What is the Buyer’s Journey?By Courtney Hinz
If we want to successfully usher consumers towards choosing our solutions and products, then it goes without saying that, we need to know their purchasing path. In short, this means being aware of the consumer’s entire journey and the steps that ultimately lead them to purchase a product. If we, as salespeople and marketers, are pushing answers to questions buyers are not asking, or are offering to solve problems they’re not aware that they’re experiencing, all we’ll end up with is wasted resources and annoyed contacts. Understanding the buyer’s journey and being able to assess and address the exact point that our contacts are at will help us:
- Understand the concerns and needs of our target base, and of each individual we’re selling to
- Offer content and solutions specifically tailored to each contact’s situation and market
- Focus on genuinely delivering value and ensuring success for clients, rather than just worrying about our own short-term sales numbers
- In the long run, reduce churn and establish our brand as one that truly delivers dramatic and lasting results - in other words, our solutions will start to sell themselves!
There are a few ways of mapping out the buyer’s journey, and in the article below we’ll cover the most widely known model (the traditional buyer’s journey), the model based on the modern marketplace (Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT), and the cutting-edge model that is slowly being recognized as the one to beat all others (product-led growth). While not necessarily mutually exclusive, each model has its own emphases, and, depending on your business, you may find some tips and structures more helpful than others as you think about how to best get your product or solution into the hands of your potential customers.
Traditional Buyer's Journey
The Traditional model of the Buyer’s Journey is most often represented with three stages, though it can have up to five - rarely (but occasionally) even six. We’ve chosen to represent a buyer’s journey that consists of four stages, including one on the end that we feel is too critical to be neglected. These four stages of the traditional buyer’s journey include:
- Loyalty (sometimes called Advocacy)
The first stage is called awareness for two reasons:
1) your potential customer may not be aware of your company or solution, and
2) your potential customer may not even be aware of their problem (or the potential improvement to their business that you could offer them).
The awareness stage is the time for them to become aware of their problems, and possibly (hopefully) become aware of your solution as well.
Awareness can be brought on simply by business owners encountering road blocks, but can also come about through the efforts of marketing; in other words, candidates may not be aware of a problem until you open their eyes to it.
At this point, a prospect is aware of their problem, and begins actively looking for solutions to solve it. They may not initially know how to address the problem, or if any help exists; their consideration may start with trying to figure that out, and then grow more specific as they go along. Though it can happen at any point of the process, ideally the prospect finds your business at this point, if not before. If they miss you here, you may have to increase your marketing efforts, and will definitely have to review your online presence.
While we’ll talk about this more below, these days, the consideration stage is much more involved and generally takes longer than it has in the past. The internet offers prospects the opportunity to be more informed consumers, and they are taking advantage of it. This is why being present and clearly visible on the web is no longer optional for agencies and SMBs. If you don’t show up at any one stage of the buyer’s journey, you fall off the train right there and get eliminated for the rest of the trip - including the purchase decision.
At this point, the prospect definitely knows the direction they’re headed in, they just need to decide who is going to take them there. They’ve likely whittled things down to a few options and are just trying to figure out which is best for them. They’re probably dissecting websites, reading reviews, talking to salespeople, and reading comparison charts, all leading to them ultimately making a purchase decision. If you’re doing your job and making sure they get the information and relational reassurance they need, then congratulations! Your prospect has now become a customer!
This stage isn’t included in all models, and may not apply to all industries, but it’s a very important one for the groups that it does apply to. Churn can be a major problem for some agencies and businesses, and if you want to address it, you need to continue your marketing strategy past the purchase decision. This involves consistently demonstrating and reminding customers of your value, and paying close, personal attention to all your customers’ needs. Not only will this reduce churn, but it will also add momentum to your original marketing strategy as your satisfied customers organically become brand ambassadors and advocates.
To foster brand loyalty, partner with clients to genuinely make their business grow, rather than just focusing on your own sales figures. Keep communication lines open, and check up on them often to make sure your products still fit their needs and discuss if there are any additional issues you can help them with. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and feedback, encouraging your customers to spread the word of their success to others.
In 2011, Google recognized a shift that was happening in the way consumers were making purchases. Briefly mentioned above, consumers whose purchasing decisions were previously made at the mercy of word-of-mouth and traditional advertising, were now equipped with the tools to become deeply informed about the products they were purchasing. Namely, the buyer’s journey had gone digital. Google recognized that businesses had to shift their marketing strategies according to this new consumer environment, and came up with ZMOT, or the Zero Moment of Truth mental model of marketing (this is now sometimes called micro-moment marketing).
They began with a popular traditional mental model of marketing, the FMOT (or First Moment of Truth). Originating with the marketers at Procter & Gamble, this model involved three stages:
- First Moment of Truth (Shelf)
- Second Moment of Truth (Experience)
In the stimulus stage, the consumer encounters the product through advertising (perhaps a television commercial). In the second stage, the first moment of truth or “shelf” stage, the consumer comes face-to-face with the product in a physical shopping environment (maybe they see a feature product display in their favourite big-box store, while out shopping with their family). They purchase the item. They then move on to the second moment of truth where they use the product and find out whether or not it delivers on its claims, and decide whether or not they are satisfied enough to purchase from this brand again, or tell friends and family to.
Many of us will remember these days, and probably still take this route for some smaller-investment items. However, according to Google and Shopper Sciences’ research, the average shopping journey looks very different now.
It is in-between the initial stimulus and the face-to-face first moment of truth that Google identified a new stage: the Zero Moment of Truth.
Check out the two brief videos below to learn what ZMOT is, and find out what it could mean for your agency or business.
Check out this video for a cupcake shop and their experience with ZMOT in practice:
You may have heard the term “product-led growth” buzzing around lately, particularly in the SaaS marketplace. So, what is product-led growth? According to Openview, it is when:
“...product usage serves as the primary driver of usage acquisition, expansion, and retention, meaning these companies can forgo spending large sums on traditional marketing and sales activities. Instead, they rely on the products themselves to supply a pipeline of satisfied users and ‘hand raisers’ they can turn into paying customers.”
In other words, product-led growth is about delivering value first, and asking for paying commitments later. It’s about being concerned first and foremost with delivering results to all customers, both paying and non-paying, rather than just looking at superficial sales numbers from one quarter to the next. It’s about having a product that’s so strong, you have complete confidence that a free sip of your Kool-Aid will have clients so wowed by the value it delivers that they’ll be knocking on your door to get more of it.
More straightforwardly, product-led growth gives customers a chance to try your product either through a bare-bones version, or a free-trial of the full features. This invitation is offered in a way that makes it as simple as possible for the customer to try you out - no entrance paywall, no salespeople, and no complicated contracts. This low-to-no-commitment invitation gets far more people in your door than you would otherwise, and lets customers personally experience the value of your product before they have to fork up any money for it. When they do eventually hit paywalls, they will be far more accepting and willing to pay as they have already experienced the benefits of your product and know what they’re getting into. Therefore, it is the product and its recognized inherent value that leads your customers deeper into your platform, rather than a salesperson hammering through hypothetical presentations that still require potential buyers to take a bit of a leap in the dark.
Want to learn more about Product-Led Growth? Read our Guide to Product-Led Growth here.
As mentioned, the above ways of thinking are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There are ways of combining ideas from all three buyer’s journey models to create a journey map that makes sense for you and your industry. In fact, doing so will ensure you have a sales paradigm that your team can truly internalize and build an effective marketing strategy around.