If you’re currently using a ‘one size fits all’ marketing approach for your business – you might want to rethink things.
You may not realize it, but your existing clients went through a ‘journey’ – before they decided that you were the best business to meet their needs.
But what is the buyer’s journey?
The buyer’s journey is a concept that you can use to create a framework, of sorts, for your marketing efforts.
Each stage of this journey requires a different marketing approach and you might be missing out on revenue if you’re marketing doesn’t cover each aspect of the ‘buyer’s journey.’
In this guide, we’re going to look at what the buyer’s journey is, and what implications the concept has for your business, especially when it comes to marketing.
We’ll explore the different stages of the buyer’s journey, and how you can create effective marketing approaches for each stage.
By the end of this guide, you’ll appreciate what the buyer’s journey is and how you can effectively apply the concept to your business, in the name of increasing revenues.
Buyer’s Journey Stages – A Quick Overview
We’re going to look at each stage of the buyer’s journey in this guide – but first let’s examine the concept from a ‘30,000 foot’ perspective, as doing so will help you better appreciate how each aspect affects the stage before it and after it.
In general, the buyer’s journey is made up of three main stages:
- The Awareness Stage
- The Consideration Stage
- The Decision/Purchase Stage
The chart below does a great job of highlighting each of the stages, using a ‘sore throat,’ as a means of describing how the stages intermingle.
Broadly speaking, the process of going through a buyer’s journey entails:
- Someone going from sensing that they have a problem/realizing that something is wrong, but not knowing what the exact issue is. This can also include people who don’t realize that they have a problem, of which is currently impacting them negatively, and would benefit greatly if provided with a solution.
- Figuring out what the actual problem is, but not knowing what can be done to fix it.
- Finally understanding how to fix the problem and subsequently deciding which is option is best – thereby acting definitively to solve the issue.
Before someone becomes a client of your business, they will go through each of the stages shown above.
If you only use marketing strategies that deal with one stage, your ability to influence potential clients in other stages will be greatly diminished.
Different people start in different stages, and so your existing clients might only be your clients because they connected with your ‘decision’ content. They knew that they had a problem to solve and upon reading your ‘decision’ content, your business seemed like the best fit.
But doing things this way leads to missed opportunities. If you focus on the other stages of the buyer’s journey, the potential to collect leads and convert them, is increased greatly.
In fact, 60% of marketers agree that it is important to influence buyers early on the journey, mostly because of this notion.
On top of that, 74% of deals are provided to the company that was first to provide insight.
If you can be that first company, you’re off to a great start – and marketing to all stages of the buyer’s journey is one of the best ways to be the first company to provide insight.
Creating effective marketing materials for each of these stages, will require that you consider the differences that exist in people, between the stages.
Thus, it helps to create a buyer persona, for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
In doing so, you’ll be able to create marketing materials that match the unique needs of each stage – thereby improving results.
Now let’s look at each of the stages in detail.
The Awareness Stage
The awareness stage is the first stage of the buyer’s journey. It can be a little tricky to understand, especially if the concept of the buyer’s journey is new to you.
As a result, this section typically requires the most explanation, as it is often the most technical.
As touched upon above, the awareness stage typically revolves around people who either:
- Do not realize that they have a problem
- Realize that something is not quite right – but they’re not sure what that ‘something’ is
It’s worth mentioning that the awareness stage carries greater weight for some industries, than it does for others.
A SaaS company with a revolutionary new product, is going to have a greater need for awareness content, than say a company that sells something more run of the mill – such as air conditioners.
That’s not to say that such companies won’t benefit from awareness related content, but they’ll often be somewhat less reliant on it.
Note: In this guide, we’re going to place a special focus on dealing with the B2B market.
So, how should you market to people who are in the awareness stage?
As with all forms of marketing, the first thing you need to do, is understand who your target market is.
Keep in mind that when you’re creating/promoting awareness content, you don’t want to make your content a ‘hard sell.’
When marketing to people in this stage, your job is to educate them on what might be causing their problems, as well as what the risks of inaction are – rather than letting them know that your company can solve the problem.
If you try to sell someone within an awareness piece of content, then the consumer is going to be put off.
Even if you’re highlighting a genuine issue that needs to be addressed, the reader might ignore the concept, because they think you’re only talking about the issue at hand, because you’re after their cash – diluting the importance of what you’re trying to cover.
As mentioned earlier, you need to create a buyer persona for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
When creating a buyer persona for the awareness stage, one of your key priorities is to figure out what questions these individuals might ask themselves, when they’re in this stage.
You’ll also want to consider what ‘keywords’ these individuals will type into Google, when they’re trying to gain insight into their questions.
Research has shown that 72% of buyers turn to Google, during the awareness stage.
When searching for information, people will type different keywords into Google, depending on what stage they’re in.
During the awareness stage, these questions are typically more open-ended.
The graphic below, does a great job of showcasing the mindsets/approaches that people will use when searching for solutions to problems that they’re not fully educated on.
You also need to consider what problems people might face if they’re not making use of the solution your business provides. Asking this question will help you create content that is designed to educate people of whom don’t realize that they even have a problem that needs solving.
