How to plot a buyer’s journey that maximizes your revenueBlog, 02/02/18
When you think of the words “the buyer’s journey,” it’s very likely that you’d think that is something straight out of a gimmick book.
As intimidating as it may sound, the buyer’s journey is a crucial part of your business.
In fact, it is one of the more important frameworks to apply to your marketing strategy which when done properly will dramatically improve the sales and revenue of your business.
Buyers usually start with a need in mind; they will eventually make a purchase decision when they find a solution that aligns with or solves that need.
If you aren’t focusing on your business’ buyer’s journey already, you want to be paying close attention to everything that takes place before the purchase decision.
In today’s post, we’ll guide you through tips and strategies on building a marketing strategy that nurtures your strangers toward becoming buyers.
In this guide, we’re going to look at what the buyer’s journey is, and what implications the concept has for your business, especially when it comes to marketing.
We’ll explore the different stages of the buyer’s journey, and how you can create effective marketing approaches for each stage.
By the end of this guide, you’ll appreciate what the buyer’s journey is and how you can effectively apply the concept to your business to grow your business.
Let’s get going.
Something that you need to know before we move on
If you’re currently using a universal or a ‘one-size fits all’ marketing strategy for your business – you might have to reconsider your approach.
You have to understand that your existing clients went through a journey or process before they decided that you were the solution to their needs and problems.
Every stage of the buyer’s journey requires a unique marketing approach and you are literally leaving money on the table if your marketing strategy doesn’t cover every angle of the journey.
What is the buyer’s journey?
In summary, a buyer’s journey is a timeline that your clients will go through before deciding whether or not to work with you.
Here’s why it’s important.
This is a statistic recovered from Sirius Decision’s market research which demonstrates the effectiveness of a buyer’s journey.
“Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the buyer’s ‘decision’ is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales.”
With the advent of the web, a vast majority of modern customers are finding the information they need online to make a decision on their own. These customers have already made up their minds long before they ever reach out to you.
What can you do to take advantage of this?
You want to meet your prospective clients where they’re searching for information. You want to be the one providing them with everything they need to make the right decision.
It’s simple; you have to supply them with valuable content such as guides or blog posts (like this) that helps them in their buying process and you’ll be gradually nudging them closer and closer to buying from you.
The buyer’s journey is a concept that you can use to create a framework or benchmark for your marketing efforts.
In general, the buyer’s journey is made up of three main stages:
- The awareness stage
- The consideration stage
- The decision/purchase stage
Here’s a general overview of the 3 stages of a buyer’s journey:
- The awareness stage: Someone going from sensing that they have a problem but not knowing what the exact issue is. This can also include people who don’t realize that they have a problem and would benefit a lot if provided with a solution.
- The consideration stage: Figuring out what the actual problem is, but not knowing what can be done to fix it.
- The decision stage: Finally understanding how to fix the problem and subsequently deciding which option is best – thereby acting definitively to solve the issue.
We’ll cover the stages in more detail later in this post.
Before someone becomes a client of your business, they will go through each of the stages shown above.
If you only use a single marketing strategy to deal with one stage, your ability to influence potential clients in other stages will be drastically reduced.
Different prospects start in different stages; your current clients might be your clients because they connected with your business through your ‘decision’ content e.g trials or personal consultations.
They knew that they had a problem to solve and upon engaging with your content, they get to the conclusion that your business is the best fit for their problems.
Focusing on only one stage leads to missed opportunities and lost business. Instead, by focusing on every stage of the buyer’s journey, the potential to collect leads and convert them will increase by a lot.
To prove that statement, 60% of marketers agree that the most important of getting sales is to convert the buyer as early as possible. In addition, 74% of business deals are awarded to businesses who first satisfied their leads with the right content.
If you can be the first business to meet your client’s needs, you’ll do great. Remember, marketing to all stages of the buyer’s journey is one of the best ways to be the first company to do that.
