

How Do I Get Started?

There are several fundamental questions that any business owner should be asking: 1) How do I engage with my customers? 2) Which marketing channels should I use?  3) How do I determine what type of marketing channel my customers respond to most? 4)  How do I solve my customers’ problems? 5) How do I create a successful marketing campaign? Don’t be afraid to get started.

An initial analysis is a great first step in creating a plan for your marketing and sales promotion.  Today, marketing consists of inbound and outbound internet- based efforts, social media marketing, radio, television, and newspaper advertising, public relations programs, and brand awareness building through public appearances, and many other multimedia efforts.

Your business review can be conducted by an independent marketing consultant, a member of a multi-service advertising agency or a business communications professional. Once you decide who to work with, arrange for them to interview you about your business goals. Who is your target audience? How should you position your business?  An experienced consultant can help develop a plan to successfully launch your business and guide you to the best media platforms, techniques and use of technology to create your business brand and corporate identity.

All these activities are necessary to differentiate your company from others doing the same type of work or offering the same type of products or services. Once you begin thinking about who you are in the marketplace and the type of companies you want to help, it will be easy to create a blueprint for reaching and engaging customers. Then it will be up to you and your team to delight them with your service and keep them satisfied throughout their buying journey.

Stay tuned for more about customer buying journeys and the role they play in successful marketing campaigns.

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