Note: Demographic data can also be helpful, when it comes to creating a Buyer Persona. Especially because such data can help you promote your content.
Let’s work through all of this with an example.
Let’s suppose that I have a SaaS company that provides a ‘chat solution,’ so that people visiting a website can quickly interact with a representative if they have a question.
As well as that, let’s consider that my target market for the moment includes ‘e-commerce stores.’
Potential clients in the awareness stage are probably asking themselves broad questions such as:
- How can I improve website sales?
- What can cause low e-commerce store sales
- Why are website visitors high but sales low?
- Why are check out rates low, despite a lot of ‘baskets’ being filled?
In a similar vein, such individuals are probably also searching Google in order to find answers. Their keywords will often closely resemble those questions.
If I want to market to people in the awareness stage, it helps to figure out a way in which I can provide answers to the questions above.
The best way to do this, is by creating content.
If I focus on writing ‘how-to’ style content for my blog, of which answers those questions, I’ll improve the odds of reaching people in the search engines, while they’re in the awareness stage.
Such content might be titled:
- How can e-commerce stores improve sales?
- 5 things that cause e-commerce store sales to dip
- Is this the fastest way to improve e-commerce sales?
When writing content, I might also use stats to back up my points – such as the fact that 83% of consumers require customer support while making a purchase. By using stats, the claims made by the content, are now more credible.
As mentioned earlier, the awareness stage, can also be used to reach people who don’t even know that they have a problem.
These individuals might not be actively asking themselves the questions above, though that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t enjoy learning the answers.
When marketing to these individuals, I need to create content that highlights the ‘why’ of my solution.
That is because such content does a better job at highlighting the dangers of inaction.
By pointing something out, I can grab attention, and highlight that they do in fact have a problem if they don’t learn more about this issue.
For my example, I need to draw people in by highlighting the importance of customer support and the risks of not taking it seriously.
Such content might have the following titles:
- Why e-commerce stores need to focus on customer support before anything else
- Is your e-commerce store doomed to fail if you ignore customer support?
- Could better customer support take your e-commerce store to the next level?
- Are you leaving money on the table by ignoring this?
It’s worth mentioning that these different approaches will each benefit from different forms of promotion.
You can expect the first form, where people are asking themselves questions, to perform better in the search engines – as people are asking questions and hence they’re likely researching using Google.
That’s because these individuals don’t realize that they have a problem, and hence they’re not searching ‘Google’ or the web in general, looking for answers.
Keep in mind that your content doesn’t need to take on just one form, as there are several approaches that you can take to create awareness content.
In fact, it might even be a good idea if you cover all mediums of content, so that you can reach a wider audience.
In any case, that’s the basics of the awareness stage – now let’s look at the next stage, ‘Consideration.’
In the consideration stage, your potential clients are aware of what the problem is, and the need to solve it – now they’re looking for a solution.
Here’s a great summary of what the needs and mindsets are, of people in the consideration stage.
Let’s continue with the example I used earlier.
People are now aware that customer support is lacking on their site, and implementation of proper customer support solutions will improve sales.
Thus, in this stage, people are now trying to figure out what solutions can help them improve customer support.
They haven’t quite decided on a specific solution, and they’re open to multiple options for the moment.
I, therefore, need to convince customers in this stage, that having a ‘chat solution’ is one of the best ways to improve customer service.
The image below, does a great job at showcasing the approaches and mindsets that someone in the consideration stage would have, when trying looking for a solution to their problem.
You can also use this information, to help you better formulate a buyer persona for this stage.
For my example, potential customers might type the following into Google, in order to find a solution for poor customer support:
- Ways to improve e-commerce customer support
- Customer support solutions for e-commerce stores
- Customer support software for e-commerce stores
- Best tools for e-commerce customer support
- E-commerce customer support case studies
Upon performing these searches, and reading the subsequent content, readers will finally decide on the best solution when trying to improve customer support.
If your content does not do a great job at highlighting how the solution provided by your business can fix the pain point they’re experiencing (poor customer service in my example), you’ll struggle to move them along your desired buyer’s journey.
I say ‘your’ because they may decide on another solution, that can fix the pain point your product solves – if you do not make a strong case within your content.
Note: Your content doesn’t need to be pushing your product/business here, and it shouldn’t be overly salesy. People aren’t set on the idea that your business can provide the solution to their pain point. They’re still just looking for answers. All you want to do is emphasize the benefits of your solution.
Again, you don’t just have to use blogs posts as your go to medium. You can also use other content formats, to help you market using other channels. This graphic does a great job at listing the types of content you’ll want to focus on, when trying to reach people in this stage.
That’s the consideration stage covered – now let’s take a look at the next stage.
When people are in the decision stage, they are nearing the end of the buyer’s journey, and will soon make a purchase.
Those in this stage, have decided on what the best solution is going to be in relation to solving their pain point.
Here’s a great summary of what people in this stage, are typically thinking about and looking to achieve:
To keep it simple, you might want to think of this stage, as the stage in which people are looking for the best product, of which comes with the best deal.
Potential customers are comparing features as well as prices, and both need to be suitable – especially if the scenario deals with a B2B market, where such purchase decisions might need to be explained to a higher up.
