What is the Buyer's Journey?
It's the process of realizing you have a problem, researching solutions,
and deciding what to purchase.
Think about the last time you took your keyboard in hand to ask Google, Bing, or Yahoo a question. Were you researching a subject to learn more about it? Comparing products to purchase to solve a problem? Placing an order?
Awareness. Consideration. Decision.
These are the three stages we go through as buyers, also known in marketing speak as the Buyer’s Journey. We become aware of a problem, we explore solutions, and, in time, we make a decision -- a purchase -- to address the problem.
Here’s an example:
Awareness Stage: You moved to a new city and bought your first home last year. You were stunned at your heating bills over the winter. Before this coming winter, you want to explore ways to reduce costs while staying warm. You start researching your problem. You find some blog posts and an e-book with ideas.
Consideration Stage: The ideas you learned about range from curling up with your dog (an animal you don’t have) and sleeping with more blankets to a programmable or smart thermostat. You’re intrigued by the idea of the new thermostat.
Decision Stage: After carefully studying your options and chatting online with two HVAC companies, you learned that while a Smart Thermostat (controlled by smartphone or computer) is convenient, it’s expensive. Plus, it may not even work with your existing HVAC system. You also learned that a Programmable Thermostat is cost-effective, and most models allow you to set different temperatures for each day of the week and different times of each day. That’s the solution. Now you need to review the different models and installation fees offered by the two HVAC companies.
Chances are you’ve been through this process when you’ve had a problem to solve. At the time, you probably didn’t give it much thought. But as you’ll discover, the companies that provided the online resources to help you solve your problem did.
The Inbound Marketing Process
Now slip back into your business attire. Your products/services aren’t selling well. Your sales manager continues to report that the old, outbound ways of reaching out to potential customers -- cold calls, direct mail, buying email lists, sending catalogs, etc. -- are far less effective than they once were. It’s time for a change. It’s time to adopt an inbound marketing methodology.
Thousands and thousands of businesses in recent years have changed their marketing approach. They’ve bid adieu to outbound and extended a warm bonjour to inbound. The primary reason: Inbound marketing is a proven and predictable way to connect with the right buyers, at the right time, with the right message.
When potential buyers visit a website, it is often because the results of their online search led them to it. The answer to their query may have been in a blog post, on a resource page, or in an e-book. Wherever the content resides, it spoke to the potential buyer’s specific goals and challenges.
To attract that type of buyer – the one you’re able to help and want to befriend -- you first need to define your buyer personas. A persona is a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer. Note the distinction: a person is not an actual client, or a coveted prospect.
Once you’ve created your persona (or personas, as you may have several), you’ll have a better understanding of who you want to attract to your site. Only then will you be ready to delve into how to attract them.
Creating Content for Buyers at Every Stage
Inbound marketers focus on what buyers want: Help. They know that buyers want answers to their questions, ideas for solving their problems, information they can review at their leisure (even at 2:00 am if they are night owls) and more. But since every company will always have buyers at different stages in the buying process, you need to prepare content for every stage. This is key to developing relationships with potential buyers of your products or services.
Here are examples of the kind of content you need to create to cater to buyers throughout their journey:
Awareness: At this stage buyers are looking for top-level educational content to solve their problem, such a blog posts, social content or e-books. It’s also known as Top of the Funnel (TOFU) content. As potential buyers, these people rank low because there’s no guarantee they’ll buy from you. (Like it or not, your company is somewhat invisible at this stage. All that matters to the buyer is looking into their problem.) However, if your content proves sufficiently helpful, buyers at this stage may decide to stick around for the next stage of the journey.
Here’s what you should create for buyers at this stage: Whitepapers, e-books, kits, tip sheets, checklists, how-to videos, and educational webinars.
Consideration: Buyers are now exploring solutions to their problem. This is your chance to demonstrate why what you offer is the best mousetrap. Your focus should be on building a relationship and establishing trust between your potential buyer and your company. (This is also when you should identify buyers who are not a good fit as customers and try to steer them elsewhere.)
Here’s what you should create for buyers at this stage: A product webinar/demo, case studies, product sample, data sheet, FAQs, and demo videos.
Decision: The buyer is ready to buy. There’s no guarantee they will buy from your company, but the right offer in conjunction with the right content can have a big impact on your conversion rate. Make sure you nudge them, nicely, and offer your most compelling call-to-action.
Here’s what you should create for buyers at this stage: Free trial, live demo, free consultation, estimate, coupon
An Increased ROI
This won’t surprise you: Studies affirm that buyers prefer content that has been developed for their particular needs. Make certain that as you map out your content strategy you take a hard look at what you’re planning to create. Will it offer value? Will it help potential buyers as they wrestle with making a decision?
You’re probably thinking, “Uh, this kind of content creation sounds like a ton of work.” It is! But if you follow the framework that acknowledges a buyer’s process, and provide meaningful content at every stage, you’ll be well-positioned to ultimately earn a healthy percentage of the business you covet.