How are those buyer personas coming? By now, you should at least feel a little more confident about developing personas to best represent your target buyers. The next logical step before you explore marketing plans is understanding the buyer’s journey. Your buyer persona is just a static character until you walk the path he or she walks to engage with your business.
Today, we’ll share everything you need to understand about each of those buyer’s journeys, and we’ll be transparent about why the journey is almost just as important as the persona.
Understanding the buyer’s journey means being able to predict and anticipate shifts in consumer behavior. Knowing exactly when to zig and when to zag, to continuously meet your customers’ needs will ensure your business continues to provide value to them and grow.
The Three General Stages of the Buyer’s Journey Every Business Should Know
Every business, regardless of the model, can develop a successful marketing strategy around three general stages of the buyer’s journey. Some experts will say there are four or maybe five, but these three phases are pretty fundamental to know first.
Awareness: At this phase of your buyer’s journey, the individual recognizes they have a pain point that your company offering can solve. When people are made aware of a problem they didn’t know they had, because of you, you have successfully created awareness.
- How do people first decide they have a need or problem you can help with specifically?
- What terms are they most likely to use when they first notice they have a problem?
- What resources, both online and off, will they go to for reliable advice and input?
- What misunderstandings are they first likely to have on the subject?
Consideration: At this phase of the buyer’s journey, an individual knows your product or service can help, but he or she is still considering the options.
- What solutions are your prospective buyers likely to gravitate to first?
- What are the key advantages or benefits the most compelling to buyers?
- What are the primary concerns or disadvantages that put buyers off or dissuade them?
- What critical factors persuade a buyer that a solution is right for them?
Conversion: At this phase of the buyer’s journey, the individual takes the step to buy from your business or from one of your competitors. Obviously, you’ll want to focus on differentiating yourself at this stage to ensure the conversion takes place in your favor.
- What helps your company offering stand out from others?
- What kind of “proof” are these prospects looking for to convince them?
- Who else, if anyone, needs to be involved in the final decision-making process?
- Is there any pre-implementation preparation needed to secure the buy?
- What are your clear call to action statements prompting a response?
Understanding When Your Customers Need You
The buyer’s journey is also all about timing. Imagine a Ferris Wheel at the fair. People get on and off the ride, one at a time and not before they’ve made the full round. Sometimes you would get stuck at the top, waiting your turn to exit. And as you got off the ride, there was another enthusiastic youngster ready to take your place.
Your buyer’s journey is similar in that you will have customers coming in and out of your industry with needs to buy at varying times. It’s critical that you understand these cycles, in conjunction with your buyer persona characteristics, to see results from any marketing strategy you employ.
Tina’s Cleaning Service: Tina knows that many of her customers, both residential and commercial, have weekly and monthly schedules. But she also knows that with the holidays coming up, there is an opportunity to engage with potential customers about seasonal and deep-cleaning services. Understanding her buyer’s journey means knowing when to market with these types of messages to attract new clients in both segments.
In Tina’s industry, timing is everything. Some of her customers will need weekly, bi-weekly or monthly cleaning services. But her ability to also recognize seasonal trends can help her create and initiate marketing messages at the right time to bring in new prospects.
Make Sure You Have the Right Expectations About Your Buyer’s Journey
Have you ever run an ad somewhere and felt frustrated because your phone didn’t ring afterward as you had hoped? Did you invest in a direct mail campaign to 10,000 homes, only to get one online inquiry and feel like you wasted a valuable marketing budget? These marketing setbacks and disappointments are common only if you have misaligned expectations about your timing, efforts, and results. And you can become frustrated with results (or lack thereof) if you don’t have a clear understanding of your buyer’s journey and the frequency needed to see real ROI or increases in ROAS (Return on Ad Spend.)
Paul’s Used Car Lot: Paul knows that when he sells a car, it could be years before he sees that customer again, only because people keep their vehicles longer these days. The average vehicle loan lasts five years and, in some cases, even longer. So, his buyer’s journey represents a more significant window of time than other business models. He’s not going to reach out to a customer who just bought a car from him last month about a new car he just took in on trade. In Paul’s case, understanding his buyer’s journey means knowing how to be efficient with his marketing messages and budgets, focusing on those customers he hasn’t seen in a while and bringing in others who are at the end of their loan or vehicle ownership cycle.
