Whether or not your prospect buys from you comes down to their buyer’s journey.
Every time a consumer makes a decision to buy (or not to buy) a product, that decision is influenced by a zillion different little factors—all of which make up the overall buying experience.
While product, service, messaging, visual brand, and overall communications strategy are all crucial pieces on their own, even more important is how they work together to create an overall customer experience.
An effective buyer’s journey maximizes this experience. It integrates all the working pieces in a way that educates, builds confidence, provides motivation, and proactively addresses customers needs.
Unfortunately, this is a difficult thing to see in context.
We’re often so close to our product or service we suffer from the curse of knowledge. We aren’t fully able to see how our customers experience the buying process.
We don’t consider the buyer’s journey—nor the many different paths it can take.
In the ever changing digital world it is important to constantly review your buyer’s journey. Review the details, as well as what it looks like in totality.
Unfortunately, because there are so many ways a buyer can journey from discovery to sell, this task can often seem overwhelming. Break it down into the following stages in order to make sure you cover all aspects.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 1: Create Awareness. Cultivate Research.
During the initial stages of your buyer’s journey, they become aware they have a need.
This might be a pain that needs resolution, it might be a desire they want to fulfill, it might be a goal they need help reaching.
They’re aware the need exists and believe your product or service can fill it.
It’s important you understand the needs your buyer commonly comes to you with and the context in which those needs exist.
That will affect how you approach your buyer in these early stages, including:
- The tone and voice you use
- The imagery you provide
- The educational content you lead with
- The level of engagement you request from them
While the buyer recognizes their need at this stage, they might not yet feel it requires a purchase or investment to resolve. Additionally they might isolate a problem, but it’s not actually the right one.
This is why content that helps a buyer diagnose and solve a problem is crucial in the awareness stage.
Your goals at this stage are awareness, education, and developing credibility. All of which work together.
- How will the people who need us find us? Think about content distribution and SEO.
- Does our messaging and keyword strategy target the right prospects? Because it doesn’t matter how many people you bring into your marketing funnel, if they aren’t the right people you are just spinning your wheels.
- What channels does our buyer use to find us? Google? (72 percent of buyers turn to Google first.) Social media? Word of mouth sites? Influencers?
- What is their experience through each of those channels? Is it consistent and integrated throughout? Studies have shown about 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer ever interacts with you.
- Does our content clearly define what problems we can solve for our prospects? Once they find you they need to know that the content you provide is relevant to their needs.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 2: The Consideration Stage
Once your prospect has a fairly good understanding of what they need they will enter the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.
They’ll start to wade through all the details and choices they’ve learned about in the awareness and research stage.
This is when you will clearly help them identify the details they need to consider in order to make the best decision—even if the results of that choice don’t lead to you.
- Do we help our buyers prioritize criteria that’s important to them? Through content on-site or behind landing pages, such as lead magnets of checklists, quizzes, or frequently-asked questions.
- Do we provide an easy way for them to have hands-on experience or live interaction? Sometimes a buyer just wants to go to you directly. Do you provide a demo or the ability to connect with a customer service rep quickly and easily?
- Are there clear calls-to-action to help them take their preferred next step? Whether that be to request a demo, contact you in some way for more info, chat live, watch video testimonials, or download a more detailed white paper or case study.
- Is all information consistent? Seventy percent of buyers return to Google two to three times during their research. You need to make sure every new piece of information they receive about you is consistent and supports what they learned previously.
- Do we anticipate their questions and answer them through content? Content should help them understand what they need and how you might be able to serve those needs.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 3: Confirm Return on Investment
Your buyer is almost there, but before they make a final decision, most buyers need reassurance they can trust you and that their purchase will be worth the investment (whether that be time or money, or both).
The justification stage of the buyer’s journey supplies the reassurance they need.
- Do we supply content that clearly shows return-on-investment? This might be case studies, clear data, testimonials, or any other type of proof of concept content.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 4: Decision Time!
Your buyer has finally made it and it’s time for them to make a decision.
Don’t blow it!
You can easily lose an engaged and interested prospect at the end of their buyer’s journey if you don’t continue to provide support at this stage.
Remember consistency is key throughout the journey.
The immediate pre/post conversion time is crucial for setting the stage for customer loyalty, satisfaction, and creating potential long-term ambassadors for your business. Make sure you make it count.
- Do we provide decision-stage prospects the same customer service we provide early-stage prospects? Don’t drop them off at the top of the mountain — help them to the other side.
- Is the timeline for on-boarding, implementation, or start-up effective and efficient? Do you provide a clear timeline for them from the start so expectations are clear and they can plan accordingly?
- Do we have a clear process to answer and resolve any start-up questions or concerns? Process is key at this point in time, both for the new customer and your team.
- Do we provide transition support and guidance? Is there someone dedicated to this transition or implementation time to help guide new customers through and provide for their needs? Your job is to make this process as easy as possible. Provide support, resources, project management, and even help them with communications around the transition.
Analyze. Improve. Repeat.
These 15 questions will help you critique and improve your own buyer’s journey.
The best strategy is answer them yourself once and then go through the buyer’s journey in real time and answer them again. You’ll most likely find discrepancies between what you thought the experience was and what it actually is.
Creating a buyer experience that generates, nurtures, and converts prospects into happy customers is no easy or quick process, but a successful buyer’s journey will not only bring you new customers through the process itself, but also lay the foundation for loyal brand ambassadors and continue business growth.
Time very well spent.
A version of this post originally ran in Big Brand System