Hassling your prospects is pretty much one of the worst things that you, as a business, can do. Buyers, don’t want your unsolicited demos, they want to find more information which will help them make a decision.
That’s why the buyer journey is so important for companies, like yours, to understand. Without a plan of how to manage your prospects at each stage of the buyer journey, you’ll likely end up annoying them right into the arms of your competitors.
So, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, with our comprehensive guide to the buyer journey and how this can add a tremendous amount of value to your business in the eyes of your potential customers.
What is the buyer journey?
The process we call ‘the buyer journey’ consists of three phases which a customer must progress through in order to make a purchase. These three phases are awareness, consideration and decision.
You must ensure that you’re able to effectively support and equip them with the information they need to progress through each stage and onto the next one, which is unique to every business.
The buyer discovers that they have a problem or requirement which is not yet met. Once the challenge or opportunity is identified, they will prioritise its importance. Businesses will need to define the following to equip themselves with the right knowledge to support the buyer at this stage.
- Define how buyers describe their particular problem or objective
- Specify how buyers learn about tackling their challenge
- Identify the key consequences of a buyer failing to act on their a problem
- Any misconceptions which exist around the key challenge
- Establishing a process which buyers undertake to determine which challenges should be prioritised
The buyer has a distinct understanding of the cause of their problem, is able to define it and conducts research to find a solution.
Within this portion of the buyer journey, buyers will undertake an evaluation of the methods and approaches they have available to them to effectively pursue their resolution.
- Research the variety of solution approaches which a buyer might investigate
- Build a picture of the education channels buyers use to understand these approaches
- Determine how a buyer perceives the pros and cons of the various approaches
- Understand how buyers resolve which approach is right for them and their needs
The buyer chooses the most appropriate solution, whether this a product or service, which follows on from a period of researching and defining the benefits and deterrents of each approach.
A company should undertake these steps to ensure they have sufficient understanding and supporting materials to meet customers needs at the decision phase.
- Create a list of criteria which is used to evaluate their options
- Understand what buyers like and value about your company over your competitors, by defining what they perceive as your USP and other elements which could put them off
- Define how many people are typically involved in this type of decision and strategise how a variety of perspectives will alter the final decision outcome
- Ensure that there is sufficient understanding of any buyer requirements to ‘try-before-they-buy’ to reinforce a decision
- Plan for any additional preparations required on the part of the buyer such training required or execution plans
How does the buyer journey add value?
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all, you now need to think about how specific types of buyers decide you are the right company to meet their needs. Through this ‘journey’ a buyer makes a number of decisions and based on the type of purchase, there may be more or fewer questions asked.
Every stage of the buyer journey is important, as it guides the customer closer and closer to converting or making a purchase. Through building rapport, you can keep reinforcing the reasons why a buyer should choose you over however many other companies are offering them the same type of thing.
Understanding the buyer journey allows you to be more capable of building rapport with existing and potential buyers, which can reduce customer churn and increase revenue.
When customers feel like you understand them, their needs and can anticipate them before they become a problem, they’ll be more likely to make a purchase and trust you to deliver time and time again.
Moreover, the better the rapport, the higher the value your buyers will attribute to your brand. This means they will be more willing to share and communicate with you, offering you access to a wider range of unique customer data, not available to your competitors.
Finally, the key value that understanding and mapping the user journey is the ability to better lead score your prospects and create high targetted content which will support your customer’s questions, queries and concerns and help them move towards the end goal.
Your leads can be assessed and served the right content to help support their movement through the journey and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.
Developing your own buyer funnel
During the buyer journey, customers only actually engage with suppliers fairly late in the process. The average purchase decision is 57% complete and over ten sources consulted for information by the time customers come into contact with brands. When it comes to more complex purchases, customers also typically engage later with brands, meaning they have to be ready to serve them the right content to seal the deal.
How does lead scoring work?
