Understanding your buyers journey (alternatively known as buying cycle) is essential if you are trying to market and sell effectively. A lack of understanding means your marketing efforts and budget will be wasted. Here we show you what you need to know in order to market efficiently, and sell more, in order to achieve your business growth goals.
Depending on what source you read, the Buying Cycle is broken into 3, 5 or even 7 stages. We have chosen the 5-stage version, as it is the most illustrative and effective introduction.
The 5 stages are as follows:
- Information Search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Purchase Decision
- Post-Purchase Behaviour
Here is a brief introduction into the B2B buying cycle and how to adapt your marketing strategy to match it.
The first stage, involves the buyer becoming aware of an unsatisfied need, a problem or a promising opportunity. Many marketer’s frame this stage as culminating from a negative stimuli, but it is entirely possible a company may become aware of an untapped potential that is not causing them a problem.
This means you need to do your research about how your buyers start their journey, learn what they need and provide it, in order for your buyer to become aware of you and cut through your competitions marketing noise.
2. Information Search
Now the research begins, your buyer starts to hunt for information about their problem, that will help them define what they need. This is the groundwork phase; all the foundations for future decisions are laid down here. This is where your prospects are weighing up options and the pro's and con's of different solutions for their particular organisation. They may even create criteria or checklists of features they are looking for.
Marketing at this stage involves providing material that helps inform your prospects by creating content, such as checklists, that the buyer can use to help them make their decision.
It is important to remember that this is not a sales conversion zone. You will struggle to successfully pitch your solution to someone who feels uncomfortable about their lack of knowledge on what they are looking for and what is available on the market. It is important across the entire buyer’s cycle, and in particular this stage, to continue to help the buyer connect the dots. The buyer's journey should be a smooth process, self-directed but also positioning you as the go-to company for that particular solution.
This is the first sign of prospect decision-making. Buyers begin to eliminate candidates and narrow down their choices based on the established but slightly fluid criteria they created in the earlier stage.
Marketing at this stage involves providing information to help them through this stage, such as comparison documents. Having collected data from your leads by this point through the forms they fill out to download your helpful content, you can create highly tailored comparison documents, matched to your buyers situation.
The phase when the buyer makes their final decision, checking referrals, finalising scope and negotiating the terms of engagement. This phase is not as simple as it may seem, you need to be prepared for objections and have strategies to counter any problems that arise. Identifying common objections and proactively addressing them will instill confidence in your prospects.
5. Post-Purchase Behaviour
Now the hard part begins, you have to meet the buyer’s expectations and demands. There will inevitably be a positive phase following the purchase decision but you need to follow through on all your promises or things can quickly become ugly.
Additionally, the prominence of social media has merely made the influence of recommendations more visible. 92% of people will consider recommendations from family and friends before anything else. So while you are honing your offer to each of your buyers, remember that they represent more than just their own organisation, they represent their whole network of friends, family and acquaintances.
Finally, throughout the buyer’s cycle it is important to distinguish between the individual’s journey and the average journey. In general, we conceive of each buyer linearly progressing through the buyer’s cycle, but individually buyers show a lot of deviation from this standard path. It is not odd to see a buyer regress to an earlier stage or leave their journey completely and come back at a later date. You need to remember that each buyer has unique problems and a unique personality. Thus a large part of your role is balancing your general campaign with a customised user experience. For this exact reason, there are automated lead scoring platforms to keep track of where your buyer is in their journey, and serve the relevant information to guide them through their journey and increase the efficiency of your marketing funnel and therefore the return on investment of your marketing budget.
If you would like a more in depth view of the Buyer’s Journey and the marketing strategies you can use please download our free eBook below.