Getting and maintaining customers is the goal of essentially every marketing campaign. How do you get them interested in your products or services? When are they ready to buy? What message should I be putting into the market place to really position my company positively in the eyes of potential customers? These are all primary questions associated with the buyer’s journey, and understanding it is an essential component of sound marketing. Implementing a well thought out methodology that takes the buyer’s journey into account can help your company achieve a higher return on ad spend (ROAS) and boost your conversion rate.
For example, imagine two companies that exist in the same market space; we'll call them Company A and Company B for the sake of simplicity. Company A invests heavily in content marketing but has no unified strategy to pull its separate threads together. As a result, it publishes a ton of "awareness stage" content, but very few "evaluation stage" pieces.
Company B, on the other hand, understands their prospects' typical buyer's journey. They realize that it's not enough to simply attract consumers to their product; once interested, they must convince their prospects that the product in question is of superior quality to its counterparts from competing businesses. Thus, they regularly publish "evaluation stage" content in addition to high-level overviews.
In the end, Company B has a much higher marketing ROI than Company A. Why? Simply put: they generate content that aligns with the buyer's journey.
The Buyer's Journey: What It Is, and Why It's Important
The buyer's journey has been defined as: "The process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service." This process is typically expressed in terms of three stages:
- Awareness: In this stage, the consumer becomes aware of a previously unknown need, or a solution to a specific pain point.
- Evaluation (or Consideration): The consumer is interested in finding a solution to the problem and performs research to evaluate several options.
- Decision: The consumer makes the final purchase decision.
The buyer's journey is important because it not only gives a company insight into who is likely to buy their product, but also answers how, when, where, and why they'll buy it. Businesses use this information to develop an optimal marketing strategy that will move prospects through the sales funnel at a minimum cost to the brand.
As an example, more and more B2B companies are investing in mobile marketing and mobile-responsive web design. Why? Research indicates that some 80% of B2B buyers are using their mobile devices at various points throughout their buyer's journey. Armed with that knowledge, B2B organizations are able to make their marketing spend more efficient and effective by focusing on content creation that's optimized for mobile.
Understanding Where Your Customers Are and What They Need
Of course, once you know what the buyer's journey is and how it works, you can use that framework to glean further insights about your customers. For example, the buyer's journey methodology can help you answer the following questions:
- Where are my customers in their journey?
- What are they currently looking for?
- What type of content is the most useful to them at different stages?
- What do they need to finish their journey?
As you answer these and related questions, you'll be in a better position to develop and distribute content that matches the needs (and funnel stage) of each prospect. In the awareness stage, this could include blog posts, listicle-type articles, short explainer videos, or social media posts. In the mid-funnel evaluation stage, you'll likely want to publish more in-depth content, such as white papers, eBooks, case studies, product comparison guides, etc. Finally, in the decision stage, you may want to provide free trial offers, special discounts, or other promotions designed to close the sale.
Incorporating Customer Needs Into Your Marketing
An understanding of your customer needs will not only help you to match content types to their corresponding funnel stage, but will also inform the messaging, tone, sensibility, and purpose of your marketing materials themselves.
For instance, let's say you realize that quality is more of a pain point for your target consumers than pricing. If that's the case, you'll no doubt want to make sure that your messaging reflects the quality of your product—perhaps you'll even work to position your company as a luxury brand, or superior manufacturer. In this instance, "exceptional craftsmanship" would be a better theme than "affordable prices."
In addition, knowledge of the buyer's journey can help you to appropriately categorize your content. For example, you could divide your content creation process into three basic segments:
- General/overview: This content would be geared towards casual readers/viewers, or those consumers that are not yet in the awareness stage of the funnel.
- Niche and specific: This type of content would provide more detailed answers to consumer questions, and would therefore be suitable for interested prospects instead of the general public.
- Educational: Educational content would appeal to consumers that want to learn more about a product or service, but shy away from high-pressure sales language. Generating this type of content is also an excellent way to position your company as a thought leader in the industry.
Focusing on the needs and expectations of customers can lead to exceptional outcomes. In fact, research indicates that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than their counterparts.
In summary, it's clear that marketing around your customers' buyer's journey is one of the best ways to gain maximum return on your investment. If you are unsure about how to develop a buyer's journey for your marketing plan or have questions about how to leverage it for more effective advertising tactics, reach out to an experienced media partner for assistance.