We all buy products based on two criteria: need and want.
For example, maybe you ran over a nail on your way to work, and your tire exploded – it looks like you need to buy a new tire. Or perhaps you don’t like how your tires look and think you should buy sports tires – it seems like you want new tires.
As a consumer, we are driven by these needs and these wants.
We juggle them together and make financial purchases based on a multitude of factors.
The process that each person actively goes through before buying a product is called the buyer’s journey.
While there are many variations of this journey, there are specific paths that an individual takes when they begin pursuing a company they are interested in.
If you have a company and are selling a product, you must provide for your customer’s needs and wants while also understanding their buyer journey. Understanding your active buyer’s journey and their specific customer personas will give you the most success from your growth marketing efforts.
To keep it simple, there are five specific stages within the buyer’s journey that almost every buyer goes through. While their wants and needs vary between customers- the overall journey from awareness to conversion often overlaps.
Table of Contents
Within the awareness stage, the buyer realizes they have a need or a want for a product. (Ie, do I need or want new tires?). Then, depending on the urgency within their need or want, they begin researching how they can solve this problem and meet their specific requirements. During this awareness stage, known as the top of the marketing funnel (TOFU), the buyer performs general research.
They are looking at Google, reading articles, and searching for content related to the search. If you have a product that falls within the purview of their search, you want them to find your brand. To get within the scope of a buyer within the awareness phase, you need to have relevant content that they will find within their search parameters.
Your content needs to be available for anyone within TOFU looking for answers or solutions to their wants and needs. The awareness section must highlight your business’s expertise and insight by providing specific content to move buyers to the next phase of the journey. Also, keep this content light and informational – not preachy and salesy. You don’t want to scare them away! Types of content that can be helpful within the awareness stage are:
- Social Media Posts
- Landing Pages
If you managed to get your product under the potential buyer’s radar, your foot is in the door. While it’s not a completely done deal, the consideration stage is when your potential buyer compares your product against alternative solutions. They will evaluate your pros and cons against competitors. Are your tires just as good? Do you have sport tires? What is the cost? Will it meet my need? Will it fulfill my wants?
Your buyer will intimately scope your offerings, looking for answers to their own needs and wants. At this point, you will need to provide content that showcases specific advantages your solution/product provides over competitors in the market. They will do a deep dive on all of your published content, testimonials and reviews, and compare your assets with competitors.
Often called the middle of the funnel (MOFU), this stage is where your business needs to provide answers to your buyer’s problems. You must be the expert. You need to provide the solutions, and you need to get in that door a little further. Your business should also offer free content in exchange for contact information, so you can begin to curate and send out personalized content. Types of content that can be helpful within the consideration stage are:
- Cost Calculators
- Research and Reports
Hooray! The customer converted, and they decided to choose your business to fulfill their wants and needs. This conversion could be an actual purchase or just a download of an Ebook – but if they completed the desired action you wanted them to achieve – it is considered a conversion.
Considered the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), the conversion is also called the decision phase. This is when they have created a relationship with your business and trust in the product you will provide. At this stage, you want your customer to feel good about the product they are buying – so give them a little boost. Offer the products that are helpful within the conversion stage, so they feel comfortable about their purchase.
Customers who make it to the conversion stage must feel that your product is superior to the other solutions they did not choose. To accomplish this, the content you present must positively differentiate your product from the pack. Some types of content that can be helpful within the conversion stage are:
- Free Trial Offers
- Product Demos
- Case Studies
You already made the sale, collected the money, and closed the door, right? Wrong. Retention is a vital part of the buyer’s journey – and the business they interact with. According to this SemRush study, an average of 68% of new customers come from current customers. This means that over half of your future business is in the hands of past buyers. If you fail to keep these buyers engaged and informed of new products, deals, or sales, you are hurting your chances of retaining that business.
To keep past customers engaged, you must continue to provide value. This can be accomplished through educational content, promotions, free products, or personalized deals. Since acquiring new customers is more costly than retaining older ones, you need to keep this bottom of the funnel content fresh, relevant, and enticing. Types of content that can be helpful within the retention stage:
- Customer loyalty program
- Newsletter with member-only deals
- Personalized content
If your friend refers you to a product or a service – would you be more willing to try it over an unknown source? Of course. People respect peers and friends, and if a product or service is referred to them by someone who sings its praises – they may immediately move down the funnel and directly into conversion.
In fact, new customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate than those acquired through other means. To capture these potential referrals, offer referral discounts or money off of the next purchase. Anything to get your current customers to buy your product. Types of content that can be helpful within the referral stage:
- Special promotions
- Free trials
Create a Journey Map
As we discussed earlier, your customers do not follow the same buying journey. While they will eventually phase through the awareness, consideration, conversion, retention, and referral steps – they do so at their own pace. They can also get stuck at specific places within the journey or fall out of your funnel entirely.
To more intimately understand your buyers’ journey and have physical documentation for your business, you should create an effective journey map. Journey maps are just that – a visual representation of your customer journey that tells the story of your customers’ experiences across all compelling touchpoints. It is a very informative exercise that will help your businesses step into your customer’s shoes and view your business from their perspective. It also provides you additional insights into any customer pain points and gives you examples of how you can optimize and improve your processes.
Just like the customer journey, you can have multiple journey maps for various customers. Each journey will be different from the customer who needs your product right now to the one who a friend referred. While creating a journey map takes time – it is a great exercise that helps you intimately identify your specific customers and how they interact with your brand, from awareness to retention.
Your Buyers Journey Should Never End
When your buyer moves from awareness to retention, their journey is not at an end. Most buyers are not impulsive. Even the one who had a tire blow out on the side of the road and needs new tires will go through an extensive decision-making process before converting. Since we know that the buyer’s journey isn’t linear, it’s crucial for your business to always present answers to problems for potential customers – no matter where they are within their buying journey.
You need to seriously consider every piece of content you present at every stage of your buyer’s journey. Knowing your audience and how to deliver content the right way within the buyer’s journey is critical for the success of your business. With the right mix of content, encouragement, and engagement, you will be able to find, encourage and support your buyers throughout the journey and ensure that they keep coming back for more.
It doesn’t matter if your buyer is looking for a need or a want. What matters is that you have the right tire at precisely the right time.