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The Buyer’s Journey: How Consumers Make Decisions in 3 Steps



Marketers know that a customer’s purchase process begins long before they hit ‘checkout’ or sign on the dotted line. Consumers go through three main stages in the buyer’s journey before committing to your offering. Understanding what happens at each stage provides insights into your customers’ motivations and purchasing habits, allowing you to influence their behaviors at every point.


Awareness


In the awareness stage, customers become aware of a want or need for a product or service. For B2B, the desire is usually fueled by a need to solve a problem.


A high-net-worth individual is not receiving the level of attention and expertise he expects from his wealth management provider. He owns several properties, businesses, and assets and is married with a family. His finances are complicated. He knows he needs a new wealth manager or financial advisor to solve his problem.


In this stage, Google comes in handy for consumers to gather information via websites, case studies, testimonials, and social media, among others.


The real estate developer may research what business advisors offer to understand better how one can help solve her problem. Because he has a greater understanding of what he needs, the high-net-worth individual may start with a search for competitors to his current wealth management firm.


The scenarios above involve intricate and complex issues that require specialized solutions, so both individuals are also very likely to reach out to their networks for recommendations and search them online.


Marketing at this stage should focus on the basics: what, how, where, who and why of your product or service. Content should be educational and informational, not sales-focused, and your online presence should be easy to find.


Consideration


Once consumers have determined their options, it’s time to evaluate them. Consumers know what they want at this stage and have developed criteria for measuring alternatives. This can involve comparing two or more potential solutions based on benchmarks like capabilities, benefits, experience, expertise, availability, and cost. Or it can be more complex, involving competitive bid or procurement processes.


Regardless of the evaluation method, a marketer’s job is to fully understand what criteria consumers will use to assess the product or service so they can provide persuasive content at this stage. Is risk mitigation or cost optimization more important? Is technology a factor? Is experience valued higher than cost?


This is where a company needs to differentiate from competitors, so it’s essential for marketers to deeply understand what their competitors are offering and what they’re saying. Content at this stage should be solutions-focused, explaining how your company solves the consumer’s problem and why your offering is better.


Decision


The decision stage is where a shopper becomes a buyer, but it’s not always so quick. Consumers know and understand their problems and have identified potential solutions. But they may still have questions or need more information to feel confident about choosing your company.


The high-net-worth individual has researched and interviewed several wealth management firms and has chosen his favorite. Before committing, he wants his wife to be part of the conversation. Similarly, the real estate developer has selected two business advisor contenders and needs her management team to choose the winner.


The focus of content at this stage is to reinforce confidence in your product or service, providing resources rather than a sales pitch.


Keep in mind that for the customer, buying a product or service is often an emotional decision whereas the selling of products or services is often done rationally. Aligning your marketing to address the emotional side can significantly help your ability to close the sale. This is a topic I will specifically address in another blog post.


Understanding the buyer’s journey helps you build customer trust by offering the content they’re looking for at each stage of the decision-making process. Following the buyer mindset, you can align your marketing strategy and tailor content to their needs so that they have developed trust in your brand when they are ready to buy.


To learn more about how to market your product or service, contact me at mblachly@grayreedadvisory.com.

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