When you’re involved in the inbound marketing world, you hear the phrase “buyer’s journey” a lot. It's used when we discuss audience personas and when we try to figure out where to find prospects and how to reach out to them. But in case you need a simple, clear picture of what the buyer’s journey truly is, or you want an easy way to explain it to your clients and coworkers, listen up.
Content is great, but you need context to make it all count. The context for content is the buyer's journey itself.
Understanding the buyer’s journey is the key to knowing when marketing and sales should be involved, and also how they should be working together. It determines how you work to help your prospects along their way and breaks down into three phases:
The 3 Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
Overview: Your persona knows that they have an issue, but they need to determine what it is specifically, in order to begin looking for the right solutions.
Buyer questions: "What’s wrong? How do I fix it?"
The awareness stage is about letting your audience know that you are a valuable and credible source for the answers they seek. Buyers are busy scouring the internet to learn more about how other people have experienced similar problems and come through successful. The read blogs, ask their colleagues and reach out to see who can help them out.
Provide them with the stories and guides they are looking for, so that they know you understand their need, and are prepared to address it.
Overview: Your persona is on their way toward finding a solution, but they want to make sure they have all of the background information they need to make a well-informed decision.
Buyer questions: "Who can help me? Do they address all of my concerns?"
For a B2B company, this is the stage where you become even more involved in your buyer’s journey. It’s where they take the leap from skimming your website to actually reaching out to you, and you need to be ready to reach back.
The buyer is gathering all of the information they can get regarding the solution they need, all while checking out those possible solutions and seeing if they stack up.
By seeking out new solutions and tools, the buyer learns about the functionality and capabilities a solution needs to have if it is going to help them succeed. Their list of solutions, despite seeming endless, is actually becoming narrower as the buyer determines that some no longer cover their needs.
Overview: Your persona has done their research, and has narrowed their choices. They only thing left to do is to buy.
Buyer questions: "Why buy now? Why buy from you?"
The buyer is ready to purchase, but needs those last few fears calmed, and those last few questions answered. They are looking for comparisons – ways to see how one solution or tool is better than another. They need assurance that they are making the very best possible choice, and need help getting over any last hurdles.
Be transparent about how your solution stacks up against the others, and don’t let them go digging for that information elsewhere. Transparency helps you seem more trustworthy. Give them demos or trials when possible, and let them know exactly what they can expect from your service.
If possible, offer them a guarantee, one personalized for your offer or product. Help them know that they are safe in your hands and that their problem will be solved, without a doubt.
How to Leverage the Buyer’s Journey
Every business is different, and the needs of your buyer will vary as well. Just as you need to know who your buyer personas are, you need to have a clear understanding of the issues they face, the questions they have and, most importantly, how they interact with your business along that journey.
Learn more about how buyers seek your company out as a valued resource. Determine what touchpoints you will have with them as they go along, and make sure they are getting the answers and help they need at each stage of their journey.
Creating content and workflows to back up each stage of the buyer’s journey can be a lot of work, but it’s the heart of inbound marketing, and it’s how you attract your audience by helping them along their way.
If you aren’t sure where to start, get to know your personas better. Sit down with other key executives, and work to answer who your target audience is, what their pain points are and how they go about seeking solutions to their problems. (Psst! The persona worksheet template below is a great starting point.)
Have any insights into the buyer’s journey that help you address your own audience’s needs? Comment below, or message me on Twitter.