If you’re currently using a ‘one size fits all’ marketing approach for your business – you might want to rethink things.
You may not realise it, but your existing clients went through a ‘journey’ – before they decided 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. You might miss out on revenue if your marketing doesn’t cover each aspect of the ‘buyer’s journey.’
In this guide, we will look at the buyer’s journey and what implications the concept has for your business, especially regarding marketing.
We’ll explore the different stages of the buyer’s journey and how you can create practical marketing approaches for each step.
By the end of this guide, you’ll appreciate the buyer’s journey and how you can effectively apply the concept to your business to increase revenues.
Buyer’s Journey Stages – A Quick Overview
We will 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 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 highlights each stage, using a ‘sore throat’ to describe how the steps intermingle.
Broadly speaking, the process of going through a buyer’s journey entails the following:
- Someone goes from sensing that they have a problem/to realising that something is wrong but not knowing the exact issue. This can also include people who don’t realise that they have a problem impacting them negatively and would benefit significantly if provided with a solution.
- Figuring out the problem but needing to know what can be done to fix it.
- Finally, understanding how to fix the problem and subsequently deciding which 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 steps will significantly diminish.
Different people start in various stages. Your existing clients might only be your clients because they are connected with your ‘decision’ content. They knew they had a problem to solve, and upon reading your ‘decision’ content, your business seemed the best fit.
But doing things this way leads to opportunities that could be improved. Suppose you focus on the other stages of the buyer’s journey. In that case, the potential to collect and convert leads significantly increases.
In fact, 60% of marketers agree that it is essential to influence buyers early on the journey, primarily 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 stage will require you to consider the differences between people between the steps.
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 realise that they have a problem
- Realise 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 will need awareness content more than, say, a company that sells something run of the mill – such as air conditioners.
That’s not to say that such companies won’t benefit from awareness-related content. Still, they’ll often be somewhat less reliant on it.
Note: This guide will focus on dealing with the B2B market.
So, how should you market to people in the awareness stage?
As with all forms of marketing, the first thing you need to do is understand who your target market is.
Remember that when 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 and the risks of inaction – rather than letting them know that your company can solve the problem.
If you try to sell someone within an awareness piece of content, the consumer will be put off.
Even if you highlight a genuine issue that needs to be addressed, the reader might ignore the concept because they think you’re only talking about the topic. After all, you’re after their cash – diluting the importance of what you’re trying to cover.
As mentioned earlier, you must 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 determine what questions these individuals might ask themselves in this stage.
You’ll also want to consider what ‘keywords’ these individuals will type into Google when trying to gain insight into their questions.
Research has shown that 72% of buyers turn to Google during awareness.
When searching for information, people will type different keywords into Google, depending on their stage.
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 don’t use your business’s solution. Asking this question will help you create content designed to educate people who don’t realise that they even have a problem that needs solving.
Note: Demographic data can also be helpful when it comes to creating a Buyer Persona. Mainly because such data can help you promote your content.
Let’s work through all of this with an example.
Suppose 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 questions.
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 common?
- Why are checkout rates low, despite many’ baskets’ filling?
Similarly, such individuals are probably also searching Google 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, 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 that 83% of consumers require customer support while purchasing. Using stats, the claims made by the content are now more credible.
As mentioned earlier, the awareness stage can also reach people who don’t even know they have a problem.
These individuals might need to actively ask themselves the questions above. However, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy learning the answers.
When marketing to these individuals, I need to create content highlighting the ‘why’ of my solution.
That is because such content does a better job of highlighting the dangers of inaction.
By pointing something out, I can grab attention and highlight that they 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 various 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 are likely researching using Google.
For the second form, however, you’ll most likely need to go to where your target audience is. That means promoting your content using Facebook Ads or with the help of LinkedIn Sponsored Content Ads.
That’s because these individuals don’t realise that they have a problem. Hence, they’re not generally searching ‘Google’ or the web for answers.
Remember that your content doesn’t need to take on just one form, as there are several approaches you can take to create awareness content.
In fact, it is a good idea to cover all content mediums to reach a wider audience.
In any case, that’s the basics of the awareness stage – now let’s look at the next step, ‘Consideration.’
In the consideration stage, your potential clients are aware of the problem and the need to solve it – now they’re looking for a solution.
Here’s an excellent summary of people’s needs and mindsets in the consideration stage.
Let’s continue with the example I used earlier.
People know that customer support could be improved on their site, and implementing 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 decided on a specific solution and are currently open to multiple options.
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 showcases the approaches and mindsets that someone in the consideration stage would have when looking for a solution to their problem.
You can also use this information to help you formulate a buyer persona for this stage.
For my example, potential customers might type the following into Google 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 following content, readers will finally decide on the best solution for improving customer support.
Suppose your content does not do a great job of highlighting how the solution provided by your business can fix the pain point they’re experiencing (poor customer service in my example). In that case, 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 push your product/business here and shouldn’t be overly salesy. People aren’t set on the idea that your business can solve their pain. They’re still just looking for answers. All you want to do is emphasise the benefits of your solution.
Again, you don’t have to use blog posts as your go-to medium. You can also use other content formats to help you market using different channels. This graphic does a great job listing the types of content you’ll want to focus on when trying to reach people at this stage.
That’s the consideration stage covered – now let’s look at the next step.
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 the best solution for their pain.
Here’s an excellent summary of what people in this stage are typically thinking about and looking to achieve:
To keep it simple, think of this stage as the stage in which people are looking for the best product, which comes with the best deal.
Potential customers are comparing features and prices. Both must be suitable – primarily 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 will 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.
If you’re dealing with a B2B market, make sure that you place a great deal of emphasis on ROI when creating your content.
Data suggests 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 far surpass the price 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 process stage.
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 other things.
You never know what will be the defining factor in creating a home run that turns a prospective buyer – into an actual buyer.
Therefore, you should cover as many bases as possible to make sure that you persuade from all angles.
More often than not, it will be your content that helps generate the sale. A study found that 65% of buyers stated that the vendor’s content significantly impacted their buying decision.
It’s clear, therefore, how much weight decision content can carry when generating a sale.
Note: Remember that you can present your content using various formats. Webinars can work equally as well, if not better, than PDFs when it comes to delivering a case study.
Using my example from earlier – people going through the buyer’s process have now realised 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 by showcasing webinars with case studies of revenue improvements following my chat solution’s implementation.
I can also 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, 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.
You must have proper tracking mechanisms in place to know at which point someone became a lead.
That’s because you need to know which email/piece of content they consumed recently to send them the right thing in your subsequent 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.
Suppose someone comes across a piece of awareness content via a search engine. In that case, you can 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’, allowing you to better target ads towards other people 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 a custom copy.
The chart below provides some insight into how this can be done. It might seem a little overwhelming initially, but if you focus on the ‘Convert’ and the ‘Close’ sections, you’ll see how you might map out campaigns that 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 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. While these aren’t irrelevant, they’re essentially segments of the steps we’ve already covered.
As you can see, there are some stages after the purchase. These stages can have a massive impact on the revenue you generate.
Suppose you can provide such an excellent service. In that case, 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.
You have already established trust and goodwill by providing excellent service.
Additionally, suppose these people have a good experience with your offering and brand in general. In that case, 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 they know who are in any 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, you can 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 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 thought initially that your target market was homogenous – with everyone sharing the same traits and needs.
However, after looking at how the buyer’s journey works, it’s clear that businesses do, in fact, have audiences of various segments of people, each with different needs and questions.
If you can create a marketing approach that caters to each segment, you can 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 time on the process, you’ll realise it’s worth the effort and isn’t as complicated as you think.