Your customers have never been more informed. They have never had more options on the market, either. This is why the old sales process with overbearing sales tactics isn't working anymore. It's time for a change. Instead of selling, sales reps should focus on helping potential customers. To accomplish that, you should know who your customers are and how they make a purchase decision. In other words, you need to learn about your buyer journey.
What Is the Buyer Journey?
A buyer's journey is the path a customer takes from the moment they realize they have a problem to the moment they purchase a solution for that problem. In most cases, buyers won't just make a purchase without going through the research and decision process. Buyer journey can be used interchangeably with the customer journey, which is more common in B2C contexts.
A buyer journey describes this process and the three stages customers go through. It's an essential part of the inbound strategy, and should be carefully mapped out and used to create content.
Buyer Journey Stages
There are three stages of the buyer's journey. Based on which stage the customer is in, marketing teams and sales reps can adapt their approach and ensure that what they offer matches the stage the buyer is in.
These stages are the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage. Let's look at each one in more detail, together with a buyer journey example.
The Awareness Stage
In this stage, the customer becomes aware that they have a problem, a need, or a pain point. Until this point, the buyer either didn't have an issue or wasn't aware of it yet. But now that they are, their next goal is to define their problem. To achieve this, customers are usually seeking information about what they are experiencing. They are looking to answer “what's” and “why's” about their problem.
Example: “Why does my back hurt?”
At this point, the customer is looking for possible reasons why their back is hurting. They are reading articles, blogs, and watching videos to determine which part of their back is in pain and what might be causing it.
After some research, they come to the conclusion that their lower back is the source of most pain and that they typically feel it after an 8-hour workday sitting at home. However, they don't feel it as much when they're in the office, sitting on the new chairs they recently got. Therefore, the customer concludes that their chair at home is the main cause of the problem.
The Consideration Stage
In this stage, you’ve defined the problem and the customer is considering their options. They know what troubles them, and now they are on the lookout for potential solutions.
Example: “What kind of chair do I need, so my back won't hurt when I sit for long periods of time?”
Since the customer pinpointed the source of the problem being the chair, they are looking into various options which could help them. They are researching what kind of chairs are good for people with lower back pain, what features would help them, do they need any customizations, etc.?
The Decision Stage
In this stage, the customer decided what solution strategy they will employ. Now their goal is to decide on where to get that solution from.
Example: “Who can make a custom chair for me, where do I go, and what will it cost?”
Now that the customer knows what the problem is and decided on the best solution, they're looking for providers. They are searching for stores or companies that can make custom chairs based on their unique needs. They are comparing offers, processes, and prices, and based on the data they gather, they will make a final purchase decision.
This journey can also be represented in a form of a sales funnel. Companies usually focus their marketing efforts when the customers are ready to decide. But only 4% of customers reach the bottom of the sales funnel. If you can cater to your customers from the moment they enter the funnel, you'll build trust and connection earlier, which will bring you more success in the decision stage.
Why Is Buyer's Journey Important?
Based on the description of the three stages of the buyer's journey, you can see that potential customers ask very different questions in each stage. Since they are looking for different information in each stage, you need to provide informative content based on the questions they're asking.
This way, when they start looking for answers, they will come across the information you provided, and you'll be able to guide them down the path with your content. There are several benefits this approach yields:
- Provide customers more value – instead of just trying to sell, you are actually helping customers solve their problems. Yes, the solution is in your product, but with the right content, you're ensuring that they come to that conclusion by themselves. The value is in informational and educational content.
- More effective lead conversion – inbound marketing has shown to be 10 times more effective when executed properly. This includes spending less money when converting leads.
- Increase sales – building trust with your potential customers from the moment when they enter the purchase process, being helpful, and providing valuable content will ultimately yield better results. In fact, 61% of customers in a Demand Gen report said that they've chosen a provider that provided a mix of helpful information in all three stages.
How to Use Buyer Journey in Your Marketing Strategy
A successful inbound strategy greatly depends on how you understand your customer, map out their journey and use this knowledge to create content. Let's describe this process in detail.
Create Buyer Personas
Before you start working on the buyer's journey, you need to know who the buyer is. Defining your buyer personas is a simple process that involves gathering data from your website, social media, and analytics tools, as well as conducting interviews and surveys with your target audience. The goal is to tell a story about your buyer so that everyone in your company knows who the offer is for.
Map Out the Buyer Journey
Next, you can start working on the buyer's journey stages. Here are the questions to ask for each stage to figure out how your customers go through the decision-making process.
Questions to Ask in the Awareness Stage
- How do customers describe their problem in relation to our business?
- What goals and challenges do customers have when it comes to their problem?
- What are the most frequently asked questions?
- How do customers decide if their problem should be a priority?
In this stage, you should work on understanding customers' needs, challenges, and goals in the context of your business. One of the ways to do that is to use the Jobs-to-Be-Done framework, which will help you discover, organize and manage customer needs.
Questions to Ask in the Consideration Stage
- What solution types do customers research?
- What are the most important aspects of solutions customers want to know about?
- How do buyers research solutions?
- How do customers decide what solution is best for them?
Questions to Ask in the Decision Stage
- How do customers evaluate offers?
- How do buyers research offers, and where do they find the info?
- What format do buyers prefer to compare offers?
- What are the most critical/decisive criteria for buyers?
- Do buyers need to do additional work to use the product?
- Are there any expectations about the offer before purchase?
The goal of answering all these questions is to get in the mind of your potential buyers and understand how they think when they want to buy something. These answers will guide your content marketing strategy, so you can provide useful and relevant content in all stages of the buying journey. Not only that, but your sales team can better prepare for potential questions and concerns your customers might bring up in the last stage of the process.
Create a Content Marketing Strategy Based on the Buyer's Journey
The point of inbound marketing is creating targeted content to get customers to you, instead of reaching out and trying to make them interested in your offer. This means that content creation should be a key element in your marketing plan. Here are the goals you need to reach in each stage:
- Awareness stage – help the customer name and define their problem. Do so by creating educational and informative content in a form of blogs, videos, infographics, etc. This will help you establish trust and position yourself as a reliable source.
- Consideration stage – help the customer research and find options to solve their problem. Do so by creating content that compares and contrasts various options, describes and explains how solutions are beneficial, gives an overview, etc. This content can be in a form of blogs, videos, testimonials, webinars, checklists, etc.
- Decision stage – convince the buyer that your offer is the right one for them. Do so by providing additional information about your company and the offer, answering their questions, and addressing potential concerns. Provide whitepapers, use cases, and case studies about the product, and offer free trials and demos.
Keep in mind that the type and form of content you decide to create will depend on what you know about your buyer persona. Everything you do and create depends on their unique characteristics, needs and goals, so don't follow any fixed online template. The buyer's journey should reflect your buyer's thinking.
How to Measure Success in Relation to the Buyer's Journey
To determine how successful you were in mapping out the buyer's journey and creating content aligned with the three stages, there are certain metrics you can look at.
Ranking well on search engine results pages is the key to success in the awareness stage. Besides that, you can look at reach, impressions, page views, unique visitors, bounce rate, time spent on page, the success of the social content/newsletters, etc.
You want to determine whether your content was valuable to the reader and if they browsed the website for more info. Don't forget to track asset downloads, return to pages, comments, and engagement in general. Finally, you want to track how many deals you closed, and if you managed to upgrade or upsell your customers.
A buyer's journey map helps you communicate with your customers better. Instead of creating content randomly, based just on popular keywords, you're able to answer your customers' specific questions in a particular stage. Don't miss out on the opportunity to provide your customers with the value they need.