Today’s buyers embark on what we can call a little journey. We don’t click on the first product that comes along and places this in our shopping cart – we want to find the product that will be the very best solution for us and our needs, right? This journey of collecting information is called “the buyer’s journey”. What does this entail and why is it an important part of inbound marketing?
Imagine that you’re selling relatively complicated and expensive cloud services. Before your potential customers make a decision on which solution they want to go for and actually buys it, they’ll look for information.
This is why in inbound marketing we use content to attract customers and guide them through the buying process – and this is the buyer’s journey.
Buyer’s no longer wish to receive a long presentation about why they should choose your product over another. This gives them no value whatsoever. What they are actually looking for is additional information about the product you sell.
That is why both marketers and salespeople need to customise the prospects’ buying process based on the understanding of the concept of buyer’s journey.
In order to guide a prospect through the entire buying process, you have to be clear about what the next step is and show people how to get there.
When adapting content to fit the correct stage of the journey a prospect is currently at in their journey, you really need to understand the different stages prospects are at, which we’ll take a look at next.
What is the buyer's journey?
Before making a decision to buy, a potential customer will look for information about products or services related to their problem or needs. When working with inbound marketing the aim is to attract potential customers long before they might be ready to buy, and guide them on their journey towards making that purchase.
To do this successfully, you always have to be clear about what the next step is and show people how to get there.
In short, the buyer’s journey is the journey a lead takes from the moment she experiences a problem she needs to solve, starts reading about the problem she has and which solutions might be best for her and finally buying a product or solution.
This process includes three stages:
- Awareness: the lead is experiencing a problem that they need to solve
- Consideration: the lead has defined their problem and is actively looking for a solution
- Decision: the lead is ready to choose the best solution and the best provider
These stages bring the potential customers from the very first meeting with your industry, via blog posts, email follow-up over time, conversations with a salesperson and all the way through to a decision. On this journey, the traveller needs customised content all the way and this is where inbound marketing comes into the picture.
The buyer’s journey starts as soon as the lead experiences a problem and want to find a solution. To solve the issue they will often start by searching for options online. The searches will oftentimes be general at first, but you still want to make sure that you are among the top results.
We are now at the top of the sales funnel which is the awareness stage. This is where people are searching for answers, resources, information, statistics, opinions and insight into a subject.
You’ll, therefore, need to create relatively general content at this stage that doesn’t mention specific solutions or providers but rather looks at different challenges a lot of people have around this topic and how one can solve this challenge. As soon as a prospect recognises what their problem is you should have relevant content available that presents different solutions, even if that means talking about the competition. Honest content will always be more helpful to the reader, and that should be your guiding star.
The middle of the sales funnel is the consideration stage where the prospect starts digging deeper into the problem to find out what products or services are right for her.
At this stage, you should have content that is more solution-based. Don’t be tempted to mention your company name or tell the reader why your product is so much better than the competitor’s – yet.
Write in more general terms about the specific solutions that are available on the market without mentioning product names or company names.
Finally, you get to the bottom of the sales funnel. This is where you want to make sure you have some content that explains why people should pick your company. This is maybe the content you are most familiar with and the type you have most of already on your website or blog.
Here it can be really helpful to take inspiration from the emails, presentations and other content shared by the sales team as well.
They’re used to writing content every day to convince prospects at the decision stage to choose your company. Always remember to be honest: if your solution isn’t the perfect fit for the prospect you’re talking with – let him or her know.
How do you define your customers' buyer’s journey?
To understand what your customers’ buyer’s journey looks like it might be a good idea to do a buyer’s journey workshop where you identify the different steps a customer takes throughout the buying process.
Many companies often focus on what happens after the prospect gets in touch with a salesperson, however, in order to understand how you can attract your dream customers and what it takes for them to choose you as a provider, it is essential that you also focus on what happens before the prospect gets in touch.
Start with the Awareness stage. In order to understand how your prospects are thinking and behaving at this stage of the buying process you can ask yourself these questions:
- How do buyers describe their goals or challenges?
- How do buyers educate themselves on these goals or challenges, step by step?
- What are the consequences of inaction by the buyer?
- Are there common misconceptions buyers have about addressing the goal or challenge?
- How do buyers decide whether the goal or challenge should be prioritised?
Also, think about which questions prospects often ask early in the sales process. This might be helpful in filling in the gaps of missing informative content.
Now we’re at the consideration stage where the prospect has a clearly defined goal or challenge – and has decided to take action to solve this challenge or reach the goal. Ask yourself:
- What type of solutions do buyers look into?
- How do buyers educate themselves on the various solutions?
- How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?
- How do buyers decide which solution is right for them?
Try to understand what is important for these people when they evaluate a product and see how they navigate the webpage if they’ve been visiting before.
At the decision stage, the prospect might have decided upon the right solution for this problem but no specific product/service or provider. These are the questions you should ask yourself at this stage:
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offerings?
- When buyers investigate your company’s offering, what do they like about it compared to alternatives? What concerns do they have with your offering?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?
- Do buyers have expectations around trying the offering before they purchase it?
- Outside of purchasing, do buyers need to make additional preparations, such as implementation plans or training strategies?
Talk to your existing customers and find out what was important for them when evaluating your company as a provider and why they choose to buy from you. Ideally, you should also talk to someone that did not end up buying from you and find out why.
Also, talk to the sales department to find out which questions prospects often have at the end of the buying process.
Throughout the whole sales funnel you should aim to find out how your customers use the website and how they educate themselves: do they enjoy reading long articles, watch videos or attend seminars?
If the people at your company think you should keep your focus on what’s happening after the prospect has reached out to the sales department, remind them that 67% of the buying process is digital and most often happens before a prospect gets in touch with sales.
The answers to all these questions will make it a lot easier to define your customers’ buyer’s journey. So now you know what the buyer’s journey is, why it’s an important part of your inbound marketing and how to define your customer’s buyer’s journey. Good luck!