Mapping Out the Buyer’s Journey

Mapping Out the Buyers Journey

As explained in our previous post, the creation of personas helps to humanize your marketing by providing you with hypothetical prospects. After validating your personas, you can go to work strategizing when and how you will contact your prospects. It sounds simple, but it’s actually a challenging process. John Wanamaker, the father of modern advertising and a marketing pioneer, said it best: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Unless your business has an enormous budget and workforce, it’s not feasible to use every possible marketing channel. Mass media marketing still works in the B2C sector, but not in the B2B sector. Your message simply can’t be everywhere for everyone to receive. You need to be smart when choosing your marketing channels and select the ones that will allow you to make the biggest impact.

In today’s modern marketing landscape, there are hundreds of channels. It’s a double-edged sword because while it’s nice to have a variety of options, it also makes it much more difficult to choose an effective option. We created this graphic to show just how much has changed over the years.

Evolution of Marketing Channels

Sort Through the Clutter

Were you a little overwhelmed by the number of channels in that graphic? You’re not the only one. Many marketers have spent long nights debating what course of action to take. Put the dart board away! It takes a scientific approach to determine the channels that provide the best ROI, and it starts with the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey is also known as the purchase decision process among other names. They all refer to the same thing: The decision-making process a potential buyer goes through when making a purchase. Every buyer’s journey is different because every buyer has different needs and different ways to reach a conclusion. However, there are stages that apply in every purchase decision:

  1. Awareness – The prospect realizes that there is a problem that needs to be addressed or a potential opportunity to improve.
  2. Consideration – The prospect fully understands the problem or opportunity at hand and commits to weighing all possible solutions.
  3. Comparison – The prospect has done research and compiled a list of possible solutions, which are being compared against each other.
  4. Intent – The prospect is close to committing to the purchase and just needs to finalize some details.
  5. Decision – The prospect commits to the purchase, receives final approval from superiors if necessary and signs on the dotted line.

Identify Maximum Impact Points

Now, you know how a prospect comes to a purchase decision. But why is that important? Every step in your marketing process should be calculated. In order to convert prospects, it’s critical to market to them at the RIGHT time. By understanding the buyer’s journeys of your prospects, you’ll be able to more accurately pinpoint their maximum impact points. Maximum impact points are points on the buyer’s journey where you can make the biggest impression on a prospect’s purchase decision. Sure, you could guess, and maybe you’ll get lucky once in a while. But identifying maximum impact points will maximize the efficiency of your marketing efforts and budget.

Furthermore, understanding the buyer’s journey will help with the channel selection process. Refer back to the marketing channels graphic presented earlier. If you can build an understanding of the buyer’s journeys of your top prospects, you can make more informed decisions about which channels to use. If you know that your targets use the internet to research and purchase, you can create marketing materials for online engagement. Or if you know that they rely heavily on trade publications, you can place print and digital advertisements. These are just a couple examples. There are a multitude of places a buyer may go for information. You can market smarter by having a presence in the right places.

Buyer’s Journey Example

As previously mentioned, no two buyer’s journeys are exactly the same. However, there are enough shared characteristics that your business can put together an effective strategy to identify and capitalize on the maximum impact points. We created the example below to show how prospects move through the buyer’s journey. It includes examples of the steps the prospect may take, as well as possible marketing tactics you can use in each stage.

Buyers Journey Example1

You can use this example as a guide to help choose marketing channels and decide when to put them into action. Plug in each of the personas you created and go step by step through the buyer’s journey to get more familiar with the ways your prospects think when making a purchase. The more you know about your prospects, the better prepared you’ll be to influence their purchase decisions.

Validate Your Findings

Now that you’ve compiled information about your personas and their buyer’s journeys, it’s time to start picking channels and marketing, right? Not quite yet. Remember, marketing is half scientific, half creative. Your hypotheses need to be validated before coming to a conclusion. So how do you validate your buyer’s journey data? There are three different ways:

  1. Gather Situational Data from Your Sales Team – Your salespeople deal with prospects all the time. They’ve closed deals, and they’ve lost deals. Start by discussing the highs and lows with them. What grabbed the attention of current customers and got them to make a purchase? What caused them to look elsewhere for a product or service?
  2. Talk to Current Customers – After consulting with your own team, take it a step further and see what your customers have to say. Contact them to see if they verify what your sales team has already told you. In addition, collect the details of the buyer’s journeys they took. Learn why they were looking for that particular product or service, how they found you, who they compared you against, how they found your competitors, and what ultimately made you stand out.
  3. Talk to Non-Customers – Finally, consult with people who are not customers. This includes former targets who ended up doing business with one of your competitors. Learn why you dropped the ball, so to speak. Why did they choose another company over yours? By identifying your own weaknesses, you can strengthen your marketing and sales process to help minimize similar failures in the future.

Post-Validation Considerations

After you validate your data, revisit your personas and their buyer’s journeys. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of which marketing channels to try. But be careful. In some cases, you may not actually be equipped to market on certain channels. Your goal is to optimize your marketing, so weigh volume vs. effectiveness. Which channels are you competent at using that can be applied at maximum impact points? Sure, you want to use a channel that can reach lots of people, but maybe it doesn’t fit into your budget. You may actually get a higher ROI by being effective when reaching out to fewer people than by being largely ineffective when reaching out to many people.

Remember to test your channels to fine-tune your marketing process. Even though you’ve taken several steps to make informed decisions about your channels, you have no way of knowing with 100% certainty that you’ve made the right decisions. Track the results of your marketing, and if you find that you didn’t get it right on your first attempt, switch to another channel. You will eventually find what works best.

Summary

The Digital Revolution has changed the marketing landscape drastically. It has empowered buyers to not be as dependent on your sales team and outbound marketing. Buyers have so much information available at their fingertips that salespeople are getting involved in the sales process later and later. As a result, it’s crucial to understand prospects’ buyer’s journeys and keep the marketing team involved throughout the process.

Previously, it was the responsibility of marketing to handle the Awareness stage and then take a backseat to sales. Some businesses still use this approach, and it’s a mistake. In order to be truly successful, your marketing and sales need to work together throughout the buyer’s journey to achieve maximum impact and close deals.

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