The approach you use here is going to vary, depending on your offering.
For instance, you can use content to help convince those in the Decision Stage – but you can also use product demos too.
If you’re dealing with a B2B market, make sure that you place a great deal of emphasis on ROI, when creating your content.
There’s data to suggest that 51% of buyers conduct a detailed ROI analysis, before making a final purchase decision.
Each piece of content, needs to demonstrate how your offering can generate positive results, that far surpass the price that is being asked. As a side note, case studies are a great way to do this.
Here are the content formats that will work well, for this stage of the process.
To that list, I would also add the following:
- Customer testimonials
- 3rd party data
- Documents on company ethos/product development
Different people are influenced by different things.
You never know what will be the defining factor in creating a home run that turns a prospective buyer – into an actual buyer.
You should try to cover as many bases as possible, therefore, to make sure that your persuading from all angles.
More often than not, it will be your content that helps generate the sale, and a study has found that 65% of buyers stated that the vendors content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
It’s clear therefore, how much weight decision content can potentially carry, when it comes to generating a sale.
Note: keep in mind that you can present your content using various formats. Webinars can work equally as well, if not better than PDFs when it comes to presenting a case study.
Using my example from earlier – people going through the buyer’s process have now realized that a chat solution is the best way to improve customer service.
All I need to do now, is convince them that my company can provide the best solution.
I can do this showcasing webinars, that go through case studies of improvements in revenue, following the implementation of my chat solution.
I can also potentially provide a 30-day free trial.
Speeding up the process through the buyer’s journey
Your prospective buyers will go through the buyer’s journey at their own pace and there’s data to suggest that the B2B prospects can take anywhere from three months to a year to make a purchase.
That does not mean, however, that you can’t guide people through the process, gently nudging them so that they’re moving along a little quicker.
One of the easiest ways to ‘nudge’ potential customers, is by collecting leads, whenever possible.
You can then market content to these leads, of which will help move them along to the next stage.
For instance, after someone has consumed a piece of ‘consideration’ content, you can send them a link to a webinar that showcases some customer case studies (of which is ‘decision’ content).
The chart below, helps showcase the different stages of the buyer’s journey, and how you’ll want to collect leads at each stage.
It is important that you have proper tracking mechanisms in place, so that you know at which point someone became a lead
That’s because you need to know which email/piece of content they consumed recently, so that you can send them the right thing in your next communication.
Leads nurtured with targeted content can produce 20% more sales opportunities – so there’s good reason to act on the above.
Another way you can ‘nudge’ people, is by using retargeting.
If someone comes across a piece of awareness content via search engine, you can then encourage them to read some consideration content, using PPC ads.
These ads can be implemented using Facebook or AdWords.
Additionally, you might be able to create ‘lookalike audiences’ of which allow for you to better target ads towards other people who might be in similar stages.
When you’re running ad campaigns, make sure you tailor the experience for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
That means you need to have custom landing pages, with custom copy.
The chart below provides some insight into how this can be done. It might seem a little overwhelming at first, but if you focus on the ‘Convert’ and the ‘Close’ section, you’ll see how you might map out campaigns, that aim to target different stages.
A Fourth Stage?
Some marketers like to set things up so that their buyer’s journey has a fourth stage.
This stage relates to people who have already purchased from you.
Your job here, is to keep these people as customers, while also making them ‘promoters’ of your company.
The graphic below, helps to illustrate this concept.
Note: It includes some other stages within the buyer’s journey, and while these stages aren’t irrelevant, they’re essentially segments of the stages we’ve already covered.
As you can see, there are some stages after the purchase. These stages can have a massive impact on the amount of revenue you’re able to generate.
If you can provide such a great service, those who deal with your company will feel a reduced need to try the offers provided by competitors. This can help with customer retention.
They might also be more interested in buying any other solutions you offer.
Getting these individuals to buy other company products will be much easier.
That’s because you have already established some trust and goodwill by providing a great service so far.
Additionally, if these people have a good experience with your offering and brand in general, they’ll also do a lot of marketing for you – meaning they’ll become ‘promoters.’
This is helpful, because now these individuals will dramatically shorten the research and decision making process, for potential customers that they know, of whom are in any of the stages related to the buyer’s journey for your product.
Your ability to achieve the above, first and foremost, relies on your ability to provide a great offering and brand experience for the customer.
In addition to that, you can also increase the odds of people becoming brand promoters by creating a community around your offers, and taking steps to provide value, outside of your offering.
Marketing works a lot better, when you tailor the experience to the people you’re trying to market to. In fact, 72% of B2B buyers prefer content unique to their buying stage.
You might’ve originally thought that your target market was homogenous – with everyone sharing the same traits and while also having the same needs.
However, after looking at how the buyer’s journey works, it’s clear to see that businesses do, in fact, have audiences made up of various segments of people, each of whom have different needs and questions.
If you can create a marketing approach that caters to each segment, you’ll be able to generate better returns on your marketing.
So take some time to map out your buyer’s journey now.
You might struggle at first, but after spending even just a little bit of time on the process, you’ll realize that it’s worth the effort and isn’t as complicated as you might think.