The buyer’s journey is a marketing concept that has gained a lot of traction over the past few years. Whether B2B or B2C, it is important for marketers to tailor their messaging to each of the stages that potential customers move through. A 2014 DemandGen report showed 61% of B2B buyers chose a vendor who delivered a better mix of content appropriate for each stage of the purchasing process. As the buyer's journey will be different depending on your industry and business model, it is critical to understand which stages are most relevant to your company.
The very first step is to compile all of your marketing content in one place. Put together a spreadsheet of your white papers, webinars, blog posts, and anything else that assists potential customers in finding and learning about your product or service. Next, you should separate content by stage, and finally, tailor each piece to help move users from one stage to the next.
This stage exists for every product or service as it is the moment the consumer realizes they need something. It is the lightbulb in their head that starts the process of identifying a problem and finding a solution to it.
Introductory Research: What’s the Problem?
If the buyer doesn’t already know about your product, this is when you hope they will find it. According to Pardot, 72% of buyers turn to Google during their initial research.
At this point, you’re introducing your company to potential buyers by touching on specific pain points they face. Remember, you aren’t pushing your product yet, but simply identifying with their needs. These helpful resources should be broadly based, neutral in tone, and optimized for keywords that are relevant to determining a problem such as “upgrade” and “improve.”
From an e-commerce perspective, this can often mean tapping into trends in the industry. Headlines such as “10 On-Trend Tops You Need This Summer” can drive impulse purchases that rarely exist in the B2B world.
During the second stage, buyers have identified their problem and are looking to find a solution. Even if a customer knows what they want and where to find it, their research isn’t complete yet. In fact, 70% of buyers return to Google at least two or three times throughout this process.
Follow-Up Research: Prioritizing Needs
The next step for a buyer is to formulate which features and functionalities are necessary to solve their specific problem and narrow down available strategies.
Marketing materials at this stage should be highly focused on educational content to help your prospect understand the industry as a whole and the options that are available to them. Whether you sell IT infrastructure or Italian leather boots, this is a critical time to establish your brand as a trustworthy source of information.
Up to this point, it is likely you still haven’t had contact with your buyer. In fact, 57% of corporate executives reach a decision before they ever talk to a sales rep. This means your sales team won’t be there to help walk new leads through much of the process. Make sure the information you have accessible can answer almost any question a buyer may have about your product or solution. The more times your brand can provide valuable, in-depth information, the more likely you are to make the final cut.
The decision stage begins once a buyer has settled on their strategy or approach. This will mean compiling a short list of vendors or products that fits into their chosen method.
Secure Funding or Approval
This part of the process won’t exist for all businesses, but decision-makers and C-level executives want to see hard numbers that back up your value proposition. All materials at this stage should be focused on ROI, cost-effectiveness, and proven results.
In 2014, 51% of buyers conducted a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision, compared to 30% in 2012 - DemandGen
With a list of potential vendors in hand, a buyer may finally be ready to reach out to your sales team. Differentiating your business is key at this point. What features do you offer that others don’t? What makes your service easier, better, or cheaper?
Your content during the decision stage should highlight all the specifics of your particular product that you’ve avoided mentioning so far. Use testimonials and data-driven case studies to showcase what your company can do and why you can do it better. The onboarding process and costs, customer support, and integration concerns will all come into play. If you’ve been gathering data on your lead’s behavior up to this point, utilize it to send them the most relevant content. This stage is also where your buyer personas are going to have the biggest impact.
Once you make a sale, your journey still isn’t over. You want to turn your new customers into repeat customers, and repeat customers into brand evangelists. If your product is more complicated, consider creating a drip campaign to educate new customers about new available features and add-ons.
Remember, it is 6-7 times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. So make sure to give the customers you worked so hard to get a good reason to keep singing your praises.