The way people buy things is much more complex in today’s digital landscape than ever before. With more information available at our fingertips, customers want to be well informed before making a purchasing decision. In fact, before making a purchasing decision, 76% of UK consumers conduct research online. As purchasing decisions become more complex and the process leading towards a purchase more significant, the buyer’s journey is essential in helping you guide customers. When combined with your inbound marketing strategy this can help guide customers towards making a purchase, as well as delighting them.
What is the buyer’s journey?
The buyer’s journey is the process a customer takes towards the point of purchase. Purchases are not always made on impulse! Following a sequential process, a customer becomes aware of a product or service that can help alleviate any pain points. From there, the customer considers, evaluates, and decides to purchase that product or service.
If customers didn’t follow the buyer’s journey, they’d end up with products and services that either do not work or don’t help in addressing their pain points. Not an ideal situation for helping to build meaningful relationships and delighting your customers! Instead, customers want to find the best solution for their needs. Following the buyer’s journey also helps you to understand a customer’s behaviour through the buying process.
The buyer’s journey and buyer personas
When looking at the buyer’s journey, your buyer personas should play a significant role. Developing your buyer personas will help you understand the process a customer takes before purchasing. By doing so, you can develop content that is suited and tailored to help lead them along the buyer’s journey. It may also give you an idea of the problems your customers have, or the solutions they may be looking for.
When looking for a product or service, a customer will try and collect as much information as they can which relates to their need or problem. Knowing what stage in the buyer’s journey your customers are at is crucial for tailoring the correct content. After all, you don’t want to provide content that attracts a customer if they are at the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
The stages of the buyer’s journey
There are three stages in the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Let’s take a look at each of these stages in more depth.
The awareness stage
The first stage of the buyer’s journey is the awareness stage. In essence, the buyer becomes aware of a product or service you have. A huge part of the awareness stage is being in the right place with the right content. That way, you can be sure your product or service will resonate with your potential customers and stick with them throughout the buyer’s journey.
Making sure you have a successful content marketing strategy that is clearly tuned to your buyer personas will help to ensure your content can be found and be considered. A customer may already have a few products or brands in mind, but making sure you provide content that can stand out during the customer’s initial search is crucial for becoming part of their evoked set (the acceptable options found from researching that a customer will pursue through the buyer’s journey).
The consideration stage
The second stage of the buyer’s journey is the consideration stage. Now the buyer has conducted their initial research and is aware of the options available, it is time to consider which option will best solve their problem. At the consideration stage, the buyer will have clearly defined their problem after gaining an understanding at the awareness stage.
The consideration stage is essential for finding the best solution which addresses the buyer’s problem. Continuing to provide relevant and quality content will be essential at the consideration stage to allow the buyer to reach a judgement on the best alternative. Buyers may still not be attuned to brand messaging at the consideration stage. Instead, a focus is made more on the benefits that a buyer can achieve.
The decision stage
The final stage of the buyer’s journey is the decision stage. The buyer has finally decided on a choice or solution and will look to act by making a purchase. From conducting research and becoming aware of the options available, the buyer will now have a solid idea of how to address their problem or pain point.
Buyers are much more likely to trust a brand that has followed them throughout the buyer’s journey. If the content and solutions you have provided so far have helped lead a customer to the decision stage, it is time to make that last effort to win them over. The decision stage is where you can now make your brand messaging known to the buyer without fear of losing a valuable lead.
The buyer’s journey and inbound marketing
The buyer’s journey and inbound marketing work well together to help lead a customer through each stage of the journey. At each stage you can use different inbound market tactics to help lead a buyer towards the point of purchase. Whether it’s helping to attract customers or delight them, there are different inbound tactics you should use.
The inbound marketing process
Inbound tactics for the awareness stage
At the awareness stage, customers are looking for possible options to help address their pain points or challenges. Coming on too strong at this stage and trying to sell could lose you a valuable lead. Instead, you want to focus on providing valuable information and experiences. Business and brand messages should be kept to a minimum.
Inbound tactics you can use at the awareness stage include:
- Video content
- Search engine marketing (including SEO and PPC)
- Social media
Inbound tactics for the consideration stage
The consideration stage builds upon the awareness stage. At the consideration stage, you want to provide more specific informational value to help the buyer’s decision and build trust. The inbound tactics you use at this stage should continue to indicate your authority and expertise.
Inbound tactics you can use at the consideration stage include:
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Content offers
- Landing pages
Inbound tactics for the decision stage
The final step in winning a customer over at the decision stage is going above and beyond what they expect. As the buyer is nearing the point of purchase, the inbound tactics you use at the decision stage should help to reaffirm how your product or service will address their needs. The buyer should have all the information they need and now will make a comparison their chosen options.
Inbound tactics you can use at the decision stage include:
- Trials and demos
- Testimonials and case studies
- Pricing guides
- Competitor comparisons
- Live chat or chatbot function
What about post-purchase?
Any good marketer will not leave a customer after they have made a purchase. A good relationship continues well after purchase. Especially if you want that buyer to stick with your brand. While the buyer’s journey is important for building trust and gaining a greater influence, the value you can add to your customers continues long after purchasing. It also helps boost brand loyalty to keep your customers coming back.
The final stage of the inbound marketing process is to delight. While you may achieve that by providing a product or service that addresses the customer’s needs, you can continue to delight the customer post-purchase. By looking to exceed their expectations post-purchase you will continue to build positive experiences with your brand. Something that will continue to provide benefits in the future, such as positive word-of-mouth – any marketers dream! Not only do you want to keep that customer engaged with your brand, but you want to try and attract more customers too by exceeding expectations.
Forms of content you can use in the post-purchase stage to continue delighting customers include:
- Personalised follow-up emails
- Personalised offers
- Unlocking gated content
- Re-affirm brand/product/service value
The buyer’s journey is a fundamental part of any inbound marketing strategy. If you want to continue providing relevant and valuable content, you need to map out your buyer’s journey. Failing to provide content that appeals to each stage of the buyer’s journey is a mistake that will lose you valuable high-quality leads, and miss out on building that all important brand engagement and loyalty.