The buyer’s journey has evolved in recent years. This is particularly the case in 2021, a year when 100% of corporate operations will handle online. These days, consumers are more informed than ever before, thanks to the vast amount of information available online. As a result, the balance of power has shifted towards buyers in most sales conversations rather than a company or a sales representative. This is why pushy sales and marketing tactics are no longer as effective as they used to be. Statistics have shown that buyers always go through specific steps before making their final purchase decision. To put this into perspective, about 70% of a buyer’s journey is complete before they even reach out to make a purchase.
Some significant B2B trends have been around for a while. On the other hand, others have only just emerged in the remote-first business environment. This change is due to the demographic makeup of the buyers themselves, with 60% of buyers being millennials and 2% being from Gen Z. This matters significantly because the younger generation of buyers behaves very differently than the older generations. For example, they’re more likely to find a product through searching online. When evaluating products, they’re also less prone to rely on analyst reports and rankings.
What is the buyer’s journey?
Since modern marketers understand that the purchasing process is considered a journey, multiple industries have now coined the advance through the process, “the buyer’s journey.” The buyer’s journey describes a consumer’s progression through a research and decision process. This process ultimately culminates in a purchase. Consumers do not just wake up one day and decide to buy something on a whim. They go through the process to become aware, consider and evaluate, then decide whether or not they want to purchase a specific product or service. Given that there are so many companies and brands out there, this process is crucial.
A buyer’s journey can vary from one industry to another. For this reason, it is essential to know the different processes. After all, the stages through which B2B and B2C buyers pass through before they arrive at a decision can differ. By understanding all journeys, the pain points and problems customers experience, and the factors that influence their thought process, you can have a better connection with buyers. Additionally, you can position your product or service to fit the needs of their potential consumers.
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The Stages of A Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey can be broken down into three “stages.” Each of these stages accurately describes how consumers advance along their path to a purchase decision: awareness, consideration, and the decision. The process starts with them becoming aware that they have a problem, followed by them defining their problem, considering the product or service options to solve it, and evaluating and deciding on the right business to provide a solution.
The Awareness Stage
During the awareness stage, a buyer is experiencing a problem, either physical or mental, and their goal is to solve it. They start their journey with an “aha moment,” which could be a problem with the status quo, a process or tool that is broken, or the need to upgrade a tool for the better. While this may seem counter-intuitive, this is a crucial moment for the buyer because they finally understand what is wrong and have ideas about potentially fixing their problem. That excitement can be a driving force for buyers and help make their purchasing experience a positive one.
At this point, they are looking for resources that will provide them with information for them to understand clearly, frame, and “give a name” to their problem. The resources designed to help buyers identify their problems easily include blog posts, infographics, guides, whitepapers, reports, videos, and eBooks. Through research, either online or through recommendations, they can understand the problem they are facing.
Marketers can help buyers through the early phase of their journey by providing the right content and guidance. A great place to start would be providing educational content around common business problems and how a company’s product can provide a solution. Awareness call-to-actions are great because they allow a company to become a source of credible information that helps buyers in their research, allowing them to build a foundation of trust. It is also essential that the info steers clear of an overly-salesy tone and is written as an invitation to start a conversation. Calls-to-actions can be taken from a blog post, industry report, or customer review but need to be branded with the company’s name and logo and provide essential contact information.
The Consideration Stage
The consideration stage is where the buyer has clearly defined a name for their problem. They have committed to researching and understanding all the possible approaches and methods to solve the problem or opportunity. At this point, the buyer is now aware of a brand and its products or services. At this stage of product discovery, they begin their second round of research to determine which company to do business with.
The difference between this stage and the previous one is that the customer is now approaching the research process to be better informed, and they are comparing different companies with each other. While many buyers may know what the top product options are, they may lack familiarity with specific tools beyond that. This is when they will start doing their online research and reaching out to network connections for recommendations. Based on industry research, buyers first discover products through prior experience with the product, recommendations from their network, or searching online for top products. Buyers will also start creating a list of products to consider, which will soon be narrowed down to just a few products. They will also pay close attention to how much products cost, what additional features they offer, and the limitations of the products or services.
