Marketing professionals are often talking about the “buyer’s journey,” and this leaves many wondering what this mystical expedition is all about.
The buyer’s journey is simply an everyday process that all consumers experience, and it’s guaranteed that you have gone through the buyer’s journey before. In fact, every time you make a purchasing decision, you’ve gone through a process that leads you to the choice you’re making.
For marketers, the important thing is recognizing the significance of the buyer’s journey and tapping into it as an opportunity to nurture leads. This is especially important today as most consumer activities are done alone in front of a computer. That means it’s up to marketers to understand the buyer’s journey in order to determine when and where prospects can be found, and how leads can be nurtured most effectively to turn prospects into customers.
Starting with the Basics: The Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is simply the process a person goes through before buying a new product or service. The journey is divided into three stages: awareness, consideration and decision. To illustrate the journey, let’s use Buyer Smith as an example. During the awareness stage, Buyer Smith realizes there's a problem—such as finding a large hole in his favorite pair of jeans—and determines that he wants to fix the problem.
Next, he moves through the consideration stage, which is the point when he has evaluated his options, clearly defined his goals, and starts seriously researching which vendors and brands will meet his needs. The final stage is the decision stage when Buyer Smith will decide what to do about the hole in his jeans.
If you were a jeans retailer, your goal would be to make sure that by the time Buyer Smith gets to the decision stage the solution he settles on is buying a new pair of pants from you. That’s why you need a thorough understanding of the buyer’s journey.
Importance of Understanding the Buyer’s Journey
Thanks to the internet and the wealth of information available online, today’s consumers do the majority of their product research on their own, long before a company even realizes they have a prospect. Most buyers today are nearly 70 percent of the way to making a purchasing decision before they ever reach out to a company’s sales department, so you must have information in place to intercept prospects during the early stages of their research.
If you know how and where your customers did their product research then you can provide them with the right information on the right platforms to generate brand and product awareness. To do this, you must map that buyer process to learn how prospects find your brand and make the leap from consideration to decision. There are many places where you can gather data to map the buyer’s journey, including:
- Website analytics
- Social media data
- Customer forms and surveys
- Focus groups
- Customer service agent feedback
- Interviews with past customers
Awareness Stage: Using the Buyer’s Journey to Nurture Potential Leads
The awareness stage of the buyer’s journey is the initial research stage when a prospect wants content that’s informative and educational. Buyer Smith, for example, might be researching sewing techniques to fix the hole in his jeans, looking at tailors in the area who could repair the hole or he might be researching the cost of replacing his jeans.
At this point, the buyer isn't looking for brand-specific material, but looking for content that provides solutions to a particular pain point. Some of the best types of content for this stage of the buyer’s journey include:
- Whitepapers that answer questions
- Blog posts
- Guides and troubleshooting instructions
- How-to content
- Industry reports
During this stage, it’s also important to use the right type of keywords when you're optimizing web content, and these include words that are related to ideas like resolving and solving, preventing, improving, upgrading, and troubleshooting.
Nurturing Leads During the Consideration Stage
The second stage of the buyer’s journey starts getting more specific, because by this point the buyer has determined the right course for a solution and has even narrowed down the solution to a few brands. For Buyer Smith, the consideration stage means he's decided he's buying new jeans rather than repairing the old ones, and he’s looking at the products offered by a couple of different companies. The key during this stage of the buyer’s journey is relationship building, which you can do through lead-nurturing emails and social media. Some of the best types of content for this stage include:
- Product reviews
- Pricing information
- Vendor comparisons
- Product videos
Closing the Deal: Lead Nurturing and the Decision Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
The final stage of the buyer’s journey is the purchasing decision, and this is when it’s time to move from general and generic information to brand-specific content. This can include things like showcasing your company’s great customer service, demonstrating how your products have solved pain points just like the buyer’s and illustrating why you are the superior choice.
Now is the time to show Buyer Smith why he should buy your jeans instead of anybody else’s, because he's on the verge of clicking buy now and turning from a lead into a customer. Another goal at this phase should be maximizing conversions and conversion value, and you can achieve this with content such as:
- Training information
- User guides
- Value-added content
- Promotional material
Because the decision phase is all about making the purchase, some of the best keywords you can use right now include coupon, select, discount, buy, and purchase.
Once the buyer’s journey is over, you can start the separate but related task of nurturing past customers to create repeat customers, and the key here is building brand loyalty, staying in touch and providing great follow-up service. You can also start leveraging the voices of happy customers to convert more prospects, by encouraging satisfied buyers to write reviews, provide testimonials and create user-generated content.
Want to learn more about generating and nurturing leads? Get in touch with us for a free 60-minute consultation.