What is the buyer journey?
The buyer journey consists of the steps people take to end up with a product or service – aka the road to purchase. As marketers, we often term people on their buying journey as prospects.
Why is the buyer journey important?
- A smooth buying journey gives prospects the right content at the right time to help them move through the purchase cycle
- By having a process, you better anticipate their problems, become better equipped to solve them and are more likely to win the sale
How can you implement the buyer journey?
Regardless of the model you follow – and we will touch on some here – you need to break down the customer journey into three key stages:
- Awareness – I have a challenge and want to solve it
- Consideration – I am trying different solutions and comparing them
- Decision – I desire that solution, and I’m buying it!
In order to create the awareness, consideration, desire and, ultimately, the purchase in your buyers, you need to understand their journey.
Buyer journey mapping
Mapping your buyer journey is a simple idea, yet harder in practice. While the journey will almost certainly not end up being linear, starting with an A-B approach will get you off to a good start. There are templates you can download to create a visual version of your buyer journey. Your ultimate aim is to map everything out from the first interaction to the final touchpoint.
Buyer journey or customer journey?
You can map both, starting with the buyer journey and turning your focus to the customer journey once you have a solid bank of customers. The customer journey in the next chapter covers this phase in more detail.
- Awareness: where do our customers engage with us?
- Consideration: who and what will influence their decision?
- Decision: where are they buying? What methods do they use?
The point for marketers is to understand what buyers/prospects are doing at each stage:
- What spurs buyers to the next stage?
- What are their motivations?
- What emotions are they feeling?
- What questions do they have?
- What’s stopping them?
Let’s take a simple example. You know you want to buy a new car, but aren’t sure what you’re after. You type ‘cheap reliable small cars’ into Google and become aware of cars A, B and C. You then look up reviews about each car, and stumble on a car A vs C comparison video. Finally, you decide that car C best fits your needs.
That’s a classic linear example, but as we’re all aware, it doesn’t always happen like that. As buyers, our actions may come across as fickle, causing marketers to scratch their heads as to why a seemingly hot lead went cold so quickly.
For example, you can easily find yourself in the final stages of the consideration phase, only to move straight back to the awareness part. Let’s say that you put a final question to your network about whether they’d buy car A or C.
A friend suggests neither, and comes up with car D! In fact, they’ve just bought one, and love it so much that they refer you to their dealer. As a result, you’re short-circuited back to the awareness stage but, with this word-of-mouth approval, the consideration part doesn’t take long and within a week you’re the proud owner of car D. Hooray!
But the big question is: why didn’t any dealer sites mention car D in the first place?
The buyer journey – getting it right
Here are our 6 tips to ensure a smooth buyer journey:
- Integrate your systems – so customer information flows naturally from one stage to the next. Don’t ask them to re-key information or start afresh each time they talk to a different agent. The harsh fact is: your customer doesn’t understand or care about your data silos. How many times have you been told “oh, my system’s being slow today!” to cover up the fact that, actually, the poor agent is being forced to look up different systems and folders to find the information they need to answer your query?
- Omni channel is the key – offer to deliver a personalised experience across all channels, on- and off-line, on the right channel for your user. It’s no good having a seamless digital experience if your customer is greeted with an answerphone message when they try to actually have a conversation with you.
- Don’t rely on automation – but use it to support the journey. Recognise when a face-to-face call is better than a chatbot.
- Be a stickler for continuous improvement – testing and optimisation covers how to use data insights to see what’s turning buyers on (and off). Once you’ve mapped your buyer journey, it’s just as important to monitor its impact and to make adjustments to keep your buyers on the right track.
- Consider website visitor tracking – a dedicated tool can help you identify details about your website visitors, such as the size of company, and the industry that it operates in. This provides you with an extra layer of data for hyper-targeted campaigns based around data on prospects that are already familiar with your company and in the market for what you offer.
- Enable contact scoring – Utilising contact scoring allows you to score your contacts based on their engagement, which can then help your internal teams to prioritise the leads you communicate with. For example, you may have a ‘red hot’ lead who has just requested a demo, who needs to be contacted by sales immediately, or you may have a ‘cool lead’ who hasn’t been on the website recently and needs warming up via a lead nurture email series.