Understanding the total cost of ownership, not just the initial costs of a solution, is essential for buyers. They need to consider any additional maintenance costs other than any licensing fees, and whether the vendor will charge extra for implementation or premium support. In the current climate where buyers are trying to be more thrifty while still getting quality products and services, they desperately want to understand the pricing model and degree of feature functionality of every product or service that comes along with it. In fact, one of the main reasons why buyers disqualify products from their list is the price.
Your value proposition
As buyers start to narrow down their list for marketers and companies. It is essential to figure out how to differentiate yourself from other vendors. You need to question why buyers should choose your brand over another, what distinguishes your business from the competition, and what benefits the buyer would receive if they chose your company. It is also important to remember that the individual who conducts the study and collects the data may not be the one who makes the final choice. You need to make sure your website and content target the key decision-maker. This content should include details about your pricing and what customers may expect in terms of a return on their investment.
While it can be awkward to talk about money, this can be a crucial factor in the decision-making process. The buyer does not always choose the least expensive choice. Frequently, it is the company that explains why they are worth the extra money that comes out on top. The key challenges buyers face in this stage are having trouble truly differentiating products, and a lack of vendor transparency around pricing.
Your call-to-action should have a focus on relevance. You need to talk about your strengths and paint a picture of why you are the best choice available. This is the time to position your brand as an industry leader, be the light that sparks buyers’ imaginations, and allow them to envision what your company can do for them. Buyers are increasingly looking for information on the competitive advantages of a company’s product and their specific use case. They also want to see case studies that show a return on investment. Similarly, they want to hear from their peers and reputable third-party sources. For many people, this is where reviews come in handy.
The Decision Stage
While they have already relatively narrowed down the companies and their products or services in the previous stage, the decision stage is where buyers have decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. This is the final stage of the buyer’s journey and will usually result in a purchase decision. They have shortlisted their decision to just two or three products, and they are ready to choose one to move forward with. Buyers will turn to online resources like review websites, case studies, customer stories, whitepapers, blog posts, podcasts, and others, to compare products against one another. The research that they have done so far provides the necessary data to get to this point. Hopefully, you have provided all the information that the buyer needed throughout their journey, and your expertise has paid off.
Companies should offer free trials, forms, contact details, documents detailing the company’s solutions and approach, featured listings, testimonials, reviews, and more during this stage. These elements will provide buyers with the necessary information and help your company stand out from the crowd and have a higher potential of converting buyers into customers.
Why it’s important to outline the next steps at this stage
Regardless of whether it is a B2C or B2B buyers’ journey, it is helpful to define what happens next. For B2Bs, it is essential to outline what it means to become a client. You need to explain whether there are additional costs associated with the project. You also need to outline your company’s processes when it comes to onboarding, implementation, and development. Make sure you provide the necessary information about what customers can expect once a project is completed. The most significant potential challenge that both buyers and vendors face is the potential of a purchase or deal getting stalled or falling apart. Buyers might also still be looking for last-minute validation that they made the correct purchasing decision.
Even though you may have helped buyers reach the decision stage, you are not guaranteed to make a sale or close a deal. It’s still critical to have call-to-actions that use meaningful content to persuade the buyer to buy. Engagement can translate into action in this case. Use phrases like “start your free trial,” “request an estimate,” or “join today” to entice the customer. You can also provide demos, webinars, or further testimonials. Consider the issues that a buyer might have before making a purchase. Is there anything your company can do to help people choose you over your competition?
With the buyer’s journey constantly evolving, learning how buyers make purchasing decisions is highly beneficial. By having a complete understanding, you can empathize with prospects, calm their fears, and deliver the correct information at the appropriate moment. All these little things will help your company to close more transactions and gain more business.
At each point of the buyer’s journey, there are opportunities to speak with the buyer personally. You need to think about what you want to say as well as how valuable it will be. The first stage in building long-term partnerships is to establish yourself as a reliable resource. How helpful the information given is will be just as important as the content itself. For that reason, you should view your website and content as your most reliable salesperson. Increased conversions can be achieved by creating a website that addresses consumer needs at all three stages of the buyer’s journey.