Creating effective marketing materials for each of these stages will require that you consider the differences that exist in people, between the stages; it helps to create a buyer persona, for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
In doing so, you’ll be able to create marketing materials that match the unique needs of each stage – thereby improving results.
Why is a buyer’s journey important?
By providing value to your clients through answers at every stage, you’re able to nurture customers toward making a decision to buy from you.
Because you are providing value to your clients; you are giving instead of taking. This builds massive trust and authority in your business which leads to – you guessed it – more business.
You’ll avoid the mistakes of more traditional approaches, like waiting until they’re ready or delivering a hard sales pitch.
Instead, you can give them exactly what they need according to their particular stage and help them move in your direction.
We all know trust has a tremendous influence in today’s market and nurturing a lead according to a position on the buyer’s journey gives you the highest potential to convert them.
Here are some stats to back that statement:
- 81% of customers research online before making a purchase decision. For B2B buyers, this figure is as high as 94%.
- Customer leads generated through inbound channels such as blog posts are 61% cheaper than those generated through outbound marketing (advertising).
- 45% of companies admit that they have no clue how their customers interact with them without a buyer’s journey.
These statistics should give you a clear view of the buyer’s journey: your customers are actively searching for solutions online.Whether you can reach these customers when they search for answers will play a big role in your business’ success.
This is you come into play.
If you can map your buyer’s journey, you can create content that will place you directly in front of your prospects when they look for solutions. This way, instead of pushing your services, you are able to pull customers in by helping them through each stage of the journey.
If you are still not convinced of the buyer’s journey, here are three benefits that could help you make a decision:
- Insights and analysis: You understand your customers and their needs better which leads to better advertising and a better business model.
- Brand building: By providing valuable content for each stage of the journey, you leverage yourself as a trustworthy, helpful, and authoritative brand.
- Lower costs: Leads generated through inbound content such as SEO and content marketing have a higher ROI than those through outbound channels due to cheaper costs.
Understanding your buyer’s persona
Before we move on to crafting your buyer’s journey, it’s very important to have a buyer’s persona in place. The terminologies are confusing but bear with us for a moment.
Think of it as real feedback from real buyers; a buyer persona tells you what your prospects are thinking as they weigh their options to address a solution to their problems.
A buyer’s persona is more than just a list of details about your prospect; it also includes actionable insights about your buyers’ decisions such as their specific concerns and criteria that affect prospects to choose you instead of your competitors.
When you have insights into your prospects’ thoughts and ideas, you will align your marketing decisions through content marketing and sales with your buyer’s expectations.
In a nutshell, buyer personas help you understand your clients (and prospective clients) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different categories.
How to craft a buyer’s persona
Buyer personas can be created through a combination of market research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside your contacts database who align with your business goals.
This is an example of a buyer persona.
Here are several techniques that you can use to gather the information you need in developing buyer personas:
- Use an analytics software. Look through your contacts list to discover trends or patterns about how leads find and engage with your content. You can do this with Google Analytics or a similar analytics tool.
- Use forms or inputs. When creating forms to use on your website, make sure that you have form fields that capture important information about your prospects. For instance, you may want to ask ask each lead for information about their company size or annual revenue on your forms.
- Get in touch with existing clients and leads. Interview customers and leads, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your service. This will be the primary source of your buyer persona information.
Getting feedback from prospects and leads to craft your buyer persona
One of the most critical steps to establishing your buyer persona is to actually find someone to get the details from.
That means you’ll have to get some feedback from your target audience; how do you do that?
Here are several things that you can do:
1) Existing clients
Your existing clients are the perfect place to start with your buyer’s persona. They’ve already purchased your product and engaged with your company which makes them the perfect audience for you to get your feedback from.
Reach out to both good and bad clients. Hearing people gushing about your services is great….but you don’t want to just focus on the good side of your business.
Clients who are unhappy or not satisfied with you will show patterns or weaknesses in your business that will help you form a solid understanding of your prospects.
For example, you might find that some of these unhappy clients are more traditional and thus needs a ‘paper’ element to the service instead of being all digital. In most cases, you learn something new about your business and what your prospects’ challenges are.
