When thinking about marketing work, most of our clients have one objective in mind: generating new business. Their focus is on the end result…the sale…the new customer to add to their list. And while, yes, that is what is ultimately going to pay the bills and keep them in business for the next month, going straight to the end misses a very important thing: the journey.
What is that saying? “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Most business owners are very focused on the destination (the sale). So they miss out on the journey that their buyer has to take in order to get to that sale. Some don’t realize that their buyer is even on a journey.
An oft-quoted statistic is that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even connects with front-line sales (SiriusDecisions). This means that a lot is happening before YOU even have a face-to-face with a buyer. They will likely know a whole lot about you, your company and your products before that point too.
So here’s how I’ve explained the buyer’s journey to my clients.
Stages of the buyer’s journey
The first time that most people hear about a new product or service, they are not ready to make a purchase. There are a few exceptions to this, but really, everyone has to go through some kind of process, or stages, to get to the point of making a purchase. The three stages include:
- Evaluation/Purchase (sometimes called “Decision”)
The length of time spent in each stage varies by product, service and specific individual.
I’m on a journey?
Prospective buyers probably don’t think about themselves as being on a journey. They’re just out there, doing their thing, living their lives. So they can’t tell you what they need at each “stage” of this journey that they are on – it’s up to you and us marketers to figure this out! As you might expect, what they need in terms of content, messaging, information – varies at each stage. So a business wanting to connect with buyers needs to embrace the journey and learn how to navigate their way through each stage of it.
Do I have a need?
At the Awareness stage, buyers are often unaware that they have a problem and unable to define exactly what it is. As well, they may lack awareness for the alternatives out there to solve their problem (what is that thing anyway?), including what YOUR business offers in that regard.
Marketer’s response: First, you must create awareness that you exist. All of your messaging should focus on your buyer’s pain points rather than your brand or even your offering. This is NOT the stage where you try to seal the deal! You simply want your prospective buyers to begin to understand what it is that you do and how you can help them with their “pain”.
Learn where buyers “hang out” to become more aware of their problem and start the journey towards a solution – and how to talk to them without selling them. This may be offline (print, billboard) or online (blogs, social media, websites). Thankfully, some of the social channels now have great ways to identify and target your awareness ads…to the specific buyers you are looking for!
What are my options?
At Consideration, buyers are attempting to assess their options for solving their problem, and figure out which options will best meet their needs. This is the heavy research stage, with likely lots of Googling and even asking “influencers”, their friends and family members, what they think.
Marketer’s response: Make sure you have the information available to answer the questions the buyer is asking. Buyers need to know that you not only recognize and understand their pain but specifically how you will help them get rid of it. They’re going to be reading articles, checking out reviews, watching videos and yes, talking to their friends. You don’t want them to struggle to find out what they need about you and your products or services.
In the perfect world, you would have identified these prospects in the Awareness stage and be continuing to court them in the Consideration stage. If you’ve snagged their email address through some savvy social ads and maybe even a lead magnet, you will be continuing the dialogue through email in this stage with plenty of value-added information in each message.
And the winner is…
Finally, at the Evaluation/Purchase stage, buyers are choosing who will relieve their pain…solve their problem…become their provider. They may have the field narrowed down to you and one other company, and they are asking tougher questions. They may have reached out to you, come in to your store, contacted you online. They have likely scoured your website and social channels to glean all the info they need to finalize their decision.
Marketer’s response: All of your content and communications must be brand-specific, showing the value that your solution brings. Leave no stone unturned in terms of delivering ebooks, white papers, brochures or any other information that would help your prospect with the decision. Your testimonials from satisfied customers also mean a lot at this stage. Be ready to offer a free trial, demo, or free consultation and provide a proposal.
Once you understand that your buyers are on a journey, you’ll start communicating with them differently. And if you take the time to really understand their journey, you may find them arriving at the final destination and becoming a new customer! So spend some thoughtful time mapping out the journey your buyers are on and consider what content they need from you at each stage. You might surprise yourself at what you learn! And as always, we’re here to help if you need us.