Imagine you’re a GP and you have three patients come into your practice. One of these patients thinks she might be pregnant; the second is an older man with tonsillitis; the third is a teenage boy with an ear infection.
Do you give them all pregnancy tests?
Of course not. You would give advice and prescribe medicine based on the patient’s individual health problems, depending on what they need when they come to you.
We employ a similar diagnose-and-prescribe model in inbound marketing. It’s called the Buyer’s Journey.
The Buyer’s Journey helps you to understand that your buyer personas – your target customers – can be at different stages in their journey when they first come into contact with your business.
By understanding this and taking steps to find out which stage they are at, you can then provide relevant and targeted solutions for those specific individuals. Like the GP, you can ‘diagnose’ the problems your potential buyers are having and provide them with the correct ‘medicine’ (content).
(It’s worth noting that you might not think of your ‘buyer’ as a buyer; you might call them a client, a prospect, a contact… the list goes on. We use the word in a very general sense – we’re talking about anyone who has the potential to generate profit for your business. If you’re in a non-profit situation, then perhaps your ‘buyers’ are potential donors instead).
Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
We model the buyer’s journey as three stages:
- The Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they have a problem.
- The Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- The Decision Stage: The buyer chooses their preferred solution and looks for somebody to provide it.
Let’s look at a quick example. If you sell air conditioning units, then a buyer in the Awareness Stage has realised that they are hot. That’s all. They’ve not realised that they could solve their problem by buying an air conditioning unit yet, and they’re certainly not looking for somebody to buy one from.
Once they reach the Consideration Stage, they’ve clearly defined their problem and are researching the different ways to solve it. Perhaps they’re trying to decide between buying a simple fan and an air con unit.
Finally, in the Decision Stage, they’ve decided to buy an air con unit and are looking for the best vendor – should they buy a freestanding Samsung unit with automatic climate control, or a wall-mounted model from LG that has swivelling blades?
Think about this for a moment – how does the Buyer’s Journey apply to your business? What do your stages look like? Does your marketing target each stage of the journey, or are you missing something?
According to MarketBridge, 76% of B2B buyers prefer to receive content that’s tailored to their buying stage. By providing your buyer personas with content that is specific to their stage of the buyer’s journey, you ensure that you engage prospective customers, wherever they are in their journey.
Many companies focus the vast majority of their marketing on the Decision Stage – assuming the buyer is already ready to buy when they discover them. But this is a missed opportunity. By targeting potential buyers in the earlier stages of their decision making process, you have the chance to capture their attention early on and lead the buyer all the way through their journey, from Awareness, to Consideration, to Decision, eventually bringing them to a sale – and profit for you, not one of your competitors.
If you were creating content for a customer in the Awareness Stage of the buyer’s journey, you would first choose which buyer persona you are writing for (see our blog on buyer personas), then you would ask yourself questions like these:
- How does my buyer persona describe their goals or challenges? What type of language would they use when researching these goals and challenges online? Do they seek ‘tips’, ‘guides’, or ‘reviews’?
- How does my buyer persona educate themselves around their goals or challenges? Do they search online? Or do they rely on word-of-mouth?
- What objections might my buyer persona have to addressing their goal or challenge? You want to know what their doubts are when creating your content. They may not know exactly what their goal is, so your content should build trust by ensuring that your buyer feels their doubts are heard. This gives you an opportunity to reassure them and encourage them into the Consideration Stage.
In the Consideration Stage, the buyer has a clearly defined goal or challenge to address and is actively researching solutions. When creating content at this stage, ask yourself these questions:
- What solution categories does your buyer persona investigate? (This is where the buyer’s search begins to narrow into categories of solutions available, not necessarily from your business).
- How does your buyer persona educate themselves on the various categories? (Bear in mind that half of shoppers spend at least 75% of their total shopping time conducting online research). It’s important to know which websites your buyers use to narrow down their search. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora? This will help you decide on the form that your content should take and the way that you should distribute it.
- How does your buyer persona perceive the pros and cons of each category?
- How does your buyer persona decide which category is right for them? (The answers to both of these questions will depend on the specific needs of the buyer persona – their goals/challenges, buying habits, and concerns).
In the Decision Stage, the buyer has narrowed down their search to one solution category and is deciding which solution from this category is right for them. Ask yourself:
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offerings? Do they like comparisons, technical data, or recommendations and testimonials?
- When buyers investigate your company’s offering, what do they like about it compared to alternatives? What concerns do they have with your offering? Understanding their concerns about your product will help you to reassure buyers and build trust in your offered solution.
- What is so special about the solution that you offer? Make sure that you effectively communicate your solution’s unique selling points (USPs) in your marketing materials.
When creating your content and distributing it, having an understanding of not only who you are talking to (your buyer personas) but what they need at their stage of their journey is key. By taking the time to consider these questions when creating a piece of content, whether it is for a buyer in the Awareness Stage contact who has never heard of your brand, or a lead in the Decision Stage who is about to make a purchase, you can diagnose your customer’s problems correctly and ensure you can offer them the best content ‘medicine’.
Do you consider the buyer’s journey when producing content or when engaging with your prospects? Let me know in the comments below – it would be great to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to chat about how the buyer’s journey applies to your business, feel free to drop me a line!