According to a study, buyer’s today guide themselves through 67% of their journey. This is before they actually start a conversation with the vendor. It simply means that buyers these days are highly informed and have a host of sources to gather information. Also, customers do not follow a defined path to fall into the sales funnel of a brand. They approach a brand at any stage from multiple platforms and via multiple sources. Not only that, they come to a brand with different levels of awareness.
So to reach all prospects, without ignoring any, as a brand:
- you need to clearly define your customer personas clearly
- map their journey and
- create marketing collateral for every stage to help them seek you
So,before we define various stages of buyer’s journey, let’s understand what exactly is customer journey.
What is Customer Journey?
Buyer’s Journey is a series of steps your customers go through to buy the final product. It is the process of how customers interact with your brand before taking the decision of investing money in your products. Tracking the buyer’s journey is challenging. It is hard to understand how the customer is actually reaching you today. Is it by advertisements? By references from people they know? Is it through a search engine or social media? Or via customer reviews?
Various Stages of Customer Journey
To better understand the various stages of customer journey, let’s consider an example. Say there’s a company Sales Zest that makes CRM. Sales Zest wants to promote and sell its CRMs to small, medium business houses. It decides to market its CRM by generating content that would help its target customers seek the company.
Since its product offerings are not commonplace things, the company understands that it will have to generate more content that educates its target audience of how CRMs can help them manage their sales function. Let’s see how Sales Zest maps content with various stages of its buyer’s journey and reach its prospective buyers.
Spotting the Need
Prospective Buyer: Hey vendor, do I need you? Are you appropriate for me?
This is the first stage of your customer journey. Here, your buyers are
- unaware of the fact that they have a need or
- they know that they have a problem but are not able to exactly define the same
Thus, buyers in this stage either don’t know that they have a problem. Or they realize that they do have problems but are not able to define them. As a marketer or a business owner, you need to understand as to how you will market to a prospective buyer who is in the awareness stage.
Taking the above example, Sales Zest in the awareness stage needs to create more of educational content that resolves queries that its prospective buyers have. As said above, the buyer is either unaware or somewhat aware of the problem in this stage. Hence, a content that intends to push sales of Sales Zest’s CRM might cause the buyer to simply refer to some other source.
Thus, Sales Zest creates content that educates its target market about what problems are they facing when it comes to managing their sales function. How not having a CRM can lead to mismanaged sales?
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: Yes, I have a pain point?
Once your buyers realize that they have a need, it prompts them to research for more information. They can use multiple sources of information to find answers to their questions. This could include –
- searching for queries on search engines,
- reading online reviews,
- consulting friends and acquaintances,
- visiting stores for product demonstrations
Now, Sales Zest prospective buyers too might look queries on Google. Thus, it would really help if Sales Zest understand the queries that its buyers have. This way, Sales Zest would come to know the keywords its buyers are using to make search. Not only that, it will help Sales Zest create content around these keywords.
Let’s see what questions can prospective buyers of Sales Zest have:
- How can I better manage sales leads?
- Ways in which I can automate my sales process
- Best ways to improve my lead conversion rate
Given these queries, Sales Zest can now study these keywords and create content accordingly. This way, it can reach its target market and capture their interest in purchasing a CRM. Let’s see how the content pieces would look like, keeping the above queries into consideration.
- 10 ways to better manage your sales leads
- Sales process automation: 5 ways to automate your sales
- 13 best practices for increasing your lead conversion rate
Prospective Buyer: What all functionalities will solve my need? What things do I have to consider while making the purchase decision?
Here, your buyers go one step further in research. They try to select parameters would be important for them for making a purchase decision. This helps them to settle upon vendors who can serve them with best solutions. And leave out those who cannot provide the solutions they are seeking.
As a marketer you need to know that buyers use terms specific to each stage of the journey which you can use to generate content. Also, their are forms of content specific to various stages of buyers journey. According to Hubspot, you can leverage these terms and content forms in each stage of a buyer’s journey. Let’s see the terms as well as the content types for Awareness Stage.
Specific Terms That Buyers Use When in Awareness Stage
Since buyers in this stage are still trying to understand their needs, they often use opportunity or issue type terms. These include
Specific Content Type for Awareness Stage
Awareness stage should include content that educates target audiences about their needs and how they can solve them. It must be something that adds value to them and leads them to the next stage instead of pushing sales at first instance. Thus, content forms for this stage could include:
- Analyst Reports
- Research Reports
- eGuides and Ebooks
- Editorial Content
- Expert Content
- White Papers
- Educational Content
Research on companies
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: Who all are there to cater to my needs?
At this stage, your buyers are clear about the problem they face. They are now looking for solutions that can solve their pain points . Customers at this stage undertake in – depth research of various vendors who can solve their problem.
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: How are you better than the other vendors? At what price do I get the functionality I want as compared to other vendors?
Once the buyers know about the business offerings of various vendors, they get down to drawing detailed comparisons. Your buyers may reach out to sales reps of different vendors for product demonstrations. Or may register for free product trials to understand which vendors offer the functionality that solves their purpose the best way.
Let’s understand this with the help of Sales Zest example. Prospective customers for Sales Zest now understands that CRM can help them manage their business leads in a better way. They are now looking for solutions that can help them manage sales leads and automate the sales process. Here are some of the questions that Sales Zest’s prospective customers might search for on search engines:
- Key features of a CRM software
- Different types of CRM softwares
- Best CRM software
- Best CRM system for business
So, Sales Zest should create content wherein it answers such questions that its target audience is searching for on search engines. The content should be such that it adds value to its target audience. This is because if the prospective buyer isn’t getting the answer to his query via Sales Zest’s content, he/she will be put off and would simply refer a competitor for the same.
Therefore, your content should answer these questions in a best possible way, better than your competition. Also, in this stage too, you can’t be pushy about your business offering. You simply have to tell your target audience that your business offering can provide solution to problem they are facing.
Specific Terms That Buyers Use When in Consideration Stage
Since they have clearly defined their problem and are now looking for solutions that can solve their problem, they use solution type terms in this stage. These include:
Specific Content Type for Consideration Stage
Buyers in this stage draw comparisons between different product/service providers and the solutions offered by them . They consider multiple options and see what can best serve their interests. Various content forms for this stage could include:
- Comparison expert white papers
- Expert guides
- Live Interactions
- Podcasts/Web case/Videos
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: How does buying your product/ service change my current process?
At this stage, your buyers are ready to choose between the vendors for making the purchase decision. They will draw vendor and price comparisons as they are searching for a solution that solves their problem the best way. They will think of the various things such as implementation, starting costs etc that will help them make the final decision.
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: How do I buy from you?
Finally after days of in depth research, your buyers will make the purchase decision. Purchase doesn’t really end the thing. Buyers would now learn about using the product or service, tips for doing it the best way etc.
Specific Content Type for Consideration Stage
- Vendor/Product comparisons
- Case Studies
- Trial/software downloads
- Virtual trade shows
- Product literature
Prospective Buyer: Prospective Buyer: How can I help the vendor spread the word about his business offerings?
Now this is a stage you would want your customers to enter after they make a purchase. If buyers are happy and satisfied with the product or service they have bought from you, they would favor your brand. And this is something that you should work on the most.
And now that you have a clear understanding of how the buyers make the purchase decision, let’s understand how this can be used to design your sales funnel. Also, what type of content you must create as a marketer for your prospects at every stage of the sales funnel.
What Is Content Marketing and How Can You Use This Marketing Strategy?
Where to Find New Customers and How To Attract Them to Your Business
4 Tips for Building a Customer Base
Top 7 Tactics for Building Long-Term Customer Relationship