Another benefit to interviewing existing clients is that you may not need to offer them an incentive like a discount or a voucher (a typical incentive for participating in surveys or interviews).
People like and want to be heard; interviewing them gives them a chance to tell you about their opinions, their problems, and what they think of your business as a whole.
Clients also like to have an impact on the business, so you may find that, as you involve them in interviews like this, they become even more loyal to your company.
When you reach out to clients, be clear that your goal is to get their feedback and that it’s highly valued by your team – you’ll gain their trust and respect along the way.
2) Prospects or leads
Be sure to balance out your feedback with leads or prospects who have not invested their money into the business yet. Your current prospects and leads are good choices because you already have relevant information about them.
Use the data that you have on hand (i.e. anything you’ve collected through lead generation forms or website analytics) to figure out who might fit into your target personas.
3) Referrals and networking
You’ll also need to rely on some referrals to talk to people who may fit into your target personas, particularly if you’re heading into new markets or don’t have any leads or customers yet.
Reach out to your network of friends, co-workers, existing customers, social media contacts to find people you’d like to interview and get introduced to. It may be tough to get a large number of feedbacks this way, but you’ll likely get some very high-quality interviews out of it.
If you don’t know where to start, try searching on LinkedIn for people who may fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you. Then reach out to your common connections for introductions.
Why should I gather feedback?
The follow-up question to pretty much every question in the above list should be why?
Through these interviews, you’re trying to understand your customers’ or potential customers’ goals, behaviors, and what drives them to seek a solution to their problems.
The same why that you ask for this section is also the same why that you should get your data from.
Start simple – ask a question like “What is your biggest challenge?” Then, spend a good amount of time diving deeper into that one question to learn more about that person.
Finally, ask them why. You learn more by asking why than by asking random questions about your industry.
How to use your research to create your buyer’s persona
Once you’ve gone through the research process, you’ll have plenty of raw data about your prospects and target audience.
The key here is to know what to do with the information that you’ve gathered.
The first step is to use your information to identify patterns and trends from the answers to your interview questions. Then, you want to develop at least one primary persona and share that persona with the rest of your team.
Here’s how you can do it.
1) Fill in basic information about your buyer’s persona
This is where you’ll fill in the basics of your buyer’s persona by filling in details such as their job status, problems, as well as interests.
Now, if you do not have enough information to fill in the buyer’s persona, you can also conduct online surveys to gather this information. Some people are more comfortable disclosing things like this through a survey rather than verbal communication.
It’s also helpful to include some patterns and habits of your persona that you may have picked up on during your conversations to make it easier for your team to identify certain personas when they’re talking to prospects.
2) Understand your buyer’s motives and purpose
This is where you’ll utilisedistil the information you learned from asking “why?” so much during those interviews.
What keeps your prospect up at night? What are they struggling with? What do they want to improve their business in the next 6 months?
Most importantly, tie that all together by telling your prospects about how your business solves their problems.
3) Prepare for conversations with your prospects
Include some real quotes from your initial interviews that demonstrate what your personas are concerned about, who they are, and what they want.
Then, identify objections that might be raised by your prospects so that your team is prepared to address those during their conversations with prospects.
Tell people how to talk about your products/services with your persona. This includes an elevator pitch that positions your solution in a way that resonates with your persona.
This will help you ensure everyone in your business is speaking the same language when they’re having conversations with leads and customers.
To help you, here’s an example of a buyer persona template.
The 3 stages of the buyer’s journey
With a clear understanding of the buyer’s persona and journey, you should be able to develop targeted marketing strategies that push people through this journey or funnel until they become paying customers.
Using content marketing to plot the buyer’s journey
If you’ve never looked at content marketing through the lens of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be surprised. This modern strategy will drastically change your approach to content marketing.
Let’s take a closer look:
1) The discovery or awareness stage
During the discovery stage of the buyer’s journey, the goal of content marketing is to create awareness of a specific problem; you want to align that problem with solutions that are related to your business.
