Too often, marketing is constructed from the insight out: you have a great idea, so you begin to see where it could fit in your strategy and implement it.
But in reality, your marketing should be a reflection of what your potential customers are looking for most. If you don’t understand the behavior and thought process of your audience, you are going to find it difficult to develop a marketing strategy that solves their need and turns them into profitable customers. Enter the buyer’s journey.
The 3 Basic Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey describes the individual steps an audience member or potential lead takes to becoming a customer. While some of the specifics may differ depending on your product, industry, and target market, each buyer’s journey will revolve around a simple framework consisting of three steps:
Potential customers first identify their need and begin to research whether that need can be solved.
If you are in the enterprise software industry, for example, this is the stage at which a company realizes that they need your type of software to continue doing their business.
You could also consider this the ‘Google’ stage: 72% of potential buyers begin their journey with a Google search. In the course of that search, they should become vaguely aware of your company.
To make it even simpler, I want to use an analogy that 99% of us can relate to — getting a sore throat.
This is the stage in the process where you start realizing your throat hurts. It may be swollen. It may be red. You aren’t sure (or it may be too early) to know what the cause of a sore throat is, but one thing is for sure: It’s starting to hurt. This would be the time that you begin typing symptoms into Google in order to get a better understanding of what you’re dealing with.
When you realize concretely what you’re dealing with, let’s say it is strep throat, that’s when you move onto the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
After their initial research, your audience moves into the second stage.
Now, they have found a few potential solutions to their problem, and begin to consider them against each other.
What exactly this stage of the process looks like depends on the complexity of your product or service. Customers may engage in a more formal cost/benefits analysis to weigh your offering against competitors. For more simple buying decisions, they may simply make an informal comparison between their options.
Using our sore throat example from earlier, this is the stage you enter when you are trying to determine the best plan of action for dealing with your now clearly defined problem.
This is when you ask yourself:
- Should I go to the doctor?
- If so, should I go to my GP or that new quick care clinic right by the house?
- Should I try and ride it out sans doctor and just binge watch Netflix?
- Or should I just use that home remedy I found online… eating grass isn’t that weird right?
In the final stage of the buyer’s journey, your audience takes the information it learned from the second stage and makes their decision.
The analysis – formal or informal – is complete, and they choose the solution that they think best solves their problem.
This is the stage where you are already convinced that you can’t treat Strep at the house, so you choose to go to the quick care clinic. They were more affordable, can you take you today and are going to give you the same medicine as your GP.
It’s a fairly simple process, but it is crucial that you remember these three stages when creating future marketing content.
Most global marketing services providers focus on only one of the stages of the buyer’s journey without every verifying if that’s the best path to take… that’s just not the best method for attracting more customers.
Here’re some tips and ideas to help you get started with a buyer’s journey based marketing plan.
Making Marketing Matter in Influencing Audience Paths
Naturally, marketing can help your brand stand out in each of these three stages. In fact, developing a marketing strategy with your individual buyer’s journey in mind can help you influence each step and successfully guide your audience toward becoming customers.
Here are some typical examples of marketing in each of the three stages:
1) Brand Awareness Marketing
Naturally, the best way to increase awareness is to strategically aim for it. Because search engines are so prevalent in this step, SEO is a crucial part of raising awareness. By consistently publishing high-quality content that is optimized for keywords your audience is searching for, you can ensure a high ranking on Google, Bing, etc.
For a faster more short term solution: You can consider launching a pay-per-click (PPC) search campaign that associates your brand with these keywords to ensure your brand appears in search results for potential customers as they research solutions.
2) Lead Generation and Nurturing
Once your audience has included you in a short list of potential solutions to their need, they will likely be receptive to becoming a lead.
So you should have lead generation forms ready, along with a strategy on how to nurture your leads once they enter your system.
At this stage, it’s also important to increasingly personalize your messaging. Particularly if you nurture your leads using inbound marketing, consider sending segmented messages to individual audience members, addressing them by name.
Another successful tool here can be retargeting, which helps you stay at the top of your audience’s minds as they make their decisions.
3) Getting Brand-Specific
Both of the first two steps are most effective if you refrain from an obvious sales pitch. In the awareness and consideration stages, your audience is simply not ready to hear all about the greatness of your product. But once they’ve reached the decision stage, that’s exactly what they need to hear.
Now, you can get brand-specific, showcasing the exact features of your product, as well as (more importantly) the benefits it can bring to your customers.
Depending on your industry or product price point, you may also think about a sales call that allows you to connect directly to your customer and answer questions before the sale. If your message or your product is convincing enough, your audience will lean toward you in making their decision.
By understanding your audience’s path toward becoming customers, you can tailor your marketing methods around their needs at each stage in the buyer’s journey.
As a result, you will create an audience-driven marketing strategy that maximizes your return on investment.
To learn more about using the buyer’s journey as a tool to help your marketing succeed, schedule your free inbound marketing assessment below.