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Understanding the 4 Stages of the Buyer's Journey

September 25, 2017

 

The buyer's journey is one of the most important yet least-understood marketing concepts. It seems like a simple idea -- charting the steps that a customer takes from awareness to purchase. However, it's easy to overlook or misinterpret important aspects of this journey. It's common for business owners to leave out or underemphasize individual elements of the buyer's journey and fail to recognize areas where they need to make changes. Here's a look at the four main stages of the buyer's journey and why this process is so critical to your success.

 

Make Targeted Customers Aware of Your Business

 

The first stage is awareness. If your potential customer doesn't know you exist, he or she can't buy anything. There are many ways to increase awareness, such as paid advertising, content marketing, social media, offline marketing, and others. A critical point here is that it's not enough for just any buyers to know about you. You need to connect with the right audience, people whom you can help and who are seeking what you're offering. That's why targeting the right audience is a crucial aspect of this stage. Creating a comprehensive buyer persona helps you do this more effectively. This profile describes your typical customer. Although buyer personas are fictional, they still help you clarify who your customers are.

 

Convincing/Converting

 

If you've ever used analytics on a website, you understand the problem of getting lots of traffic but having a low conversion rate. That's an example of succeeding with the first stage of the buyer's journey (awareness) but failing with the second: to convince and convert. In some cases, this is a result of poor targeting. It can also mean your landing page isn't compelling or your email doesn't have a strong call-to-action. However you do it, your goal is to convince these targeted customers that your product or service is the solution they need. This task entails not only providing solid benefits and information but also presenting it in a way that's appealing and easy to understand. Visuals, including images, videos, and infographics are often very helpful for this.

 

Closing Sales

 

It's all too easy to lose buyers at various stages of the journey. People can enter your sales funnel, even place items in your shopping cart and still never complete the deal. The analogy with offline sales is the customer who seems convinced but walks out the door (or hangs up the phone), saying "I'll think about it." Having a straightforward and customer-friendly closing process is important. Online shopping carts must be easy to use, with pages that load quickly. Other tips to make more sales include offering many payment and shipping options and having a responsive website that works for all devices.

 

Satisfying the Customer

 

Technically, once you've closed the deal, the journey has come to an end, at least for that sale. However, it's better to look at the buyer's journey as a dynamic and ongoing process. If the customer isn't satisfied, he or she might request a refund, which is a backward step in the buyer's journey. Furthermore, satisfied customers are likely to return and recommend your business to others. Satisfying and delighting customers starts with a great product, of course. You can enhance this by offering outstanding service, which might include fast shipping and prompt answers to any questions. Unannounced bonuses are always nice as well.

 

Pay Close Attention to Each Stage

 

When considering the buyer's journey, it's important to realize that the stages often overlap. That's why you might see the buyer's journey described in slightly different ways and with a different number of stages. It is imperative to focus on each step and look for both strengths and weaknesses. Most businesses can identify parts of the journey where improvements are in order. For example, if you're not getting much traffic to your website, you have to work on the first stage. If you're losing many customers before they hit the "buy" button, then you have to work on closing sales more efficiently. By breaking the sales process down into phases, it's easier to pinpoint issues and improve your results.

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