Lead scoring is a method of categorising and prioritising prospective customers. It allows you to determine the quality of each prospective lead, in order to better sort through them and decide which are worth nurturing and which are not.
Once you have a score for each lead, you can do a better job of nurturing that relationship and guide them closer towards making a decision or a purchase. You can better prioritise who to focus on first and allocate the right amount of resource and time to each lead, based on their likeliness to lead to a sale.
You will need to develop a nurturing process for your leads who are not ready to be sold to, which should consider if you’re already in contact with them or not. This will allow you to develop key assets which will encourage your prospect to invest more time in your business and understand your capabilities better.
Explicit scoring: Also known as demographic scoring, explicit scoring is the information you have collected or that has been submitted by a prospective lead. This might mean you rank your leads based on the industry they work in, for example, with those in a certain sector scoring lower than others because past data suggests they are less likely to convert.
Implicit scoring: Also known as behavioural scoring, this scoring method is based on what your prospective leads are doing on your website or any other sales channels. If they are regularly viewing particular products, putting items in a basket for checkout but not following through or have downloaded a PDF, you may score these actions differently. Your lead scoring will allow you to differentiate between prospective customers and casual browsers.
Negative scoring: Often used alongside a combination of the two above methods, negative scoring should form part of your overall methodology. By deducting points from the leads, overall score when they perform a ‘negative’ action such as unsubscribing from emails helps you better rank your leads.
Deploying your lead scoring
Ensuring you use the right lead scoring approach is the route to increasing your lead-to-opportunity conversion rate. Your lead scoring approach should include a particular set of rules which will determine if a lead qualifies or not.
The average number of rules used within lead scoring is about 20, which when combined with other marketing activities, such as content marketing and where rules are regularly reviewed and amended, is recognised as a highly effective method for achieving better results.
Identifying form data capture options
Data capture forms allow you to create simple methods of capturing user data, which can be used to optimise your lead scoring capabilities.
Information gathered from these forms allows you to determine the quality of a lead and allocate them with a score accordingly.
You can then track that leads individual activities, for example, if they fill out the form then download a piece of content from your site from a designated landing page, this lead score may increase due to high intent. Whereas a different combination of interactions or lack thereof may result in a decrease in lead score.
Gathering information on a leads job title, company, size of the company, sector and specific demographic information, where relevant, will allow you to disregard or assign a lower score to anyone who falls outside your desired target.
The opportunities to capture form data will be different for every business. Where it makes sense for one company to create downloadable assets, such as ebooks, to capture user data, it may be more appropriate for other brands to undertake data capture using a feedback form which then sends the user a discount code.
The types of exchange for data will vary depending on your business, your customers and your industry.
Nurturing your customer segments using workflows
Any decent marketing automation should be utilising workflows to optimise the nurturing cycle. They allow you to carry out a range of activities including accurately allocate personas to the right person to nurture the relationship at the point in the cycle. Ensuring you have these systems implemented allows you to continue to ensure value is added for the customer at every stage.
Workflows can be used to nurture your leads through a number of ways, using tags on each contact to determine which workflows they enter, allowing the most relevant materials to be distributed to them at the most appropriate times.
- Tailored welcome emails for each persona type, which showcases only the elements of your business which they are interested in.
- Follow-up emails based on their browsing history, cart abandonment, or any similar activities which demonstrate an interest in purchase.
- Re-engaging with older leads, via email, to update their preferences or encourage to amend their subscription preference to ensure the company doesn’t become a nuisance
- Bespoke content based on their segmentation, which suggests similar content that may be valuable to them, using snippets within the email body copy to demonstrate justification
- Building pillar pages based on content to target specific audiences, to initially engage with them, increase their awareness and offer resources to expand their knowledge on the subject
Now, we’ve covered the basics of lead scoring, the buyer cycle, nurturing leads and how to use workflows, it’s time to understand how to capture leads at various points in the buying cycle, through the use of advertising and content marketing.