Managing your expectations is only feasible if you have all the information. For example, if you expect a coupon to be successful but send it to the wrong people at the wrong time, it won’t be. It’s not the coupon’s fault. The coupon may have been a great idea. It’s the when and where that misfired. Be smart about recognizing these distinctions within your buyer personas, your buyer’s journeys and your marketing strategies. And you won’t be let down when an ad doesn’t generate an immediate response. Instead, maybe that ad moved potential buyers from the awareness phase to the consideration phase. Or it could be a whole new group of prospects just entered the awareness phase altogether. All of these are good news scenarios. Don’t mistake them for failures because you didn’t sell a widget right away.
Here are the components and definitions you should know as they relate to understanding your buyer’s journey:
Reach vs. Frequency
Reach is how many people you can touch with your marketing message. Frequency is how many times your message lands on a given individual. This is huge to know since the average consumer needs to encounter your brand and message six to seven different times before committing it to memory or considering your company in their next buying decision. Don’t get caught up in ad reps who try to sell you on “reaching 100,000 people.” If those people aren’t representative of your buyer personas or if they happen to be stuck at the top of the buyer’s journey Ferris Wheel, your ad will not produce results.
Lead nurturing is the strategy that develops and reinforces customer relationships, regardless of their buyer’s journey phases. Lead nurturing methods ensure that you don’t just focus on low-hanging fruit buyers with your marketing. You can also be targeting customers at earlier stages of the buyer’s cycle, nurturing them along until they fall into the conversion phase.
Keyword strategies allow businesses to identify and target the search terms prospects use most to find services or products they offer. A hardware store, for example, sells lots of home improvement products. But a keyword strategy that might work involves the target audience searching for paint products. Developing marketing efforts that use “paint” as a focus keyword can be incredibly effective in bringing prospects into the awareness and consideration phases of the buyer’s cycle.
You hear the “marketing experts” talk about content strategy all the time. But who actually has time to sit down and write blogs or draft long-form emails, especially without a promise of results? Content strategy is more than just blogs and emails. And it’s incredibly important to drive awareness of your brand. Offering industry insights or how-to tutorials can help promote your position of authority and reputation for being a leader within your niche. Content strategies are methods of connecting with prospects without asking them for a sale. Instead, you make the necessary introductions and buy-in recognition needed to push a prospect into your funnel.
Fact: The number one reason customers steer clear of B2B companies is because there is too much irrelevant content.
Fact: More than 75% of internet browsers admit to reading blogs regularly.
Fact: Roughly 46% of online shoppers say they will leave a website because it lacks clear messaging.
Fact: More than 80% of business decision-makers admit to preferring company information in the form of articles over time, not an ad.
Fact: Using statistics within your content strategy can build trust with consumers. (See what we did there?)
Buyer’s Journey Statistics
Here are some additional stats and data to help shed light on the subject. You can take these with you to your next marketing and sales meeting.
- More than 71% of shoppers say they rely on their mobile devices for purposes of purchasing and reading business reviews.
- When consumers are thinking about buying something, a majority of their time is spent researching online.
- In any given B2B purchasing decision, an average of six to ten people are involved.
- More than 95% of consumers say they read online reviews before engaging in any new business engagement.
- More than half of all shoppers prefer to go online to “comparison shop.”
- By the time your business encounters a potential buyer, he or she is already 57% of the way through the buying process.
- Of the people who reach out to your company for the first time, 63% of them won’t actually make a purchasing decision for at least three more months.
- Roughly 70% of buyers define their own needs before engaging with any reps or company directly.
- Another 44% of buyers already know the solution they want before reaching out to engage.
The buyer’s journey is mission-critical to putting those buyer persona’s in action. It will allow you to have and set realistic expectations for marketing results and ROI. We’ll dive into how to set up your marketing budget in the next conversation, so stay tuned. And don’t hesitate to reach out to Awareness Branding & Consulting when you’re ready to have that FREE consultation.