Identifying your buyer’s journey, by analyzing the buying funnel, can help you shorten the length of time between shoppers’ awareness and them taking action (purchase), which can increase your overall conversions. This analysis can also assist you in determining where and why customers drop off in the buying process, and how you can prevent this from happening in the future.
A buying funnel represents the buying cycle a customer goes through before making a purchase/conversion. Just like a funnel used for cooking, the buying funnel top is wide, representing the wide net being cast by the marketer and/or business owner to capture as many potential customers as possible. The funnel naturally narrows as it closes in at the bottom where the sale or other conversions take place. The in-between portion of the funnel represents the buyer’s process of researching, consideration of the desired action, and ultimately, the decision to purchase/take action.
Prospect: The potential customer hasn’t yet heard of your brand.
Unawareness: The prospect has heard of you but doesn’t need or want what you offer — YET!
Awareness: The prospect is beginning to develop an interest and is aware of a need or desire to try your product or service.
Comprehension: The prospect starts to research your brand and compare it to other competitors. This research stage may include realizing they have a need, speaking to friends, utilizing social media for reviews, and weighing the benefits of purchasing from you.
Conviction: The prospect decides to purchase from you.
Action: The purchase is made and your prospect becomes a customer and a conversion.
In order to meet the needs of prospects and help them navigate the buying funnel successfully, you’ll need to understand your marketing funnel in relation to your buyer’s funnel.
The sales funnel begins by establishing your brand as an authority by utilizing various types of content, such as: blog posts, social media, eBooks, FAQs, etc.
Next, as traffic and prospects increase — the buyer’s awareness stage — you will present them with possible solutions to their problems and needs using content that promotes lead generation — for example, infographics, how-to guides, and video content.
As you move to the middle of the funnel, towards generating and nurturing leads, — the buyer’s comprehension and conviction stages — you will focus on assisting with the decision process, rather than selling, utilizing customer acquisition techniques such as email marketing, case studies, and premium content related to the service or product.
Once the customer has decided to purchase, you will focus on closing the sale and retaining customer loyalty — the buyer’s action stage.
Though the sales and buyer’s funnel have some similarities, the one difference to keep in mind is that most prospects begin the buying funnel well before they meet you or your brand. They will utilize research, social media, and/or price and quality comparisons prior to approaching you. Customers are well informed. In fact, 81% of customers conduct online research before making a purchase; 61% read customer reviews prior to making a purchase; and, on average, a customer visits three stores before making a purchase. You will have to be well aware of your target prospects’ needs and desires so you can capture them at the top of your sales funnel and retain them until the purchase/conversion is made. You will also need to continue tailoring content to customers through each stage as their needs and the information they seek will vary and change. Customized content is key!
The buying funnel will vary from industry to industry and can look very different based on whether you sell something that is a need or a want. For some customers, a retail interaction in a storefront or online store can occur rather quickly, with each stage of the process almost blurring together. A prospect can stumble upon your retail place of business or your website — unaware of a need or desire for your brand — quickly decide upon an item, then walk up — or add to the virtual cart — and purchase the item.
Just as buying funnels vary from industry to industry, they can also vary within one business, from season to season. For example, a roofing company’s buying funnel is often short when a storm hits as the need for repairs is immediate and time-sensitive. Is the business capturing its prospects before the forecasted storm unleashes? Are prospects aware of the company during calmer weather?
Sometimes, the process can take longer. If a prospect is searching for healthcare insurance, you will want to be the company that offers a solution and closes the sale, being present from the onset of symptoms, or the realization of the need for insurance. The process may take up to a month or more and often is not as quick as a retail sale. You will have to keep your prospects interested and ensure they know they are receiving something of value from you.
Consider too that your product or service could be a need or a want depending on the prospect you are trying to sell to. With that in mind, factor in the cost of your item(s) and/or service(s), and decide whether or not it has a negative impact on your prospects. For example, if you own a large electronics store you should prepare to deal with prospects who have contemplated purchasing a high-priced item for months. They’ve done their research, compared prices, and read dozens of customer reviews. They visit your store several times, but still don’t make a purchase. You need to decide how to appeal to your prospects’ needs and desires, and close the deal, even if the item is a luxury.
Also, does your brand often involve several decision makers in the buying process? If you sell cars or offer financial services you will most likely deal with more than one decision maker in the process. Have you thought about how to appeal to all the parties involved or are you sticking to one pitch? Catering to the needs of every decision maker will not only make the sale easier for you in the long run, but it will also bring value to the transaction when your prospects see you meeting their needs.
This is crucial to increasing brand awareness and conversions. It will also help you and your sales team decide how to retain the initial crowd captured at the top of the funnel.
Conducting research on your buyers’ funnel process is key to understanding where you are capturing and/or losing prospects. A funnel can help you track where prospects are dropping off in the path to conversion. This will help you understand your potential customers and how long the average buying funnel is for your product or service. This research must start at the very beginning of the buying/sales process and continue through to the close.
In addition, analyzing the uniqueness of your brand is crucial. Ask yourself the following questions in relation to the buyer’s journey:
Is your product/service a need or a luxury?
Is it expensive or lower priced?
How do your prospects perceive your brand?
Is your marketing team prepared to handle your buyers’ funnel and your sales funnel?
Can you shorten the buying funnel to prevent losing prospects, without sacrificing the value of your product or service?
Use the answers to these questions, along with the data you collect, to create sales content that will reach, convert, and retain a wider audience. And, test and retest as often as necessary to optimize the buying process and increase conversions.
How long is your buying funnel? Don’t guess — use research and tracking resources and be sure you are marketing to ALL the stages of the buying funnel. The goal is to capture prospects as early as possible in the buying cycle which means you need to focus on your content early on to shorten your sales/buying cycle. Don’t drag out the sales process. Instead market directly to where your prospects already live — radio, TV, print, social media, online, email, eBooks, etc.
When you focus on all stages of the buying funnel and offer value at each step, you will be better equipped to meet the needs of your prospects and keep them coming back year after year.
The buyer’s journey should start and end with your brand. Figure out what you have control of and stick with your prospects throughout the entire cycle. And remember, the sales and buyers’ funnels don’t stop at the close. Keep your customers engaged and focus your efforts on retaining each one after the sale.