IF BUYER PERSONAS ARE THE FIRST STEP OF INBOUND MARKETING, THEN UNDERSTANDING THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS A VERY CLOSE SECOND.
Made up of three stages—Awareness, Consideration, and Decision—the Buyer’s Journey is based on the fact that today’s consumers are online and more informed than ever, which puts them on a track to make an educated decision on their purchase before they ever contact your business. The Buyer’s Journey is essentially doing a ton of Internet research before making a purchase—and we’ve all been there before.
Stage 1: Awareness
During the awareness stage of the Buyer’s Journey, prospective customers are merely experiencing the symptoms of a problem and trying to put a name to it. They don’t yet know who you are or even that you exist. They’re shuffling around online to figure out their problem to get closer to a solution.
So, how do you market to these potential buyers at this early stage? By addressing your buyer personas’ pain points and building brand awareness in the process. Strategically utilizing keywords and optimizing your online presence will have a tremendous impact at this stage. And the content you are putting out should be problem-focused—not a sales-y pitch about your product or service. Create blog posts, ebooks, white papers, and/or editorials that are focused on outlining the problem that your prospective customers are experiencing. This content should be strictly educational. If one or more of these content pieces creates an “a-ha!” moment for these buyers, they are much more likely to continue their buyer’s journey with you in mind.
Real-life Awareness Stage Example: I have out-of-town family visiting and I don’t have a guest room. Where will my guests sleep?
Haven’t you created your buyer personas yet? Drop everything and read everything you need to know about buyer personas.
Stage 2: Consideration
When they move into the consideration stage, prospective customers name their problems and potential research solutions. This is where the buyers will dive into the research process to compare and contrast the most effective approaches and methods that can solve their problem.
At this stage, your job as a marketer is to provide content focused on the solution. Again, you’re not yet pitching your product or service, and you’re positioning yourself as an industry expert who knows how to solve the buyer’s problem. Content like webinars, videos, and podcasts will help you reach these buyers deeper and convince them that you know what you’re talking about. And who wouldn’t want to buy from the best?
Real-life Consideration Stage Example: Aha! My living room has a door and some extra space. What are my options for setting up a bed in this space?
Stage 3: Decision
Finally, in the decision stage of the Buyer’s Journey, the prospects are vetting specific approaches to the problem (i.e., companies, products) in the hopes of landing on the most appealing option (i.e., hopefully, you!). In this stage, you are pitted directly against your competitors, so you’ll have a leg up on them if you’ve already successfully marketed to the buyers during the early stages of the Buyer’s Journey. Understanding the #BuyersJourney is a crucial step toward creating great marketing.
We know you’ve been patiently waiting to talk about yourself, and now’s your chance. Marketing in the decision stage is all about you! So go ahead and pitch your product or service with abandon. You want to let the buyers know why they should choose you, so dust off your best case studies, offer a live demo or trial download, and put together vendor and product comparison charts. Anything that will hook these potential customers is fair game here.
Real-life Decision Stage Example: I can purchase an air mattress, a sleeper sofa or a futon. An air mattress is inexpensive and portable, but not as comfortable. Sleeper sofas and futons are expensive, but provide more comfort and are longer lasting. An air mattress is the perfect option for me and I found the right size with free shipping to arrive in three days!
Targeting prospects on each stage of the Buyer’s Journey is crucial to converting them into customers. It’s a delicate dance, but a very worthwhile one. Think of it kind of like dating—you don’t want to scare off your potential soulmate by revealing too much, too soon. You want to hook them early on by focusing on their needs and wants—and showing them how awesome you are. In time, they’ll be yours forever. *sigh*