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What is the buyer’s journey?

by Carol Ann Tan on July 25, 2018

buyers-journey-sprkdIf you’ve ever talked to marketing folks, you may have heard the phrase “buyer’s journey” bandied around a lot — and if you’ve found your way to this post, you’re probably looking to gain a deeper understanding of what it means. So let’s break it down!

Defining the buyer’s journey

We really like HubSpot’s definition: “The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service.”

So the buyer’s journey maps out how your prospects and leads go about their research and make buying decisions. This framework is an essential tool to guide your marketing efforts: According to Adweek, 81 percent of people will conduct research into what they need and what will resolve that need before committing to a purchase. Your marketing will be more effective if it’s targeted to what your prospects are looking for.

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The typical buyer’s journey can be broken down into three stages:

  • Awareness: The buyer realizes that they might have a problem or opportunity.
  • Consideration: The buyer has clearly defined their problem or opportunity.
  • Decision: The buyer is ready to choose a solution.

Let’s take a closer look at what the buyer wants at each stage — and how you can create marketing content to address those needs.

Awareness stage

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The Awareness stage is also called TOFU — no, not the protein! TOFU is short for “top of the funnel.”

Buyers in the Awareness stage are doing lots of research to figure out what their pain points even are. They’re usually only looking for information from neutral and reliable third party sources — and definitely aren’t ready to hear a hard sell.

At this stage, your marketing content should aim to educate readers. It needs to be helpful and easy to find. So you’ll need to know:

  • What questions are your ideal customers asking?
  • Where do they normally look for answers?
  • How do they prefer to receive new information?

You might be tempted to take a more aggressive approach, but keep in mind that anything more (such as a direct sales pitch) might cause an awareness-stage buyer to lose trust in your brand — making it impossible for you to move them further along the buyer’s journey.

Examples of effective TOFU content offers:

  • Blog posts
  • How-to articles
  • Research reports
  • eBooks

Creating awareness-stage marketing content: An example

Paul is the CEO of a small but fast-growing startup. His staff has been struggling to manage its workload efficiently, and he wants to make sure that they won’t fall behind on important deadlines.

Your company has developed a cloud-based project management app called Track’d for small businesses. You know that your product would be perfect for someone like Paul — if only he were ready to buy! But you can give him a little nudge in the right direction.

Paul’s spending a lot of time trawling Google to figure out why his team keeps losing track of project assignments and deadlines. To help him out, you might write a blog post discussing “10 ways to help your employees manage their time,” and then include a call-to-action at the end that points him toward deeper related content.

Either way, you’re not singing the praises of your own app just yet — but you are helping Paul diagnose the problem he’s facing.

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Consideration stage

Also known as MOFU (middle of the funnel), the consideration stage kicks in once buyers have figured out their problem and are committed to resolving it. Now, they’re ready to evaluate the different solutions on the market.

At this stage, you still want to provide people with information that will help them make the best possible decision. But you’re also working to build a relationship with the buyer: You’re persuading website visitors to return, and nurturing prospects into leads.

Examples of effective MOFU content offers:

  • Comparison white papers
  • Live webinars
  • Downloadable expert guides

Creating consideration-stage marketing content: An example

After conducting extensive research, Paul has realized that he needs to hold his staff accountable by using a strong project management tool. Now he’s looking for the right tool — and is weighing the pros and cons of various solutions.

Thanks to your strong awareness-stage marketing content, Paul knows about Track’d and sees your brand as an industry thought leader. But he’s also found other great options on the market, which is why he wants to keep researching to make sure he picks the one that’s right for his business.

At this point, Paul will want to compare features and overall value — and how well those features complement his business’s unique needs. For example, because Paul’s business is growing rapidly, he wants a solution that can easily scale. To address his concerns, you could release a technical white paper that compares cloud-based apps to software solutions.

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Decision stage

We’ve made it to BOFU (bottom of the funnel)! Here, the buyer has finally settled on an ideal solution to their problem — they just need to feel confident about investing in a particular brand. They want to know that you can deliver ROI and are at the right price point.

At this stage, your marketing content should directly promote your product or service. (Yes, finally!) You’ve earned your leads’ trust, which means it’s time to unequivocally demonstrate that your stuff kicks ass and that other people have had a terrific time working with you!

Examples of effective BOFU content offers:

  • Vendor, product, or pricing comparisons
  • Case studies
  • Free trials/demos
  • Live consultations

Creating decision-stage marketing content: An example

Paul has finally decided that a cloud-based project management app is right for his business: He loves how his account can easily scale up or down according to his needs. Now he just needs to find an app that delivers the most bang for his buck.

To assuage Paul’s concerns, you might send him a case study demonstrating how Track’d help boost a client’s work efficiency by 46% in just six months. You might follow up with a 14-day free trial — because you know Paul will love it once he tries it.

Why your content strategy needs buyer personas

As we’ve discussed in this post, successful marketing content is tailored to your prospects’ needs during every stage of the buyer’s journey. But how can you pin down what they really need? The answer: Buyer personas.

In our FREE eBook, “The Complete Guide to Developing Buyer Personas,” we’ll walk you through the basics of what buyer personas even are and how you can create your own from scratch. Download it now!

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