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In this era when a wealth of information, good and bad, is at our fingertips, the consumer has more power in the buyer/seller relationship than ever before.


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Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

In this era when a wealth of information, good and bad, is at our fingertips, the consumer has more power in the buyer/seller relationship than ever before.

There was a time when B2B buyers had only industry advertisements, trade shows, referrals from peers and trade groups, and perhaps tradeshow acquaintances to help them make a purchasing decision. Today, they have all those plus social media, blogs, YouTube reviewers, influencers, and an overwhelming number of sellers on online marketplaces all influencing their purchasing decisions. Smart consumers can make a purchase knowing they’ve done all they can do to make sure they are getting the best product at the best price. With so much power in your buyer’s hands, suppliers must inform themselves as well by understanding the buyer’s journey.

Understanding the buyer’s journey means relating to the consumer. It means putting yourself in their shoes—which shouldn’t be too hard; we’re all consumers, after all—in order to understand how they make purchasing decisions. Where do they get their information? Which information do they value the most? What factors help them move from considering a particular product to actually buying it? What makes them return for another purchase or decide to buy from someone else next time? Analyzing the stages of the buyer’s journey helps us answer these questions.

The Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey is a process that follows a consumer from becoming aware of a need to addressing that need. It comprises five steps:

1.       Awareness

2.       Consideration

3.       Intent

4.       Purchase

5.       Retention

As you read through the steps below, use your own experiences as an example. Perhaps you could think about the last purchase you made where you went from low information (i.e. “headphones”) to a great deal of information (“wireless Bluetooth headphones with good bass response, long battery life, and comfortable foam ear cups for under $150”), and the articles, videos, and opinions that helped you make your decision.

Awareness

The buyer’s journey begins when the client realizes they need something, whether it’s a new diamond program or a new jewelry line. They may start with their industry resources, or, they may head to Google armed only with general terms: “diamond programs,” “earring programs for retailers,” “designer jewelry collection.” Most companies devote a lot of marketing resources to this phase of the customer journey, using search-engine optimized (SEO) content and targeted ad services to push their products to the top of search results.

Consideration

General information-gathering will give the consumer a knowledge of some of the brands and products that can help fill their need. They’ll come across blog posts, watch YouTube videos, read reviews from experts and consumers alike, ask their friends and family, and visit company websites. They’ll end up with a good idea of the range of products and services available, and more and more lately, even their price options.

Intent

Now that they have brought together this wealth of information, the buyer narrows down their options. They will compare price, specifications, customization options, and less tangible factors such as their emotional connection with the product and the brand.

Purchase

If you’ve put in the work to understand your ideal customer and their needs, then you’ve done all you can at the point where the consumer makes their decision to buy. But the journey doesn’t end here. Once you gain a customer, you’ve got to work to keep them.

Retention

The work to retain a customer begins even before the Awareness stage. It begins with having a clear brand identity and marketing strategy that will attract the right customer, and it continues with offering a great product that the customer will love and an experience they will want to repeat. Follow up the sale with great after-sale customer service, including returns and inventory balancing information, training materials to share with end consumers, and a newsletter campaign specifically tailored to your new accounts.

Breaking Down the Buyer Journey

So what exactly can you do with this information? As you read through the above stages, a few strategies may have occurred to you already. Here are a three simple steps you can take to make the buyer’s journey as rewarding as possible.

1. Know Your Customer. You can solicit customer feedback through surveys. If you express a desire to get to know someone and build a relationship with them, they are often receptive, especially if they love your products and identify with your brand.

Once you have a good idea of who your customers are, you can use that information to create a buyer persona: a fictional representation of the type of person most likely to buy from you. All of your marketing efforts, from ads to website design to product descriptions to social media posts, can be tailored to appeal to this buyer persona.

2. Cover Every Touchpoint. The areas listed above—places and situations in which the customer will interact with your company—are touchpoints. In the digital age, the buyer’s journey is increasingly nonlinear and multichannel, so you have a lot of bases to cover. Think about the various stages of the buyer’s journey from your customer persona’s point of view. They will likely interact with the following:

  • Google ads and other types of online ads
  • Promotional emails and newsletters
  • Review sites
  • Social media
  • Trade shows and salespeople

Content on your website, including blog posts, articles, and product pages

All of your content should direct a potential customer to the next step in the journey and convey a clear and consistent brand identity. After making a sale, for example, direct the customer to leave a review online.

3. Make Necessary Improvements and Adjustments

The desires of B2B buyers and the ways in which they interact with and discover brands and products are dynamic, so you have to be ready to adapt to make the customer’s journey to your products as easy as possible. Feedback surveys will be helpful here, as well, as you work out a customer’s decision-making process and the steps they took to find your products (social media, web searches, word of mouth, and so on). You might try ads targeted to different buyer personas, with different landing pages for each one. Ads often require a lot of tweaking and experimentation before you discover an approach that works.

Marketing is about more than getting your product in front of everyone’s eyes. With so much information and competition online, it’s important that you know which type of retailer you want to attract and how to attract them. That means knowing where they are online, what their price range is, what would make them willing to pay more for a better product, what factors help them choose one product over another, and what sort of values or type of personality they want a brand to convey, as well as the more typical demographic information. Understanding the steps of the buyer’s journey, knowing your ideal customer, and making sure you have all of the touchpoints covered will help make sure that the customer journey ends at your door or your website.