Did you know that the average consumer travels through a predictable decision-making process before they buy a product or service? This path has general commonalities across industries and audiences, but understanding the particular buying process for your target audience is important for growing your business. In this post we’ll cover the general customer decision-making process for consumers, as well as how to identify the more specific journey taken by your customers.
The Buyer Journey
The consumer decision-making process is known as the buyer’s journey, and it consists of three main stages:
• Stage 1: The customer becomes aware of a need or problem.
• Stage 2: The customer considers the products or services available to resolve their problem.
• Stage 3: The customer decides to purchase the product or service that offers the best solution.
All three of these stages afford you opportunities to guide new customers to your business. Before we consider some relevant marketing tactics for each of these stages, let’s take a closer look at what’s happening during each phase of the buyer’s journey.
Stage 1 – Recognizing a Need
The buying process is triggered when your potential customer recognizes that they need something, or that they have a problem that requires solving. This could involve anything from wanting to replace a worn-out pair of sneakers, to wondering where they should go for their next vacation.
It’s worth noting that some buyers will not realize they need what you sell until after they’ve been exposed to it. Never underestimate the power of attracting new visitors to your website.
Stage 2 – Gathering of Information
How does your business rank for online keyword searches? Once they realize they need something, most customers-in-the-making set out to obtain it—and that usually means gathering information through Google. This stage of the buying process can involve comparing products or services based on:
• Suitability, and
Google research leads buyers to all of your various marketing channels, including your business website, online review sites, business directories, and more. This means you should not only get listed and update your listings, but also optimize your website for search terms that potential customers are using in their research.
Stage 3 – Resolving the Problem
After they’ve identified their options and done the proper research and comparing, buyers are primed and ready to decide on who will best fix their predicament. Hopefully, if your company’s marketing efforts have reached and resonated with them, that decision will include making a purchase from you!
Marketing Throughout The Buyer Journey
There are many effective marketing tactics that will help you to impact every stage of the consumer buying decision process. Here are a few to consider:
Start with a Buyer Persona
To make the most of the buyer’s journey where your specific customers are concerned, it’s important to create a buyer persona for your business. A buyer persona is essentially a fictional character who accurately represents your typical customer. This character embodies the common traits of your clients, including but not limited to:
• Demographics, profession, or income
• Lifestyle or location,
• Hobbies, goals, or interests,
• Shopping preferences
Having a buyer persona helps you to target your marketing efforts at each stage of your buyer’s journey by aligning with their specific needs, problems, preferences, and more. Depending on the size of your business and the range of goods or services you sell, you may need a single buyer persona, or multiple versions that describe the different groups of people who tend to buy from you.
SEO Your Website
Improving your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best ways to attract visitors to your site, where you can:
• Raise awareness of your business
• Provide information about your products and services to aid consumer research
• Generate valuable leads to extend your marketing reach
• Facilitate customer purchases, and
• Provide the customer service options that encourage repeat business
Make sure your company is taking full advantage of this cost-effective method for influencing the buyer’s journey at every step of the way, but especially with gathering information.
Offer Live Chat
Offering live chat services on your website is a great way to help potential customers find the answers they need during the information gathering phase of their buying journey. Simply put, live chat lets buyers achieve their goals with less hassle, and as a real-time interactive tool, it can also play an important role in everything from assisting with online transactions, to providing post-purchase product and service support.
Get Involved with Social Media
Social media isn’t just a lifestyle staple – it’s an effective marketing device that can drive recognition of what your business does. Beyond generating awareness, an active social media presence can also influence consumer research and the final buying decision.
Social media sites are the ideal platform for posting shareable content that’s relevant to your customers’ buying journey, for encouraging word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied users, and for driving traffic to your lead-generating website and landing pages.
Continue the Conversation with Retargeting
With a bit of computer code and a few browser cookies, retargeting lets you keep your business front and center in the mind of potential customers. Attention spans can be short as consumers search for the ideal solutions to their problems, but by subtly reminding previous website visitors that your business may have exactly what they need, you can increase your exposure and improve your chances of making a sale.
Show Your Stuff with Display Ads
Visually appealing display or banner ads are yet another effective route to targeting interested clients on their way to a buying decision. Display ads get strategically placed on sites most likely to be visited by your target audience, and as such, they can:
• Generate awareness about your company
• Draw new visitors to your website, and
• Put your business in front of consumers who may already be searching for you
The Buyer Journey Doesn’t Have to End
Remember: the buyer journey doesn’t have to have an end. Converting a shopper into a customer opens up a new chapter for their journey, of becoming repeat customers, loyal customers, and even brand evangelists. In today’s review-driven world, positive feedback can go a long, long way toward the continued success of your business.Providing a positive experience and excellent service is paramount to impacting your customers’ decision-making process and extending their pleasant and gratifying buyer journey.