The buyer’s journey is like a seller’s sales funnel but from the point of view of the buyer. The buyer’s journey differs depending on the complexity of the problem. Buying a book is different than buying a Wi-Fi network for your home, office or plant. For discussion’s sake we will assume moderate complexity. Consider the buyer’s journey that has four stages:
Stage 1. Developing interest: The buyer thinks he has a want, a need or a problem. He is looking for more information about the problem.
Stage 2. Gathering information: The buyer accepts the problem and believes it needs to be resolved. He understands its characteristics and bounds and begins looking for solutions.
Stage 3. Seeking options. The buyer is beginning to weigh the solutions to his problem and narrow the solutions to a few. During this stage he chooses a solution and looks for organizations providing this solution. Near completion of this stage he creates a short list of providers. The buyer will be contacted by the organization’s sales team during this stage.
Stage 4. Making a buy decision. The buyer completes an evaluation of the providers and selects the winner. B2C businesses definitely have strong Stage 4 content, B2B businesses' content plays more of a supportive reassuring role. For B2B companies unless the sales team is involved in Stage 3, the opportunity will be lost.
A September 2013 Marketwatch story: “by the time B2B buyers reach out to vendors, 70% of the buying decision has already been made – and competitors weighed, vetted and nixed.” Now with the continued use of Internet research this 70% may be even greater. This means that the sales team should be part of defining content strategy.
The business owner/marketer must know how to move the buyers along. He must know the right points to engage them and with what content. He will want to take full advantage of all of his inbound marketing resources. The sales team will play an important role in continuing the engagement. But at what points and how?
The process starts with knowing your customers and prospects. Who are they? What are their demographics? What are their interests? How do I reach them in the different stages?
Your content must be about their problems. In Stage 1 you want to help your visitor better understand and validate his problem. You will want to cast a wide net here. You will want to use social media and blogs. You will want her to see you as an expert, but low keyed. No sales material at this stage.
You want your content to address the buyer's need at each stage of the journey. Your content should hold their interest and make them feel prepared to take the next step. Your content must be prepared for their entry into Stage 3. And it must include a way for your sales staff to make contact. Your content should be supportive in Stage 4 and help answer any lingering questions for the buyer. Customer testimonials will give the buyer confidence he is making the correct decision.
Understanding the buyer's journey is key in winning business. What information do you provide buyers during their journey?