The REAL Buyer Journey

By Phil Brooks

For me, the whole topic around the buyer journey is fascinating. I love that many companies map this out in a nice and simple linear flow taking the buyer from the early days of ‘Interest’ all the way through to ‘Purchase’. Of course, we need some sort of scale, right? With that, we can report on where our prospects sit in the buying process, how engaged they are with our products and solutions, how many appear near ready to buy, and on whom to focus our efforts.

So let me just say from the outset, this article is not about changing your entire lead process! Phew! You have probably spent years refining a process that now aligns Sales with Marketing (or if you haven’t we can get you started with a few simple but effective steps). You can talk with a colleague about a prospect at a set stage, and know what each other is talking about. My aim of this article is to highlight that the REAL buyer journey is far from a linear process, and that needs to be highlighted from time to time. I am sure you are all doing a fantastic job of planning what content your prospects should receive, and at what stage sales should take over. However, sometimes it is good to step back, assess, and realise (just as with the share dealing warnings you get) – the value of your stocks can go up, as well as down. Or put a better way, your prospects can go up, AND down, your sales funnel!

In order to nurture a prospect throughout their buyer journey, we need to provide content based on where they are in the buying cycle. Marketing basics is centred on contacting the right person, at the right time with the right message. The more relevant and timely the message, the better the response. With Marketing Automation, and therefore lead nurturing, never has this been more straight-forward to implement and drive better pipeline.

However we know that buyers don’t just rely on what you communicate to them. In fact they have an abundance of sources to find out about you, and your product or services. Typically they are engaging with Sales much later in the process, so if we know where they are (based on what assets they are consuming), we can help them along by supplying the right person, at the right time with the right message… and a perfect visual analogy for the REAL buyer journey is Snakes and Ladders:


A buyer could go through your ‘sales funnel’ all the way to just about to purchase… and then stop, maybe because of budget changes, and drop back a couple of stages as they have to re-evaluate due to organization realignment. So they go down a snake to an earlier stage. As a marketer, we are focussed on looking for the opportunity to ‘help’ them up the ladder, to accelerate their route to a sale. But consider also that when, not if, a buyer drops back down the process, are you able to catch that and switch content, and start again to help them up through an earlier stage in the buyer journey. Consider also that a similar scenario can happen with the ladders! A buyer doesn’t necessarily have to go through every one of your stages… they can bypass some of them! So help buyers self-serve at their pace.

Now picture this board, with hundreds of players (prospects!) in one game, moving around, all at different stages, moving up and down the board… it’s a good job you have your Marketing Automation platform set up to cope with this… right? And, let’s not forget that the journey doesn’t end with the purchase! Once you have your new customer on board, consider how you are going to retain them, develop them and help them justify the purchase.

Let’s have a look at a couple of our top tips to help you get moving in the right direction:

1. Start Simple
There is absolutely no point in designing the biggest, most complex journey, covering all of your content and possible scenarios, especially if you have never done this before. Pick a brand, product or specific industry that you want to target, and plan out how potentially a prospect would go through to purchase. Look at what your data is telling you about a journey, map your communication touchpoints to that, continuously improve, and expand out from there. When it works, those journeys can be repeated across other products or brands.

2. Map your content
Many organisations fall into the trap of producing a high volume of content, to meet the needs of all the campaigns being produced. This is not massively effective or efficient. There is also nothing wrong with repurposing content. This doesn’t mean keep sending the same piece of content, but you can tailor a successful report for example, and strategically alter it for the relevant buyer stage – maybe changing to an infographic. Once you have your content, ensure that you know at what stage each piece sits, so as to serve them up at the right time for the buyer.

3. Progressive profiling
As a buyer moves through the journey, they are going to be consuming higher value assets. So the more valuable the asset, the more likely that they will part with key profile information in exchange for it. Remember that with Marketing Automation, if you know the contact, there is no need to present them with a form every time they want to download something. But, if you are missing key information, then present those missing fields as part of the form. If you have them, don’t ask for them again!

4. Help them up the ladder… gently!
One very simple way is through auto-responders; an email sent out as soon as the content is consumed. Thank them for downloading your content, and include other documents/videos that are similar. What about content that is more detailed for the next stage in the journey? Why not offer this up as you already have their attention? Consuming this next-stage asset could be one of the triggers to identify where that prospect is in the buyer journey. As they download more content, their lead score will increase and you can then target them with further relevant assets.

I hope if nothing else this gives you food for thought when you are evaluating your buyers journeys. Good luck, but if you get stuck, we are always ready to help you figure out the snakes and ladders.

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