Buyer Journey Stages
Looking at Judi’s example, we can identify the critical stages of the buyer journey. These stages included Awareness, Research, Prioritization, Consideration and Decision.
In the Awareness stage, the prospect is coming to understand that they have a need and that they will need a company to offer a solution to that need. At this stage, it is very unlikely that they have a comprehensive understanding of that need. Even seemingly straightforward needs require greater understanding. For example, a buyer needs a new pair of shoes to replace their old shoes. Doesn’t get simpler. But even the simplest needs have criteria.
What type of shoes do they need? What brands are reputable? How much should they cost? What is the lifespan of the shoes? What other options are their within this criteria? Will they purchase the shoes online or go to a brick and mortar location?
The Awareness stage is simply the beginning. The starting point with which the buyer journey will commence. Because of this, and that no action has been taken, there is no trust to be established yet.
This is where the journey really takes off. The buyer has committed to self-educating and begins the search for information, including greater detail about their need, reputable providers, and information about the providers that will establish trust.
More often than not, this stage begins with a search engine, particularly Google. Google is unequivocally the most trusted and used source of information on the internet (see our article on the importance of Google reviews) and is considered by a vast majority of people to be their default starting point to gather information. As mentioned above in the Judi scenario, buyers are looking to self-educate, look for testimonials, case studies, photos and videos, and other educational material.
There are so many channels with which this information can be presented, but none is more important than your company website. The marketing funnel shows us that all marketing tactics eventually lead to the website, which is where credibility, authority, successes and an understanding of the prospect’s needs need to be showcased and well.
After the research phase, the prospect has a better understanding of their need and what to look for in a provider. There can be a huge chasm between the provider that choose to present their company in a clear, meaningful and compelling way, and the provider that doesn’t bother to invest properly in their online presence. Both companies may be equally good, in fact the company with the subpar online presence may be better than the other, but the perception does not match the reality. As the modern buyer self-educates and makes concrete decisions about these companies before making contact and almost entirely based on the information that the companies choose to present.
This is the stage in which the buyer throws away the perceived chaff and narrows the selection down to a few preferred vendors. It is the companies that focus on building trust with their prospects that make the cut. Offering downloadable white papers, writing informative blog posts, creating educational videos, and creating other lead nurturing pieces that ultimately lead to the buyer offering their contact information is the goal here.
Knowing that they have narrowed the list down to a few possible candidates, the buyer returns to the research phase. With a fresh set of eyes and a new found wealth of knowledge, they can read online reviews, company histories, solutions, success stories and how well the companies acknowledge their pain points with greater clarity. This is a short but vital part of the buyer journey, as it solidifies the opinions established and validates the research performed to date.
Buyers will also look at their preferred list of vendors and compare them to each other, looking for strengths and weaknesses, all helping to narrow down the final choice.
The buyer has made their selection and is ready to act. This is the point in which the buyer makes contact, whether through a contact form, email or phone. The buyer is in a powerful position. Very well informed about their need, the landscape of the industry of the providers, the company they have selected and the competitors of that company!
This is also a perfect scenario for the provider. Trust has already been established and the buyer has bought in to the messaging and solutions of the company. First contact is now not about education and romance, as the client has bought in. They are ready to discuss details, such as cost, timeline, implementation and support.
This is the dream scenario for all companies. The prospect has become a client, is thrilled with the results and now sings your praises to his/her network, and refers you business. All companies should work to achieve this client state, which comes from hard work, well produced results and exceptional, ongoing client service.