In a world of infinite options, there are endless ways to solve our problems.
As consumers, we’ve adapted by getting smarter, more shrewd, and better at making buying decisions based on personally relevant reasons.
In fact, more thought, time, and consideration go into each one of our transactions than we realize.
80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information from a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Content Marketing Institute)
Even clicking the “buy now” button isn’t as simple as it seems.
There’s a critical mass of reasons that led you to that product page and made up your mind before you even had the notion to click.
All of that reasoning results from a personal quest for information and solutions and the journey begins as soon as you become aware of a problem or need.
It’s better known as the buyer’s journey. And all consumers go through some version of it, no matter if it is a $1.00 or $1,000,000 purchase.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey is the process of research, education, and comparison that consumers undergo to make a purchasing decision.
The buyer’s journey’s four-step framework makes it easier for marketers and sales professionals to target buyers in each stage of the purchasing process, using relevant content and conversations that ultimately influence their purchase decision.
The buyer’s journey occurs in four distinct stages:
Awareness Stage of The Buyer’s Journey
When the buyer first becomes aware of a problem or need they have, even if they don’t necessarily have a name for it yet.
Consideration Stage of The Buyer’s Journey
Now the buyer is defining their problem or need with research and considering the different solutions.
Decision Stage of The Buyer’s Journey
After considering the options, the buyer decides how to solve their problem or fulfill their need (usually a purchase).
Technically, the next “stage” is part of the customer journey, the next stage in the customer’s experience, but it should be mentioned here.
Now it’s the company’s turn to do the work and deliver on what they’ve promised. In this last stage of the buyer’s journey, the customer’s journey begins.
Businesses should work hard to ensure these new customers are happy about their decision, feel supported, and continue to be nurtured. Not only do they have the potential to become brand promoters, but they’re also a much better source of revenue growth than prospects.
Who is the Buyer’s Journey for?
Every business can benefit from understanding and implementing a buyer’s journey strategy in their marketing and sales processes. Business to business companies, business to consumer ventures, start-ups, and even business to government companies all have buyers and a buying process.
We, humans, have problems and, we need to find products and services to solve many of those problems.
Bottom line: If a decision has to be made to choose, use, or purchase your products or services, you will benefit from adopting a buyer’s journey mindset to streamline the content and sales processes.
Why Does the Buyer’s Journey Matter?
The buyer’s journey is an opportunity to craft more targeted, more effective marketing and sales tactics, strategies, and conversations.
Content is never more potent than when the content creation process is driven by the answers the audience needs to make a decision.
Successful marketing is based on delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. The buyer’s journey guides your message, timing, and target audience so that you’re making the most out of your marketing and sales efforts.
Now, that’s a win, win for everyone!
Is the Buyer’s Journey Only Digital?
The buyer’s journey is mostly digital, simply because most marketing and research is online. But it’s not a requirement. We absorb information and “content” in lots of different ways and lots of other places.
As long as the marketing is relevant in its message, timing, and who it’s speaking to, the medium isn’t important. Think about in-person experiences and information that accompany big purchases such as buying a car or house.
Did your 1972 Toyota Celica breakdown on the highway right by a billboard for your local car dealership or tow truck company?
Your buyer’s journey just began, and it started with a billboard and probably transformed into a quick search or chat with Siri.
How can I Build my Buyer’s Journey?
One great thing about the buyer’s journey is that you don’t necessarily need to start fresh. You likely have to restructure what you already have and change your already doing approach. (And probably add a lot more content.)
Essentially, you need to figure out who’s buying your products. Then, you have to understand everything they want to know before making a purchase.
With those pieces in place, you can map out the right medium for your information in each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Define Your Buyer Personas
Knowing your audience is exactly one-third of the answer to effective marketing. Buyer personas are fictional representations of our ideal or most common buyers. These profiles use a generic name for each persona, such as “CEO Shiela,” then include a list of that persona’s traits, demographics, preferences, and characteristics.
Knowing the details of what your audience likes, who they are, and how they tick can give you the crucial insight you need to craft a message that makes an impact when it matters most.
Understand the Journey of Each Buyer
Now that you know your buyers well, you can work to understand their purchasing process, from the first awareness of an issue to making a purchase.
The buyer’s journey will look drastically different depending on your industry, whether you’re B2B or B2C, and your price point. Even outside of those factors, each buyer persona’s journey will differ, as will the product or service they’re interested in.
Use your buyer personas to put yourself in the shoes of each kind of customer.
Think about the situation they’re in and the questions or considerations that will matter to them in each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then think about how they might search for answers to those questions.
Map the Buyer’s Journey with Content for Each Persona
Each stage of the buyer’s journey is better suited for specific content types, driven by a different goal and different questions. As a marketer, your job is to provide the right answers to help them overcome the various challenges in each stage, moving closer toward a decision.
Awareness Stage Content
Content in the awareness stage is focused on just that awareness. Help buyers to better understand their problem or need with general information and topic overviews.
Blogs, tools, ebooks, tips, checklists, social posts, explainer or how-to videos, high-level webinars, and kits all fit this profile.
Consideration Stage Content
Now that the buyer has a clearly defined problem, they’re evaluating available solutions to find the best fit.
Here’s where comparisons (in guides, blogs, or infographics), samples, or case studies are all helpful.
Decision Stage Content
Before a purchase, this last step is about narrowing down a decision among a few choices, understanding the additional options, price comparisons, and the finer details.
This stage is where it’s finally OK to blatantly boast about your products or services.
Start selling through conversion-driven content such as free trial or consultation offers, discounts, demonstrations, and the personalized attention and perks reserved for end-stage buyers.
But, remember you’re not done yet.
Don’t overlook this critical transition stage in the customer experience, where the buyer’s journey ends, and the customer’s journey begins.
Focus your efforts on removing friction from the customer experience, delighting the customer through strong branding, intuitive customer service, enriching ongoing content, and an experience that exceeds their expectations.
What can you create that will make the experience of becoming a customer memorable and worth talking about?
Content here can be as unique as your brand, from personalized videos in your contracts to branded merchandise to newsletters and beyond. The possibilities are endless; get creative.
Should I Tweak my Buyer’s Journey Over Time?
Test, measure, tweak, and rework your buyer’s journey content constantly to ensure it’s optimized and performing as well as it can.
There are many different strategies to target each stage and a lot of helpful information you could provide to your buyers. If one piece of content or one approach isn’t performing well, try something new.
The worst-case scenario is that you’re generating a more varied, comprehensive approach to your buyer’s journey, which can only help your buyers.
Get Your Buyer’s Journey on Track
No matter what point you’re starting from, a buyer’s journey methodology can serve as the strategic backbone that operationalizes your content in one unified direction– toward a purchase.
For most businesses, many of the pieces already exist, like an archive of blog posts, but the buyer’s journey as a whole may be a little disjointed or dysfunctional.
A little effort on your part to connect these elements of your buyer’s journey can make a significant impact on your journey of growth.