I have determined that the most important stages of the buyer’s journey to be awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and purchase. It is important to be aware of how a company communicates with prospects will vary depending on which stage of the project journey they are in. It is also important to keep in mind how long the buyer’s journey is – it typically lasts between 3 months to a year. Offers should talk about, give information or provide what the customer is looking for depending on how far along the customer is in the buyer’s journey. When I do this, it allows for the highest potential for the prospect to convert to the next stage and ultimately, a purchase.
The first stage of the journey is awareness. Once a prospect experiences a problem, he or she will seek out a solution. Typically, the problem that the prospect is having is part of a larger problem. What the prospect will likely do first is use a search engine (most likely Google) to figure out a solution to their problem. When doing this, the customer will discover through organic search (they clicked on a piece of content in the search page results) and/or a paid ad. The goal is not to push the sale (unless the prospect is in the decision stage of the product journey).
My goal in the beginning of the journey (as long as on the way to the decision stage) is to inform, educate and entertain the prospect through interesting and relevant campaigns. On a deeper level, my goal is to increase engagement (increase site visits, visit duration, repeat visitors etc.); segment new visitors by interest (and where they are in their journey); and increase top-of-mind awareness (TOMA). One way I do this is ensuring that content on the website, SEO and other marketing materials communicate to customers how to effectively solve a problem and/or includes facts about the product/solution (in general, not just the company’s products or solutions). By doing this, I position the company as the go-to authority on the subject.
At the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, I track and analyze the following: sessions, percentage of old visitors versus new visitors, and engagement (how many people visit the site, visit duration, etc.). Before I create awareness campaign I do the following: take a look at what triggered a prospect to find the website by looking at Google Analytics. I do this first because over 70% of prospects use Google during the awareness stage. Another task that I perform is surveying existing customers by looking at the number of purchases that customer is using a month (or adding a service). I also look at customers who discontinued their service or did not renew their contract. I also use online surveys such as SurveyMonkey or Typeform and ask questions like “What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?” Sometimes, I include an incentive in these emails to ensure that I receive a substantial number of responses to analyze the results.
Once I have a fundamental understanding of the triggers that a potential customer will use (problems that they are experiencing) as well as the answer to the survey(s), I create a customer persona – a representation of an ideal customer. Having one of these (or multiple, depending on how many products/solutions are offered) will determine what kind of content is needed in my email campaigns as far as style of copy, tone as well as where the audience is obtaining their information and their preferences for incorporating that information.
The next step in the buyer’s journey that I focus on is consideration. At this stage the prospect has defined their goal for solving their problem as well as when they are going to address it (typically as soon as possible). At this stage the prospect will be evaluating different approaches and methods available to solve their challenge. The goal in this stage is not to ask the prospect to make a purchase, but rather increase their interest and desire to obtain more information about the product. There are two metrics I analyze at this stage: number of site visits and duration of visits as well as webinar/learning session registrations (webinar attendees are more likely to become a customer).
The final stage of the journey that I concentrate on is the decision stage. At this stage, the prospect has defined their solution and is narrowing down a list of potential vendors to solve their problem. In this stage of the journey the prospect is also looking for information on how the product or solution works, how other people/companies like them have been successful at solving their problem and what their experience would look like if they decide to move forward with the product or service. However, there are certain variables involved that determine whether they will purchase the product/solution or not. A few of these are unknown costs associated with the purchase as well as any additional fees once the product/service is delivered. Some ways I avoid this are offering a free trial or case studies. Some methods I use to improve conversions (purchases) at the decision stage are ensuring messaging is consistent on the website, direct marketing materials and social channels as well as maximizing revenue by upselling and offering tiered pricing.
One of the final things I keep in mind once a prospect becomes a customer is to continue to offer value after they make a purchase. We want to ensure that customers have a reason to revisit the website and this also improves customer satisfaction by offering continued value (information, customer endorsements, etc.) in addition to helping turn customers into supporters of the product and company, which will increase word of mouth.