“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there,” the Cheshire Cat tells Alice. Author Lewis Caroll’s advice holds true for marketers, too. If you want to turn a stranger into a customer, you’ve got to lead them on the correct journey – in this case, the buyer’s journey.
It’s likely not going to involve a mad hatter, a disappearing cat, or a white rabbit, but your particular buyer’s journey will have three familiar elements:
It’s your job to make sure you accompany them and provide them with appropriate information at each of these stages to help them move to the next. It’s crucial to know the journey and provide this information because it’s estimated that 57 percent of that journey is taken by a prospect before they engage with a salesperson. Many organizations, especially those who engage in B2B marketing, believe that this statistic can be much higher – from 70 percent and up to 90 percent. If that’s the case, you have to make sure you’re making a strong connection during each of these three stages.
First stage: Awareness
This stage of the buyer’s journey is often the most challenging for marketers because in this case, “awareness” isn’t about their brand. It’s about the problem. During the awareness stage, prospects are exploring the symptoms of a problem they have. The journey they undertake is to identify, understand, and educate themselves about their problem.
How do you accompany them? Firstly, remember that they aren’t yet interested in your solution. Your job is to create awareness around how you are associated with their problem. Join them on this part of the journey by focusing on buyer’s pain points – not your product or service.
The best type of marketing content at this stage is educational material. Lead nurturing campaigns that reward prospects with white papers and industry reports work well.
Mid stage: Consideration
Your prospect now feels they truly understand their problem at this point in the buyer’s journey. Now, they’ll commit to researching and determining the approaches that can solve their problem. If you successfully met them at the awareness stage by associating yourself with the problem, you’ve now positioned yourself to be a trusted advisor on how to decide who’s best at providing the solution.
The most important area you can help them with is in the form of justification. Help prospects put your product or service into their worldview. B2B marketers should focus on helping prospects with information they’ll need to use to convince department heads, CFOs, or even the CEO. It’s not about the features and benefits. It’s about the business case. Can you help them show the return on investment for purchasing your product or service?
Final stage: Decision
This is the last stage of the buyer’s journey. If you’ve been successful with associating your product or service with the problem, and then offered valuable advice on how to approach a solution, you’ve positioned yourself well in becoming the logical provider of the winning product or service. At this point, a prospect is searching for validation that they’re making the best decision.
Here’s where you finally have the best reception for your brand-specific content. Prospects at this point are eager to know about current customers who’ve solved their problem with your product or service. They’re hungry for case studies and testimonials.
We don’t hear much about this last stage in the buyer’s journey, but it’s perhaps the most powerful. Your customer is so pleased that you were there at every step of the buyer’s journey with appropriate engagement that they willingly offer to be an advocate. Offer ways to make it easy for satisfied customers to share their experience with those who are in the decision stage.
It has become increasingly difficult to identify prospects as they move closer to the end of the buyer’s journey. Information about prospects is fragmented because they use multiple devices. The most effective way to proceed with lead generation is to apply Identity Resolution by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It helps you put names and contact information with the relatively small amount – only about 3 percent on average – of those in your market who are at the decision making stage of the buyer’s journey.