Marketing is all about understanding the needs and wants of your target audience, using this information to help build relationships and, ultimately, driving sales and revenue for your business.
A key part of this understanding revolves around knowing where your leads are in the buying process. This process can often be referred to as the buyer’s journey or lifecycle stages. By adapting your content to each lead based on their stage in this process, you can optimise the alignment of sales and marketing, which creates a more streamlined experience for both brand and consumer.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin; the buyer’s journey is the journey a customer takes, before, during and after they purchase your product or service.
However, it is important to note that the buyer’s journey is not a one-size-fits-all process, and the phases a customer passes through varies from brand to brand. Here are five typical stages of the buyer’s journey that we are going to discuss throughout this post:
- Loyalty & Advocacy
Stage One) Awareness
The very first stage of the buyer’s journey is all about awareness. At this point, the buyer may not have even heard of your product or service so this phase is all about educating the potential buyer. The objective here is to create an association between the brand and a current or future need.
This stage typically revolves around two types of people:
- The buyer who knows that they have a particular problem, but do not yet know what the solution is:
As the marketer, your job here is to show that you understand the problem in question, and provide relevant information, and resources, that help your target audience to solve it.
- The buyer who doesn't know that they have a problem:
In order to engage this particular buyer you should focus your attention on creating content that highlights the issues they could face as a result of not buying your product or service.
What you do not want to do at this stage is sell! I get that this might sound strange, considering that selling your product or service is ultimately the end goal. But just sit tight; that stage will come, but it is not right now. There are very few customers who will buy a product they have never heard of, from a brand they don’t know, after the very first touchpoint. Putting decision-stage ads and content in front of people that aren’t yet ready to see them is a mistake that so many brands make. Instead, you should be laying the foundations of product knowledge prior to the ‘hard-sell’, this will ensure that when the time comes to close the deal things run a lot smoother.
During the awareness stage your potential buyer might be asking themselves a number of questions. In fact, the chances are, they are typing these questions directly into Google searching for help. So what you want to do is create content that ranks highly for these particular keywords. Of course, questions of your target audience will vary depending on the product or service. So be sure to do your research and learn as much as you can about the target audience and then you will be able to figure out the types of questions they are likely to ask.
What Sort of Content Do I Need During the Awareness Stage?
Don’t just stick to ‘How-To’ blog posts. Don’t get me wrong, these are great, but it’s even better to branch out into more creative resources such as:
- Industry Reports
- Social Media Ads
- Google Ads
Within these pieces of content it’s important to add a call-to-action (CTA). Keep some of your content gated and offer them great knowledge in return for an email address. This is how you get these potential customers to move onto the consideration stage.
Stage Two) Consideration
The consideration stage is all about deepening the association made between the brand and a customer’s need during the awareness stage.
Your customer has done their research on the problem that they have. They have decided that they would like a solution and have come across your brand, or, your appropriate digital advertising, achieved through clever market segmentation and targeting, has resulted in them realising the value that your product or service could add to their lives.
Whatever the reason they came across you, well done! You’ve captured their interest, and hopefully, you have some valuable contact information in the bag. Now you want to make (what is likely to be) your first official piece of communication with your prospect, so be sure to make it a good one!
It’s important to bear in mind that at this key stage your potential customer is likely to be looking into your competitors as well, so you need to highlight to them what makes you better than the rest. Ask yourself “What is our key differentiator?” and figure out a way to get this point across in the content you send to them.
If you fail to provide a good user experience at this point you will, quite simply, lose their business. Start as you mean to go on. That being said, at this point, your customer might want to reach out to you themselves for more information. Whether the communication is via phone call, email or on social media, do not leave them hanging! Be prompt, friendly and helpful in your response, and if you have a website or app then make sure it is user-friendly with no glitches. All of these things will add to the overall image your customer has of your company and will help to move them forward in their buyer’s journey.
What Sort of Content Do I Need During the Consideration Stage?
