Pipeline Marketing Blog

A Complete Guide To The Buyer Journey

By Andrew Nguyen
Feb 21, 2017

The buyer journey is often described in terms of content needs or customer needs. While these are important, there lacks a clear description of the buyer journey in terms of the goals and role of the marketer.

The job the marketer is create revenue, and in order to get there they must succeed at each of the four stages of the buyer journey.

In this post we explain how marketers can fully succeed at converting prospects at every stage of the buyer journey.

buyer journey map infographic.jpg

Definition: The buyer journey is defined as the thinking and actions taken by customers as they discover a problem/need and take the steps to solve their problem through a purchase.

Buyer Journey Stage 1: Developing Problem Awareness

At Stage 1 of the buyer journey marketers have one job. That job is developing problem awareness. For new products and new technologies this part of the buyer journey represents the size of the addressable market.

Marketers need to grow the population of people who are aware of the problem your product solves. This creates a need and urge to do further research.

There are a number of tactics to educate and spark this interest. At the core is good storytelling and the development of a message that target audiences can identify with.

Developing Good Storytelling Skills

Craft a story based on findings from a survey, or based on your unique perspective. This is a great way to educate a wider audience about a problem that previously didn’t exist. Crafting a good story to increase problem awareness rests on a perspective or statistic that runs counter to expectations or intuition. Further, a good story takes an existing perspective or statistic and re-interprets it in a fresh way to make a new idea memorable.

For example, when we think of batteries we typically imagine this:

storytelling aid.jpg

It’s a battery, plain and simple. But here’s Elon Musk communicates batteries in a different way. In a product launch presentation, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Powerwall and the following image is used to portray batteries.

product marketing example for buyer journey.jpg

He portrays batteries as toxic and dirty in order to make people realize there’s a problem with the current state of battery power, a problem the Powerwall solves.

Musk and his team are able to make people become aware of a problem with a different perspective on a previously intuitive concept. This is a great example of good storytelling necessary at the beginning of the buyer journey.

Buyer Journey Stage 2 Is Solution Awareness: Be The Trusted Educator

When audiences become aware of the problem they have reached the next step of the buyer journey. At the Problem Awareness stage potential customers are researching. They are looking for solutions and your brand needs to be found when prospects start researching. 

Prospects need to become aware of your solution. 

buyer journey map infographic crop solution awarness stage.jpg

Much like health education, problem awareness causes people to research symptoms, understand how common the problem is, and how these problems are solved.

During problem awareness, audiences use certain keywords. These keywords are broad, categorical in nature, and ask “what is” type questions. Searchers are looking for overviews and conceptual information to get a better understanding of the problem or topic.

This contrasts with the types of searches your audiences will make in later stages of the buyer journey, so it’s important to consider what these Problem Awareness search terms are. After this is defined it’s time to begin creating content and making plays.

Educate Audiences With Findable Content

Often called content marketing and inbound marketing, the creation of education content is highly important in pushing buyers along in their journey. High value content that is free and findable helps build trust among your audiences.

It’s pretty simple. Be the WebMD of your category or industry. Referenceable and wiki style is important here. Content comes in many types including webinars, blogging, and industry reports.

The second element for finding findable content and building trust is being transparent. Two great examples that come to are two companies that focus on transparent content in a traditionally opaque industry. The first one is a story about a young chef who became successful in the truffle industry, which has developed a bad reputation for being dubious and deceitful to non-experts. Through a focus on education and ingredient sourcing, he helps a younger generation of foodies learn what to look for when shopping for the luxury food. He simultaneously builds trust by showing audiences where he sources his truffles, what his ingredients are and how to understand what you’re buying.

Another example is a company that makes bike wheels. This is an industry where there are thousands of brands but no one knows the structural integrity of high cost carbon fiber wheels. Further, no one knows the manufacturing process, the type of composite, and where the wheels are manufactured. There was a lack of trust for a very high priced item in which malfunction can lead to serious injury.

This company took a similar path, they created content that helped buyers understand their sourcing and manufacturing process. They helped cyclists understand the “why” in the design process, e.g. improved strength or aerodynamics. They also educated buyers on the cost of production and the history of the company (two founders unsatisfied by the status quo of the industry).

