If you’ve seen any of our recent blog articles, you’ll know that most of them incorporate a series of points about how to do something specific right or better, e.g. design a landing page, improve your SEO or supercharge your social media.
This time we’re talking about something less tangible: the “buyer journey”.
To map your customers’ buyer journey, you need to understand how and why they:
- first come into contact with your brand
- are attracted to engage with it
- eventually decide to buy from you.
At each step of the way, the risk is that your potential customer will deviate from the journey you’ve imagined, encounter a competitor’s brand, then go off on a different journey, never to return.
In this article, we’re going to explain seven essential points that you need to understand if you want to ensure your potential buyers arrive at the destination you’ve envisaged: placing an order with your business, making a sales enquiry or requesting information.
1. What the buyer journey actually is
The starting point for most buyer journeys is usually a problem of some kind that needs to be solved. Marketing, as all marketing text books will tell you, is about ‘satisfying needs’ – i.e. showing that your product or solution solves the problem.
The job of marketing is to identify those buyers just as they set out on their journey to find a solution for their need, requirement or problem.
The buyer may have a preconceived idea of what the solution is and which company they will buy it from.
But they may not.
So along the way they’ll encounter many potential solutions and providers, any or all of which may do the job.
They will come into contact with your business via different “touch points” e.g. an email, social media channel or post, an advert, website, phone call, review.
As they proceed, the buyer evaluates different potential providers based on a range of factors, building up a perception of the value that the product may add.
They may be influenced by factors such as their awareness of your brand, reputation trustworthiness, price, value for money, quality, suitability – and general “fit and feel”.
Having gathered the information they feel they need, the buyer will be ready to make a decision to purchase the chosen ‘solution’ – product or service – from the appropriate provider.
2. Why the buyer journey is important
Once you understand the buyer journey your customers are making, you will be able to better target your marketing to attract and engage these potential buyers through each stage of the journey.
You need to know:
- what these potential customers look like
- where and why their journey starts
- what end objective they have in mind
- what routes or channels they plan to take to achieve that objective
- what their needs and motivations are at each stage of their journey.
3. What your target buyers look like
Whether it’s B2B or B2C, your marketing needs to be focused on your ideal customer.
What do the profiles or “personas” of these ideal customers look like? If you’re not sure, try running a profiling or ‘pen portrait’ exercise to come up with the profile.
In B2B marketing, the profile details may include typical age range, gender, job title, place of work or residence – as well as the type of company, include number of employees, industry sector, turnover or number of offices and sites.
You can give your profile personas a name, if it helps with visualisation.
Once you’ve established this, you can begin to determine their needs and pain-points, their dominant buying motive and how you’ll fulfil their needs.
Of course, not every prospective customer will neatly and exactly match your ideal profile, but developing a picture of what the main customer groups look like is the only way you can begin to build an effective targeting strategy.
4. Buyer attraction: where and why the buyer journey starts
If you Google “buyer journey,” you’ll find many representations of a simple four-stage process consisting of the “awareness”, “consideration”, “decision” and “purchase” phases. The “discovery” phase is where the potential buyer has identified that they have a problem or requirement, so in many cases, it’s this early phase where the “intent” or goal is defined.
The starting point for the majority of B2B purchase decisions is increasingly online.
In fact, according to a report by Forrester, 68% of B2B customers research their intended product, service or solution independently online.
The job of the marketer, therefore, is to ensure that their brand can be found online – website, adverts, social media, blog, review, directory, mention – wherever the buyer is looking, in order to attract the attention of target buyers who have an intent to buy.
5. Buyer engagement: the need to establish credibility and trust
Your potential customer is now starting to evaluate possible suppliers, comparing quality, price and fit.
This is the “consideration” phase and it’s vital that you engage and retain your would-be buyer’s attention while they’re in this phase of their decision making.
Having attracted your target buyers through your brand visibility and awareness generation marketing activities, your job now is to align your business, service, product or solution strongly with the problem that they are seeking to address.
Many B2B purchases are not simple transactions.
You need to convince your potential buyer not only that your product or service can solve the problem, but also that your business has the skills, knowledge, expertise, track record and experience to deliver.
It’s about establishing and building credibility and trust.
Engage with your prospect throughout the consideration phase using content marketing to provide educational or informative content assets such as:
- Guides and blogs
- Video explainers
- Samples and trials
- Testimonials and case studies
- Social media recommendations and testimonials.
This drip feed approach to engaging your target customer as they research and compare different solutions on value, price and fit will remind them of, (and potentially help nudge them towards), your brand even while they’re evaluating your competitors’ solutions.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve requested and received a quote or estimate, never to hear from the supplier again. It’s vital to keep a potential buyer engaged beyond the quote or proposal rather than simply leaving them to make up their own mind.
6. Buyer conversion: your buyers will buy when they are ready, not when you are
A key disconnect between B2B buyers and sellers is their respective expectations of when the buying transaction will happen.
Your brand needs to be visible at the right time when your potential customer is looking. But even when a prospective buyer makes a sales enquiry, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are ready to buy today.
It’s tempting to go in for the hard sell to conclude and win that sale, but as they move towards the “decision” phase, your potential customer will still only move at the pace that is right for them.
The job of the marketer is to support that final decision with marketing materials that focus specifically on the value of your solution and demonstration of the ROI it can bring.
It’s easy to see the decision phase purely as a sales process, however the buyer is still looking for reinforcement of their decision process this far and will often appreciate any further supporting information to affirm that choosing your solution represents no risk.
7. Buyer retention: customer loyalty post-sale isn’t automatic and takes effort
The buyer journey doesn’t finish when they reach their first goal or destination (i.e. after the first purchase).
Assuming your product or solution does its job and meets the buyer’s requirement, there are still four jobs to do to engender customer loyalty:
- Making the customer feel good about their purchase
- Onboarding the customer such that service matches up to promises made
- Promoting repeat purchases (upselling, cross-selling or renewals
- Turning the customer into your brand advocate.
Of course not all product and service sales lend themselves to repeat purchase or upselling, and many solutions have very long renewal/replacement lifecycles.
But lifetime value of a customer is a sometimes misunderstood area, as businesses expect that once on board, customers remain so for life.
The key point is to ensure that the customer is made to feel that they’ve made the right decision to purchase from you, and that they feel valued (by you) for doing so. Often, a simple “thank-you for buying from us” and a small welcome gift can go a very long way.
It is incredible to think that many companies ignore or neglect new and existing customers in favour of chasing after new ones, but it’s true. Developing customer loyalty still requires a concerted effort even after the first sale is won. Continual nurturing of the relationship will yield considerable dividends down the line.
There’s also a potential opportunity to convert customers into advocates of your brand, happy to talk positively about you and recommend your solutions to others like them.
The buyer journey is a complex, multi-dimensional and multi-channel process involving multiple points of interaction.
Understanding and mapping it requires an analysis of the different phases, a managed approach to the many and varied forms of interaction with prospective buyers at each stage of the process and a defined set of marketing materials, actions and communications optimised for each stage.
To understand the profiles and personas of your potential buyers and the journeys they are taking towards your products and business, ask us about a Marketing Strategy Workshop. Email us or call 01763 877110 to kick things off.