Inside the Buyer's Journey
The framework of the buyer’s journey must align with your marketing
“Everybody lives by selling something.” It’s a quote attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson, who gave us such literary classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped. Stevenson was also the creator of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. What he meant by the quote is that we all go through our lives exchanging things of value, in both the literal and metaphorical senses.
We’re a buyer when on the other side of the exchange, and getting to that buy is a journey. The most successful of these exchanges occur when the buyer and the seller both feel they’ve received equal value. The exchange is a process that occurs over time and most of this on the buyer’s end happens at an unconscious level. If you’re a seller, you need to know the framework of this buyer’s journey, because it must align with your marketing.
What induces a total stranger who knows nothing about your product or service to become a customer? They go through a process. First, they become aware of you. Then, they evaluate you. Finally, they purchase your product or service. During these three steps they go from stranger, to prospect, and then finally to customer.
We started with Robert Louis Stevenson for a reason – and it goes beyond what he said about selling. Stevenson was a storyteller, and as a seller, you’ve got to be a storyteller, too. At each point in the buyer’s journey, you’ve got to be telling the right part of the story to bring people along as they deepen their relationship with your product or service.
Here’s the thing about being a buyer: we all have an intrinsic idea of what’s involved. We know when we’re being prospected. We know when someone is trying to close us. Those are necessary steps, but we prefer that they’re not right in our face, right off the bat.
In fact, we usually don’t even notice these tactics when a seller tries them on us if we’re not interested in their product or service. The New York Times reports that we’re exposed to about 5,000 marketing and advertising messages daily – and that’s up from the 2,000 we were exposed to back in the 1980s.
Which are the ones we remember?
- Those relevant to a problem we believe we have – which deepens the awareness stage of our buyer’s journey.
- Those which might help us consider and evaluate solutions to the problem we’ve validated.
- Those which provide us with information to make a buying decision.
We forget the rest of those messages or simply tune them out. Think about this for a moment. The number of marketing and advertising messages for, let’s say, refrigerators, don’t suddenly and magically appear because you wanted a midnight snack and found that your Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey was a room-temperature soup in the freezer. Those messages have been washing across your attention all this time. They just didn’t become relevant until you discovered the problem. Thus begins step one of the buyer’s journey.
The awareness stage
This is the one most sellers want to ignore, but they do so at their peril. Your solution might be perfect, but a total stranger probably doesn’t care. At this stage, they’re seeking out more information about their problem.
Freezer not working. Chunky Monkey ruined. Do I need a new refrigerator? Should I get it repaired? How do I even know it’s a problem with the refrigerator? Might it be a problem with the electrical wiring?
Buyers at this point in the journey are likely not overly interested in the features and benefits of your refrigerator, or anybody else’s. They’re more interested in figuring out the actual problem they have today. They’re looking for perspective. They want to be educated on what to look for to determine the next step in their journey.
Your storytelling for people at this point in their journey has to give them education and perspective. It has to be useful.
The consideration stage
In a funk because of my ruined Chunky Monkey, I go online. Oh, wow. Here’s a couple of informative articles that provide me with actionable information. I plugged the blender into the outlet and it worked fine. Based on what I read – and the video was really helpful, too – it looks like the compressor might have burned out. If that’s the case, I’ve also learned that because my refrigerator is about a decade old, it would actually be better and probably cheaper to replace it than repair it.
I know my problem. It’s been validated. I’ve been educated. I have perspective. Now I’m ready to evaluate the best way to solve my problem.
This buyer has crossed over into the consideration stage.
And, you know what? I’m going to head back to the source of that information that helped me nail the problem. They’ve built up some trust with me.
Your storytelling for strangers now must switch to informative and educational information for prospects. What should a prospective refrigerator buyer look for? How should they approach deciding on a safe and secure place for future, beloved containers of Chunky Monkey?
Yes, you’ll do some initial selling here – especially if your solution has a specific appeal to prospects. Maybe your refrigerator’s freezer has a special compartment made to store ice cream at just the right temperature so you don’t need an ice pick to serve a bowl. You’d definitely devote some of the storytelling to advise ice cream-loving prospects they should look for models with this feature, right?
The decision stage
Thank you for not chasing me. I appreciate your help and information. I also feel like I’m the one who found you. With your content, you told me what to look for – and it turns out that you offer exactly what I should get. Imagine that.
Your storytelling for potential customers should now focus on helping them validate their buying decision. You’ve helped them commit to your solution. Now you have to justify the reasons for the purchase.
The power of inbound marketing
Everyone does live by selling something. Successful marketers also know that we prefer to sell ourselves. That’s at the heart of inbound marketing. When done correctly, it provides storytelling – also known as content – that accompanies people and helps them traverse each stage of the buyer’s journey.
After the purchase, there are further steps in the journey that also involve storytelling. More content helps you to retain customers while inducing them to become your advocate.
A variation of the customer’s journey is at the heart of every great story. The protagonist encounters conflict and becomes aware of a problem. The protagonist defines the problem and considers solutions. And, finally, the protagonist decides to act on the solution. We’re pretty sure Robert Louis Stevenson would have loved the Internet, and he would have recognized the strategy of inbound marketing.
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