Both these examples show that developing trust through educational content is very important for pushing people through the buyer journey from problem awareness to solution awareness.

While these are B2C solutions, try new and tasty food, go faster on your bike, the same principles apply to B2B.

What metrics estimate market maturity and problem awareness?

Keyword search volume

Traffic from keywords and long tail keywords related to research and education can give you a broad understanding of the general level of problem awareness. For example, consider the following traffic numbers for two keywords:

  • Account based marketing vs. lead generation [monthly search volume: 200 ]
  • Account-based marketing companies [monthly search volume: 100]

The first keyword indicates that more people search for definitions and broad knowledge on the problem or category related to your industry.

The second keyword indicates there are less people searching for solutions to their problems. In this case, that problem is finding help with running or implementing account-based marketing campaigns.

Tracking search volume trends over time can help you understand the market and the broad number of people in the problem awareness stage. It can also help you develop a successful content marketing campaign.

Traffic to resource pages and 101 level content

Web traffic to certain pages can indicate market maturity. For example if people are downloading and visiting beginner level content it’s a sign there is a healthy addressable market.

Solution awareness is an important part of the buyer journey. It’s the part of the journey where a relationship with a trusted advisor is established. Today’s demand generation strategy requires marketers to establish that trust through delivering knowledge and helping prospects better understand their problem, i.e. how a problem plays out day to day or at their specific company.

It’s a lot like a good doctor. A good doctor will not only provide information about a health problem, but will listen and provide even more information on what a patient with particular symptoms should do to alleviate their problem.

Buyer Journey Stage 3 Is Solution Consideration: Be Number One In Your Industry

buyer journey crop solution consideration.jpg

At this stage of the buyer journey it’s important for marketers to focus on communicating why your particular brand and solution is the market leader. It’s also time for closer interaction and relationship building.

Much like a first date, it’s time for prospects to “see you in person” whether it’s in person at a conference or via a product focused webinar. First impressions matter and it’s why the product marketing and design work is so essential at this part of the buyer journey.

Product marketing pays off when prospects immediately feel as though a company’s solution aligns 100 percent with their concerns and needs. Good design also signals a level maturity and trust needed to land larger contracts.

Being the number one provider in your industry is exceptionally important here. This is done through analyst relations and content focused on your existing customers who are champions of your product/service.

Buyer Journey Stage 4 Is Vendor Evaluation: Support Sales By Creating Relationships And Transferring Competitive Knowledge

At the final stage of the journey is where information and relationships matter most. In order for marketers to best nurture prospects who are at the end of the buyer  journey they must work closely with sales.

Competitive information needs to be available for sales teams in the form of sales collateral that answers very specific questions. Sales one sheeters are the marketer’s magic pill for getting the  sales opportunity through the funnel. Feature comparisons between competitors, economic impact calculations, and product customization capabilities are important sets of information which marketers can provide the sales team.

This stage of the buyer journey highlights the importance of sales and marketing alignment.

Information is just one piece of the puzzle. Creating ways for sales and prospects to meet in person is also highly important, especially for large deal sizes. Trust matters not only on a brand level but also on a relationship level.

These relationships include existing customers, prospects and the account executives. Marketing’s role is to build these relationships through field marketing and events. While today’s marketing departments are heavily focused on digital and one-to-many messaging, the end of the customer journey is characterized by face-to-face engagement and one-to-one messaging. This is best done with events, dinners, in person product demos, and happy hours organized by sales.

Conclusion

Marketers must focus on a variety of goals and tactics at each stage of the buyer journey. At each stage is a very specific role that marketing must play. To recap, those roles are:

  1. Develop problem awareness

  2. Become the trusted educator and advisor

  3. Be Seen As The Gold Standard In Your Industry

  4. Support Sales By Building Relationships And Training Sales Teams

If marketers can successfully fulfill these roles they can achieve the ultimate goal of generating revenue.

In order to track each important metric for buyer journey measurement a marketing attribution solution is necessary. Using advanced marketing attribution marketers can optimize and improve performance across every channel and campaign. 

 

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Topics: B2B Marketing

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