Your buyer personas are the first step to developing an inbound marketing strategy. Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, it is important to understand how your buyers evaluate, assess, and consider your product or services. This is known as the Decision-Making Journey (or the Buyer’s Journey). This journey is the same across all industries for B2B and B2C organizations.
The stages of the Decision-Making/Buyer’s Journey process are:
Awareness: The buyer recognizes that they have a problem. The buyer decides if this particular problem should be prioritized and if they should keep searching for a solution. Strategically utilizing keywords and optimizing your online presence will have a tremendous impact at this stage. And the content you are putting out should be problem-focused—not a sales-y pitch about your product or service. Create blog posts, ebooks, white papers and editorials that outline the problem that your prospective customers are experiencing. This content should be strictly educational. If one or more of these content pieces creates an “a-ha!” moment for these buyers, they are much more likely to continue their buyer’s journey with you in mind. Ask the following questions to get a better understanding of what your prospects are experiencing during this process:
- What are buyers using to describe their particular goal or challenge? And why do they believe they need to resolve this problem?
- What are the consequences of inaction? This can help you plan how your content will answer these questions. It can also give insight into the consequences of inaction. They are still trying to decide if the problem is worth their time and resources.
- How can your buyers decide which goal or challenge is most important?
The buyer defines the problem clearly and begins to evaluate options to resolve it. These are some questions you can ask to understand your buyers’ journey.
- Which solutions will your buyers start looking for?
- How are your buyers learning? Where will they find information?
- How will your buyers evaluate each category’s pros and cons?
The buyer narrows down the options and then moves to the evaluation and selection phase. These questions can help you understand your buyers’ feelings during this phase.
- Which criteria do your buyers use when they reach this stage?
- How competitive are buyers comparing your offer?
- Who should be involved in the final decision-making process?
- Which other types of products and services do buyers look for in making final selections, such as ongoing training and onboarding plans or the implementation process?
Based on my experience, the following numbers can determine how many competitors are at each stage. The most likely buyer:
- Evaluating Up to 10 Solutions as Part of the Awareness Stage
- Reducing it to 5 – 6, as part of the Consideration Step
- Focus on 2 to 4 as part of the Decision Stage
You can see that defining your buyer personas (target audiences) and understanding the buyer’s journey is key to your inbound marketing strategy. Your inbound marketing program will be based on defining your audience and understanding their journey.