In order to help customers solve their problem and make a decision, it’s up to your business to create content that promotes awareness and drives urgency.
For example, let’s consider a business that provides an accounting software.
During the discovery stage, their content revolves around identifying the pain points of businesses who are currently doing their account books manually, but no longer have the time to do it or are struggling with it.
In other words, the strategy of their content is designed to help potential customers recognize the problem in front of them.
During the discovery stage, you have a lot of flexibility in choosing the type of content to use for the buyer’s journey.
The most common types include:
- Research reports
- Blog or editorial content
- Tools or widgets
Basically, you would want content that supports the pain points of your prospect.
2) The consideration stage
During the consideration stage, the goal of your content is to help the prospect identify purposes for solving the problems in the discovery stage. You would also want to align that solution with specific business needs.
Using our previous example, the accounting software provider would begin to highlight their solution and how it satisfies their prospects’ relevant pain points and needs.
This is the point where the content marketing approach begins to highlight features of your product or services.
Once again, this works extremely well for service businesses; for example, you might be running a marketing business. You know that your prospects are looking for help with Facebook ads.
What do you do?
You come up with a series of content that helps them with Facebook ads. It’s that simple.
During this stage, it is good to include things like recorded:
- In-depth guides and tutorials (like this one)
- Case studies
- Comparison posts
- Podcasts or webinars
3) The decision or purchase stage
Now is the most important part of the buyer’s journey.
If you’ve done a good job of guiding your prospects through the discovery and consideration stages, you’ll have convinced them to consider your solution as the one that will satisfy their pain point.
It’s all up to you to close the deal.
During this stage, your main goal is to validate why your services and solutions are worth your prospect’s money. This can be difficult when there are many competitors, but remember that you’ve already survived the previous two stages.
Using our example, the accounting software provider would now begin talking about value and how much the prospect would save in lost productivity time and excess wages with their software.
Depending on the industry you operate in and which type of product or service you’re pushing, some of the content that you can do at this stage includes
- An irresistible offer or introductory offer
- A risk-free trial with money back guarantees
- Service demos
- 1-on-1 consultations
- In-depth case studies and webinars
A buyer’s journey template that you can use for your business
We get it; you’re probably tired of advice from blog posts that give you tons of knowledge but zero advice on steps that you can actually do right now.
Don’t worry – we have a step-by-step template for you to plug in and play for your business’ marketing strategy.
Step 1) Map the buyer’s journey with relevant keywords
Here’s a stat from a recent study by tech giants, Intel:
81% of customers search on Google before making a purchase decision.
This means that 81% of your prospects go through at least one stage of the buyer’s journey through their online searches.
You should also know that different keywords are associated with different purchase intentions. A prospect who searches for a how-to is more interested in understanding a problem and its solutions.
Prospects who search for keywords such as reviews or trial, on the other hand, are closer to purchasing a solution or very near to the decision stage.
If you have a list of keywords, it is wise to separate them into different categories depending on the searcher’s intentions. These categories roughly correspond to the three stages in the buyer’s journey.
The example below should demonstrate this point clearly.
A sample buyer’s journey
In this case, we’re going to assume that we are running a digital marketing business in Australia.
A prospect lands on your site by searching for digital marketing coach in Australia on Google. Here, he finds a blog post about maximising ROI on Facebook ads.
From this blog post, he goes through a list of different websites that offer the same content as yours. Because he’s very interested in Facebook ads he decides to focus his search on other related keywords.
He types in how to improve Facebook ads ROI and finds a list of websites that are relevant to his search query. He looks at the websites and stumbles upon your website again.
Now that he’s aware of your business, he needs validation. His next search is for a Facebook ads case study. This query takes him to your blog where he finds an in-depth case study of your work with past clients.
Finally, after deciding that you are the right choice for his needs, he wants to make a final validation check before he makes a decision. He then browses through your website to have a look at your testimonials and about page.
