Eleven Questions About Your Buyer's JourneyBy Laura Petrolino

As many of you know, last weekend was prom for many high schools.

As I sat on the streets of Portland (Maine, not Oregon) and watched the elegantly (and somewhat awkwardly) dressed teenagers line the streets and gather for photos, I remembered preparation for formals in my past.

Finding the exact, right dress, deciding how your hair would be done, the excitement of primping, and then waiting for your date to arrive. It was all an experience unto itself.

The buyer’s journey is like prom preparation in that it forces marketers to focus on the experience, not just how they make decisions to buy.

Through education, support, and proactively addressing customer needs, there are several questions you must ask yourself along the way to best target and convert your prospect.

The Awareness Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

At this stage in the journey, your buyer is aware they have an issue or pain which needs a solution.

They might feel like this is something they need to purchase or invest in. They might believe this is just something they need to learn more about or teach themselves to do.

You’ll encounter the latter if your organization provides a service.

For example, if I have a clogged drain or broken treadmill, I’ll first try to figure out a way to fix it myself first.

It is not until after I do research and discover it requires equipment I don’t have or can’t make out of something I do have (MacGyver, FTW!) that I’ll ask for help.

In both situations, your buyer will look for content that helps them diagnose and solve the problem.

Your goal at this stage in the buyer journey is to let the buyer know you exist, help them understand their problem and possible solutions better, and build credibility.

All of these work together.

Ask yourself:

  1. How will a prospect with a problem we can solve find us? Think about content distribution and SEO through the integration of shared, earned, and in some situations, paid media. As part of this you must really focus in on your keyword strategy–what keywords or phrases can help them find you.
  2. Is it clear what problems or pain points we can solve for our prospects?  If they find you, but don’t see you as relevant to their current problem they will move on to your competitor. The keyword strategy and the content you provide should very clearly address the most common problems your buyer faces.

The Buyer’s Research Stage

Whether they’ve found you already or not, your buyer will next enter into the research stage of their buyer’s journey.

And, for today’s empowered buyer, research is the foundation from which everything else flows.

Ask yourself:

  1. What channels will our buyer research us through? No matter the industry or sector, research typically begins with Google. In fact, 72 percent of buyers turn to Google first and use general search terms to explore options and learn more about what they need. After Google, where your buyer looks to research you is highly dependent on their individual persona and the industry. Most buyers will use social networks, but which ones do your buyers use? Most buyers will turn to influencers, but what influencers matter for your buyers? This is where your analytics and research must guide you.
  2. What is the experience through each of those channels? Is it consistent? Does it answer questions and provide the experience the prospect is looking for? Does it provide enough social proof to build trust and credibility. Research from CEB shows that about 57 percent  of the purchase decision is complete before a customer ever interacts with you.

The Buyer’s Journey Consideration Stage

At this point in the buyer’s journey, your prospect will have a fairly good understanding of what they need and they will start to wade through the details and choices.

Here is where you really must start to help them understand the details of this decision.

What are all the factors they need to consider to make the most successful choice?

Ask yourself:

  1. Do we help our buyers prioritize criteria that’s important to them? This is a great opportunity for content behind a landing page. Provide them a checklist, a quiz, or frequently asked questions to guide their decision and make a more informed and intelligent choice.
  2. Do we provide an easy way for them to have hands-on experience or live interaction? They may want to talk to a real person or get a demo. They want to feel, touch, hear, or talk to someone real about their problem and possible solution (that maybe you can provide). Have clear calls-to-action and an easy user experience for them to take the next step–whether that be to request a demo, contact you in someway for more info, chat live, watch video testimonials, or download a more detailed white paper or case study.
  3. Will more research further back up the experience buyers have with us? They may continue to research even after they interact or talk to you. According to the Pardot State of Demand Generation report, 70 percent of buyers return to Google two to three times during the course of their research. Each time armed with more information to dive deeper into each potential company’s specific offerings, advantages, and disadvantages. Anticipate their questions and answer them through content. This isn’t a sales pitch; the content should help them understand what they need and how you might be able to serve those needs.

The Justification Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

Before making a final decision, most buyers need to be reassured and have data on return-on-investment.

Is this purchase worth the monetary (and often time/resource) investment?

The justification stage of the buyer’s journey supplies that information.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do we supply content that contains information about pricing, ROI, and the bottom line? Transparency about these things is something many companies don’t like to do for fear of losing potential customers. Instead it allows prospects to self-qualify, and gain a layer of trust. It also arms them with the confidence and data they need to make the final decision.

What should you post publicly on your website?

That’s highly business-dependent.

For some businesses it makes sense to list prices on their website.

For others, it’s so highly dependent on the needs of the client it’s impossible to list prices.

In those cases, it is even more important to address return-on-investment and value.

It’s Decision Time!

And now it’s finally time in your buyer’s journey for them to make a decision!

But, 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.

In fact, many businesses do just that…and lose prospects that should be customers.

Even if the prospect does convert, you risk starting the relationship off on the wrong foot.

The immediate pre/post conversion time is crucial for setting the stage for customer loyalty, satisfaction, and creating potential long-term ambassadors.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do we provide decision-stage prospects with the same customer service we provide customers and early-stage prospects? The answer to this should be yes. That level of service should be all they need to see to make the final conversion.
  2. Is the timeline for on-boarding, implementation, or start-up effective and efficient? Do you lag in getting things going? Or leave customer/prospect questions unanswered? Do you provide a clear timeline for them from the start so expectations are clear and they can plan accordingly?
  3. Do we provide transition support and guidance (for both the main contact and their team)? Depending on your service the transition process could be painful for a customer. Both transitioning their team (emotionally and physically), and adjusting operations. 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.

The buyer’s journey for each of you will take different paths, timeframes, and strategies.

These 11 questions can help anchor the plan you put in place to generate, nurture, and covert prospects to happy customers, and eventually happy customers to loyal brand ambassadors.

photo credit: Road of Unknown Possibility via photopin (license)

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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