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So Why is the Customer Buying Cycle Important?

With the possible exception of compulsive buyers, we all go through a process leading from initial awareness of a product or service to making the decision of whether to buy or not. Understanding this cycle – within a digital context – is massively important if you want to avoid customer frustration and wasted marketing investment. We all know what it feels like when salespeople try and close a deal from the moment they set eyes on you (those annoying double glazing firms). On the other hand, we’ve all been in the position when we need to buy something urgently only to find the sales staff have all been spirited away to another dimension.

In the digital world, the content of your webpages, blogs and ads also needs to be tailored to the right stage of the buying cycle. Let’s break it down:

Breaking Down The Customer Buying Cycle

Depending on how you like to cut your cake, the buying cycle can be split into three or four parts.
The basic division is into Awareness, Consideration and Decision (or Purchase) phases. Consideration is sometimes sub-divided into Research and Comparison phases. This sub-division is a question of personal choice and is unlikely to make a big difference to outcomes.
Awareness

As the name suggests, Awareness is the stage at where your potential customer has become aware of the existence of your business and the products or services it offers. They may not realise that they have a problem that needs to be solved yet so there is little or no incentive for them to buy your ‘solution.’ The ideal content for the Awareness stage of the customer buying cycle is that which paints a picture of a problem and gently introduces the solution while deepening brand awareness and building trust . Blog posts and white-papers are powerful tools at this stage of the cycle.

Research and Comparison

At the Consideration (Research and Comparison) phase, the good news is that your prospect has realised there is a problem they need to solve and that there are potential solutions out there. The challenge is to ensure that it is your product or service that is top of their shopping list. More detailed information should be supplied at this stage in addition to proof points such as comparison tables and case studies. Free trials can bridge the gap between the Consideration stage and Decision stage.
Decision: To Buy or not to Buy

The ultimate stage of the customer buying cycle is the Decision or Purchase phase. This is where you either close the deal or lose your customer to a competitor. Providing you have nurtured your lead well (more about that below) they should finally make the decision to buy. The role of your content at this point is to streamline this process while making your customer feel secure along the way.

A Note About Buying Triggers

The path from Awareness to Decision is not always a predictable process. Buying triggers can occur at any time and accelerate your prospect along the buying cycle – make sure you are prepared to cater for them. For example, imagine you are walking along the street and an advertisement for a new model of phone catches your eye. You are at the Awareness stage of the buying cycle but, with a few months left on your contract, you’re in no hurry to buy. Then, on a night out, you leave your uninsured device in the club and it vanishes without trace. You are suddenly desperate for a new phone and are fast-tracked to the Decision phase of the cycle. This is an example of an unexpected buying trigger and can be contrasted with an expected trigger (e.g. reaching the free upgrade period of your phone contract).
Lead Magnets and Nurturing Leads

Nurture is a nice, kind, gentle word and reflects exactly what you need to be doing to your ‘not yet ready to buy’ people. However, before you can nurture your lead you need their email address – and this is where lead magnets come in.

Lead magnets perform a useful filtering function for your business. Imagine that potential customers are steel drinks cans and vaguely interested browsers are aluminium drinks cans. Your lead magnet attracts all the steel cans and lets the aluminium ones go. Basically, you are offering prospective buyers something valuable for free – in exchange for their email address. There are books written about lead magnets (probably) but in essence there are only two rules to follow:
they really have to be valuable and, yes, they really do have to be free. Peppering your content with lead magnets appropriate to each stage of the buying cycle will keep your most likely prospects with you.

Hopefully, this article has driven home the central importance of the customer buying cycle to business success and given you some food for thought when planning your digital content strategy.

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