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Help Consumers Move From Prospects to Customers

There’s no denying it—the sales funnel has evolved.

This assertion is simple, yet seemingly difficult for many small business owners, marketers and strategists to accept. In today’s digital age, with social media acting as a recommendation engine and search engine optimization tactics disrupting the local marketplace, the buying landscape has changed. Rather than moving quickly to the Decision Stage, customers are embarking on a complete journey, with stops, detours, backtracking and observations along the way. At the same time, they are evaluating competitors to find the best solution for their needs.

Customers are embarking on a complete journey, with stops, detours, backtracking and observations along the way.

This is the Buyer’s Journey—the logical steps that consumers take before making a purchase decision. In this sales model, small businesses must take a consultative sales approach, aiming to help consumers and putting their needs at the forefront of the sales conversation—a drastic departure from traditional sales methods.

Stages of the Buyer’s Journey

Let’s take a peek at how the stages of the Buyer’s Journey can help to successfully attract, convert, close and delight a business’ most sought after audience base:

Awareness Stage

This is the very first step in the buyer’s journey, where prospects have realized that they have a problem to solve, but they don’t know how. In this stage, individuals don’t want to talk to a salesperson; they simply want vendor-neutral information or research, so that they can properly identify their problem and find a solution themselves. This stage involves trips to search engines, social media and blogs. Messaging at this point in the funnel should be strictly educational and informative in nature, speaking to problems and solutions.

Consideration Stage

Next, visitors enter the Consideration Stage. At this point, ideal customers have clearly defined their problem. They know what solution or opportunity they need and are committed to understanding all of the options that are available to them. In this step, users are aware of brands and are more inclined to hear about how an individual company can help them. This is where messaging that showcases a small business’ point of differentiation can be effective in moving these consumers to the next phase in the buyer’s journey.

Decision Stage

This is where it all pays off—prospects are ready to buy! How do you know? They have requested demos, signed up for free trials, asked for product information and more. These customers have identified their need for an answer, and they are looking for the best, most relevant solution.

Content Mapping for the Buyer’s Journey

To create a successful small business website that leverages the buyer’s journey (or any digital marketing effort, for that matter), it’s important to customize content on each page to the relevant stage of the buyer’s journey. How, exactly? Engage visitors naturally, taking them through the logical steps in the funnel and sending the right message to the right users at the right time.

As new visitors arrive at a website, most likely through the homepage or a campaign-specific landing page, they are in the awareness stage. To best connect with them, focus on the buyer’s pain points—not a specific product, price promotion or brand. Create content that develops interest, addresses common questions, establishes trust and builds thought leadership. Use keywords like solve, improve, resolve, prevent and upgrade. You see—the sales pitch comes later; for now, simply focus on acting as a resource.

Create content that develops interest, addresses common questions, establishes trust and builds thought leadership.

Next, visitors enter the consideration stage, where they’ve identified what they need or want, and a business has earned their trust. This often happens on service- or product-related pages on a website. Now, address the buyer’s challenge so that they feel confident moving on to the next stage in the process. In other words, explore the problem more in-depth and share potential solutions. Focus on the big picture and drop marketing-friendly phrases, like service, provider, cutting-edge, solution, pros and cons, and tool. This content will keep users on a website longer and further engage their interest.

Lastly, visitors arrive at the decision stage—ready to select a business and be converted into a paying customer. At this point, it’s essential that the content enables users to realize the value in choosing one particular business and its products over another. Leverage the About pages of a website to communicate points of difference and brand values that separate your small business from the competition. Offer these consumers brand-specific information about how your small business can solve their unique problem. Use words like review, versus, select, and purchase—and, if all goes to plan, a business will convert this potential client or lead into a customer.

Understanding and employing the buyer’s journey should be a top priority in any digital marketing endeavor.

Understanding and employing the buyer’s journey should be a top priority in any digital marketing endeavor. It enables a small business to better understand its customers’ behaviors, while helping to build its brand and increase its reach. By recognizing the importance of this journey, a business can bridge the gap between marketing and sales—creating a unified team that asserts the company’s worth and successfully increases leads and conversions.

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