The Customer Buying Cycle – why is it 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 this is the Customer Buying Cycle at work.

What we will cover

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 (think 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 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.

Likely your product/service landing pages will be critical here along with brochures and touchpoints from your team depending on how considered the purchase is.

Language and platform

We have offered a few suggestions above on the kind of content that will be relevant for each stage, think too about the language required at these stages.

If a friend comes to you with a problem your tone would be sympathetic. If they say they’re looking for an introduction to another person your tone may be questioning (to qualify the need) and if they want to buy your prized BMX from you it may become more of a harder sell negotiation tone.

Although this tonal change may happen without a thought, capture this language and apply it to your content based on where it fits in the cycle. If you aren’t sure then a specific marketing planning workshop may be just the ticket.

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 Customer Buying 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. Lots of small businesses don’t even get to this stage as they are still in sales mode, so if you’re still with us then great work, now how can we nurture all these potential customers?

Email Automation and CRM’s become a powerful tool here, creating small tracks of conversations often through emails, often triggered by interest, interest like the promise of newfound knowledge, often a downloadable ebook.

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 Customer Buying Cycle will keep your most likely prospects with you.

The decision still remains with the customer

Getting access to someone’s mailbox is personal, it’s a private space that needs managing, if you’re in there, likely your customer values what you have to say, not what you have to sell.

Getting there on mass requires a hook so sweet, someone will give up this luxury, often this is through a lead magnet. Be careful though we are still humans, going to make a decision, so if you over promise and underdelivered all you are creating for yourself is mass signup and low conversion.

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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