You can definitely still make use of all that great informative content you created for the awareness stage but, on top of that, you need to think more about what type of content could help you to close the deal. Again, this all varies widely depending on your sector and whether you are B2B or B2C, but think along the lines of:
- Case Studies
- Pricing Guides
- Product Demos
Stage Three) Decision
By the time your customer reaches the decision stage of the buyer’s journey, they should have all the information they need in order to make an informed decision. At this point, they are almost ready to go ahead with the purchase. Your prospect has narrowed down their options and decided on a few possibilities that offer a solution to their problem. They are now trying to decide which of these offer the best product or service, with the best features, and at the best value for money.
Customer reviews are of great importance during the decision stage. Spiceworks discovered that a huge 97% of people say they rely on peer recommendations and ratings/reviews during the buying cycle. The last thing you want to do is lose your potential customers at the decision stage because you don’t have any reviews.
Featuring testimonials and case studies from current customers on your website is also a great way of demonstrating how you can generate positive results. Having the proof that your product or service does exactly what you say it will do is key to your prospect during this decision stage.
Offering a free trial or a discount to a first-time buyer at this stage is a great way to get them over the line to become a paying customer. If your product is a pretty complex tool, specifically aimed at B2B, for example, then a live demo is a great way to speak to the prospect face-to-face. This will help you to build a solid relationship and answer any questions they might have as you take them on a walk-through of your prized product.
Ultimately, your job is to make the sales process as easy as possible for your customer.
What Sort of Content Do I Need During the Decision Stage?
- Customer Case-Studies & Testimonials
- Customer Reviews
- Live Product Demos
- Free Trial
- Discounts and Offers
- How-To Tutorials
- Competitor Comparisons
Stage 4) Retention
Kudos to you! If your customers have made it this far then you've definitely done loads of things right! But even though you’ve got the sale in the bag, the journey isn’t over just yet. The retention stage is where you really start to strengthen that relationship with your customer and help them gain the most value and satisfaction from your product or service.
Any experienced marketer or sales person will be aware that it is a widely known fact that acquiring a new customer costs way more than retaining a current one. Loyal, returning customers are where the profits are, and they will add so much more value to your business than one-off purchases. It’s all about quality over quantity.
They’ve already purchased from you, so you have got their trust. Now you just need to work on maintaining it. Use follow-up phone calls and surveys to gather feedback and learn more about their experience with your company. This will help you to deal with any problems that may have arisen in the meantime, and allow you the opportunity to offer a solution before they decide to leave you a negative review online or run off to a competitor.
What Sort of Content Do I Need During the Retention Stage?
To help retain your current customers it is in your favour to offer them something in return for their business, for example discounts, loyalty schemes or even a birthday card. What you can give will vary depending on your business, but these are just a few ideas. The following will also help to keep your new customers happy with their purchase:
- Follow-up calls and emails offering customer support
- Onboarding emails
- In-app messages (if relevant) guiding them through their first steps after download
- Relevant product-focused blog posts, videos, etc.
- Recommendations for add-on products
Stage 5) Loyalty & Advocacy
Once you’ve reached this stage you have loyal, satisfied customers who will continue to use your product, purchase from your company or renew their subscription with your service on a monthly or yearly basis. This is ultimately the end goal you want to achieve with all your clients. You can get them here by providing a great customer experience and nurturing them throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey. And of course, you need to make sure you have a great product or service too!
And what happens when someone is passionate about a product or service? Well, they talk to others about it. That means positive Word Of Mouth.
You now have customers ready and willing to become an active advocate for your brand. This is one of the most powerful forms of marketing you can have at your disposal. If applicable to your business, you could set up a referral scheme which would entail simply asking your customers to spread the (positive) word of your brand and in return, you will reward them with some form of discount or freebie if their action results in a sale. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved!
What Sort of Content Do I Need During the Loyalty Stage?
If you want to turn your loyal customers into advocates for your brand you need to truly make them feel valued. And what better way to do this than by involving them in the business? Make your customers feel listened to and exclusive with:
- Closed groups on Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack
- Priority access to new product releases
- The opportunity to test and give feedback on new products
Tailoring your marketing content based on the buyer’s journey makes everything flow so much smoother. Every customer has different needs and wants depending on their lifecycle stage, so it makes sense that your content caters to each buyer persona throughout each stage of the journey. Getting your buyer’s journey and the content required mapped out and created might seem like a lot of work to undertake to begin with, but I can promise you that it will benefit your marketing strategy and your business will reap the benefits.
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