What is a Buyer’s Journey and Why Should You Care?

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If you operate a business that engages in content marketing, it is imperative that you can answer the question, “What is a buyer’s journey?” It is virtually impossible to optimize your marketing and content without buyer’s journey awareness.

The following is an introduction to the buyer’s journey definition, along with insights on benefits of journey-based personas:

What is a Buyer’s Journey

The buyer or customer’s journey is the path that a person takes from initial awareness of a need through the purchase, and into post-purchase implementation and evaluation. The journey begins with awareness that a need or problem exists, moves into the “consideration” stage, during which the prospect begins to evaluate alternative solutions, leading to a “purchase.”

In some illustrations of this journey or path, the process ends at the point of purchase. However, as the goal is to not only attract a customer, but also to retain him, successful companies view the path as including one or two more steps. The fourth stage is labeled “post-purchase evaluation,” “implementation” or “retention.” During this time, the new customer utilizes the solution to attempt resolution of the need or problem, and perceives a certain level of satisfaction. For a business to earn a repeat purchase, it must deliver a high level of satisfaction that at least meets, but ideally exceeds, the customer’s expectations.

A series of strong, positive purchase experiences ultimately contributes to loyalty. When a business secures an emotional attachment, or loyalty, it is able to generate increasing revenue and profits and better insulate its relationship with the customer from competitors. The most complete models of the buyer journey include a fifth stage, which is “advocacy.” In this stage, a customer is not just loyal to a business, but he gladly shares his experiences with peers through in-person conversations and online through social media and other channels.

What is a Buyer's Journey and Why It Matters

Journey-Based Personas

An increasingly common approach to building a buyer persona is to create journey-based or stage-based personas. With this strategy, the company targets prospects and customers based on where they fall within the customer journey, as opposed to focusing on more personal profile traits.
The journey-based approach is especially common in business-to-business, where a person’s interest in a solution is often fueled by the status of his company’s operation and level of need. For instance, a company promoting a brand new technology-based solution may create the following stage-based personas:

  • Unaware Aaron: Aaron runs a small business or young company that is not on the cutting edge in its industry with the use of technology. Aaron is strapped for time as he tries to lead his business and meet the demands of a growing customer base. He is unaware of the ways in which our tech solution could improve operational efficiency, and contribute to lower costs and increased profits.
  • Intrigued Ian: Ian is familiar with the type of technology our company offers and has done some initial research on its benefits. He hasn’t quite taken the next step toward serious purchase consideration based on uncertainty of the full array of benefits offered, and concerns about the required investment.
  • Eager Emma: Emma is not only familiar with our solution, but has done a lot of research and is on the cusp of making a purchase.

Regardless of whether you develop personas centered on demographic, geographic, firmographic, behavioral or journey-based qualities, an effective content marketing plan identifies the right types of content to deliver through the most appropriate channels to a buyer based on his stage in the buying process.

In the stage-based personas just described, the content provided to Aaron should offer a basic introduction to what the technology does, and the ways in which it benefits companies within his industry. Since Ian has a pretty good understanding of the technology, he is ready for content that more specifically identifies the value of our solution relative to competitors. This content includes more in-depth product descriptions, customer reviews, testimonials and case studies. A sales rep is normally involved at this point to nurture Ian toward the point of purchase. With Emma, communication from company reps and targeted content is aimed at closing the deal.

Conclusions

You should now have a much clearer perspective on, “What is a buyer’s journey?” If so, you realize that you can only optimize your customer experience when you have buyer’s journey awareness! Take the time to research and learn the path your typical customers take to purchase, and learn the emotions that come into play.

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About the Author: Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller is a veteran college marketing professor with an MBA. He has also been a freelance business and marketing content writer and website creator since 2008.

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