One of the most peculiar things we find when dealing with new clients is their lack of formal consideration for how a buyer navigates through their buying process. This is not to say they don’t know how they sell – they have a very good intuitive feel for it. But when we start digging deeper and asking specific questions about the different phases and timeline of a typical buyer, they have troubles articulating what they intuitively know. It’s difficult to create effective marketing materials if you don’t understand what your buyer’s journey looks like, and many businesses make the mistake of trying to use their marketing to define – and not support – their buyer’s journey.
What is a Buyer’s Journey?
Every buyer goes through a “journey” when they’re buying something. A buyer’s journey isn’t literally going out to a store and buying something, but the mental process that starts when they realize they have a need and start thinking about finding a resolution.
The buyer’s journey may not even include an actual purchase. The buyer may decide that solving their issue isn’t worth the money it’ll cost or they’ll find a way to do it themselves. Say someone has a scratch in the side of their car and they want it removed. They get quotes from the local body shop and find it’s going to cost upwards of $1,000 – money that they can’t afford right now. This is an example of the buyer not making a purchase, but their journey included identifying the problem (I want that scratch on the side of my car removed), investigating solutions (getting quotes from several body shops to remove the scratch) and making a decision (I can’t afford it right now so I’ll live with it).
Alternatively, the buyer might have bought a scratch removal product from the local hardware store and tried to remove the scratch themselves at a much lower price point.
Whether or not they bought something at the end of their journey, they were looking for a solution to a problem that they had. Going from identifying the problem to deciding on a resolution is the buyer’s journey.
Different Types of Buyer’s Journeys
Buyer’s journeys can come in all different shapes and sizes. Some can take minutes, some can take months. Some can be spontaneous, some can be very deliberate.
Here’s an example of a very short buyer’s journey: you’re driving down the street, you see a Tim Horton’s and have a sudden urge for coffee, you swerve into the parking lot and before you know it you’re back on the road with a cup of steaming caffeinated goodness in your hand.
The total lifespan of this buyer’s journey? Maybe five minutes, depending on the lineup at the drive-through. How many steps did this journey involve? Three: see coffee, want coffee, buy coffee.
Consider a different buyer’s journey: a new engineering graduate looking to buy their first car. This process could last months (and we specifically chose an engineering graduate because they tend to be very thorough and analytical in their decision making process) and involve a painfully high number of phases: researching all available possibilities, comparing performance, analyzing initial purchase and on-going operating costs and affordability, compiling reviews, investigating prior quality issues for each manufacturer, test drives, more test drives, price shopping … the list goes on, but they’re all important considerations in this particular buyer’s journey.
When imagining your buyer’s journey, there are always going to be exceptions. There’ll be the engineering student that will have a much shorter and much faster car purchasing experience. There’ll be the person sitting at their desk humming and hawing over which coffee they want and where they want to get it from. But what you’ll likely find is that most – 80%, say – of your customers will follow a very similar path on their way to making a buying decision.
Your Marketing Should Support – and not Define – your Buyer’s Journey
The most important thing to understand about the buyer’s journey is that the buyer sets it. There’s a common temptation for businesses to try and define the buyer’s journey for them – they’ll try and point the buyer to a next step that is convenient to the seller, and not the buyer.
This is where marketing fails.
Instead, your marketing platform should have a strong call-to-action that is consistent with the buyer’s journey. You can have secondary call-to-action’s to snag those buyer’s following an atypical buying path, but your primary and most visible call-to-action should be in line with what the buyer is thinking, even if they don’t realize they’re thinking it yet.
If you’re building a website, your primary call-to-action might be urging the site visitor to call a sales rep or customer service agent. If you’re selling online, the call-to-action might be to add a product to a shopping cart. This also works with offline marketing – if you’re a sales rep who received a call because the buyer was looking at your website – the next step might be to invite them into your store or office or set up a product demo.
Understanding your buyer’s journey and aligning your sales process with it is important for successfully nurturing prospects into customers. Most of your buyer’s will follow a very similar process in identifying a need, searching alternatives, and making a decision, so maximize the effectiveness of your marketing materials by using them to support the buyer’s journey. Trying to define the buyer’s journey with your marketing materials is a losing proposition.
If you find that your online marketing isn’t converting visitors into prospects, it might be because it doesn’t align with your buyer’s journey. We bring a strategic approach to helping businesses build solid online marketing platforms, including building websites, content marketing, social media marketing and pay-per-click marketing. If you’re looking for help to align your internet marketing to your buyer’s journey, give us a call at (905) 456 – 4606 or send us an email, we’d love to help!