Everyone raise your hand if you’ve Googled “buyer’s journey diagram” in the past year (raise ‘em both if you’ve done it in the past month). Every time you sit down and build a plan, it’s a safe assumption that one of those slides has a buyer’s journey diagram.
The problem is buyer’s journeys can get really complicated, really fast. Models and diagrams expand until they cease to be useful, and fail to map realistically to any marketing program. Terminology and stages vary across industries, companies and people. At the end of the day, that diagram you painstakingly mapped into your 2019 marketing plan starts to look like the devil incarnate.
It’s time to take back control.
Start with simplification. The buyer’s journey can be broken into three stages: awareness, consideration and decision.
The awareness stage
Awareness refers not to awareness of your company, but to awareness of a problem. Executing this stage well is critical. If your prospects aren’t aware they have a problem, they’re never even going to start the buyer’s journey.
Last time we talked about getting to know your target customers as a separate entity from your company. From that exercise you should have a solid understanding of what problem your prospects face. Now take it a step further, and ask “Do they even know it’s a problem?” and “If they do know it’s a problem, do they know it’s solvable?”
If your prospects are completely unaware of the problem, consider starting your journey with something like a research brief that examines the issues caused by that problem, and how they impact operations. If your prospects are aware of the problem but think it’s just a fact of life, consider an eBook focusing on the technologies that are changing how companies approach the problem. Either way, your content should focus on the problem (not you) and changing your prospects’ perception of it.
The consideration stage
Now that your prospects recognize they have a solvable problem, they’ll move into the consideration stage. With a complex problem, there are often multiple ways to solve the issue, so consideration is a two-step process:
- consideration of the type of solution (hardware vs. software, flying vs. driving, take-out vs. delivery)
- consideration of the solution provider (Cisco vs. Juniper, Southwest vs. United, DoorDash vs. GrubHub)
Prospects do a lot of research in this stage (think of how many Google searches you did before buying your last personal laptop). Brands need to insert themselves naturally into the research process. This is done by creating branded educational content that subtly presents a persuasive argument for your solution type. Reviews, independent case studies, research papers and forums are all resources that prospects rely on through the consideration stages.
Understanding what content your prospects seek out during this stage will allow you to create custom pieces to proactively address their concerns, and offer real-world evidence of solutions. In order to ensure prospects naturally find your content, SEO optimization for specific searches is critical. Similarly, raising brand awareness via strategically targeted ads pushes you top of mind and encourages prospects to actively research you during the second phase of the consideration stage.
The decision stage
Finally, we come to the decision stage — where your prospects decide which solution and provider they are going to use. In B2B industries, this final stage usually falls to sales, but as marketers, it’s important to understand which assets sales will need so they can drive it home.
Here, the details matter. How exactly does your solution compare to alternatives? Realistically, what does your solution look like in practice? Demos, competitive analysis and technical customer references are good assets to support the decision stage.
Building your buyer’s journey correctly
The most important thing when building your buyer’s journey is to work in order. Often, marketers collect existing assets and scatter them along the buyer’s journey. While this can work, you’re often left with gaps in critical areas.
A better approach is to outline your journey, identify what types of assets your need for each stage, determine if you have existing content that maps to those needs, and then plan content to fill the gaps. Working through the buyer’s journey this way also gives you a good starting point with your partners: instead of asking for a specific product, talk with your representative about the weak points in your buyer’s journey — you may find the product you sought out isn’t the best for your goals.
Next week: Peek behind the curtain at how SDxCentral approaches our buyer’s journey
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