He is impressed by your work and he trusts you even more because he’s had multiple positive interactions with your business. Because of the positive brand trust you’ve built up, you end up making a conversion without spending a single cent.
Do you see the power of a buyer’s journey?
In the course of buying the laptop, the buyer looked up the following keywords:
- digital marketing coach in Australia
- how to improve Facebook ads ROI
- Facebook ads case study
Then, after his search queries were done, the prospect then browsed through your website to have a look at your testimonials and offerings to help him make a decision.
These keywords and timeline become more targeted over time as the buyer goes from not knowing anything about the topic to searching for a particular solution to their needs.
By creating useful content for each of these buyer’s journey keywords, you’ll ensure that you are in the always present among your customers. Instead of just being another no-name marketing coach, you can be known as a brand that helps prospects throughout their buying process.
The process for mapping the buyer’s journey with keywords is fairly simple — get a list of keywords, then divide them into different stages depending on what kind of questions they pose.
Step 2) Creating content for the awareness stage
The awareness stage is all about helping the buyer understand his problems better. Keywords that go into this stage usually answer broad, problem-related questions.
For example, with the marketing coach business that we’re running above, how to improve Google ads ROI would be an awareness stage keyword for you. It’s broad and assumes no buyer knowledge of any solutions to their problems.
Plug it into your keyword tool to get lots of content ideas.
Use the following words in your searches to get awareness stage keyword ideas:
- Solve, improve, optimize, resolve, prevent, upgrade, increase, reduce
Step 3) Creating content for the consideration stage
At this stage, the prospect knows more about his problems and some of the solutions. Keywords that go into this stage either explore a problem in-depth or help prospects list out possible solutions.
For the topic that we’ve mentioned above, Google ads copywriting for conversions would be a consideration stage keyword. The prospect knows that copywriting is one solution to his conversion problems and is now looking at all possible solutions for it.
Use the following words to get consideration stage keyword ideas (the keywords are very similar to the awareness stage):
- Tool, service, product, solution, supplier, pros and cons, how-to
Step 4) Creating content for the decision stage
Place keywords that help prospects compare solutions or review a particular solution into the decision stage.
For example, after looking at all possible solutions, a prospect might want to make sure that your business is legit. To make a final decision, the prospect might look through your website to determine if you are the best choice for their problems.
They might want to see case studies, results that you generated for past clients or services that solve their issue.
Use the following words in your keyword research at the decision stage:
- Trial, offer, money-back, purchase, select, buy
As you can see, our keywords became more targeted as we advanced from the awareness to decision stage.
The final step is to create content for each of these keywords.
Step 5) Creating content for the buyer’s journey
If you’ve followed the above steps, you should have a list of keywords mapping out different stages in the buyer’s journey.
You work, however, is not yet done. To use this data, you need to start creating content for each keyword in the buyer’s journey.
- It’s great SEO-wise. Lots of keywords focused and helpful content is going to generate a higher search engine authority. This means that your website will be on the first page of the results page.
- It’s great for building your brand. When you get known as a business that helps users instead of merely selling them stuff, you’ll establish true brand authority.
To create targeted content, start by listing out each keyword in each stage. Then brainstorm content ideas as well as deciding what type of content to match with it.
For instance, it doesn’t have to be blog posts all the time. It could be an infographic, a podcast, a webinar, or an e-book.
Before you commit to a content offer, ask yourself three questions:
- Does this keyword support my chosen content type? For example, the keyword how to set-up Facebook ads do not have enough content to support an e-book. A blog post would be a better option.
- Does the content type match the buyer’s journey stage? An in-depth case study is too much when offered to buyers in the awareness stage. Make sure that the content is aligned with the prospect’s intention.
- Is the keyword targeted enough for the content? Some keywords are too broad to be categorised into a single content offer; consider dividing the keyword across multiple content offers. For example, A guide to Facebook ads can be divided into several blog posts as well as having an in-depth case study on how Facebook ads changed the business of your past clients.
Once you have this list of keywords along with the target content, it’s time to put in work and push out content to help your buyers make better decisions.
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