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A Step by Step Guide to the Customer Buying Process

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August 26, 2021

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There are distinct steps every individual goes through when deciding whether to buy your product or service - this is known as the customer buying process. 

Knowledge of this customer journey is one way that you can best market to your target audience.  

Why is the customer buying process important?

While the end result of this journey may be a customer purchasing your product or service, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the customer buying process - in full - can help you to devise a sales strategy that is directly based on what buyers are looking for.

The 6 stages to the customer buying process

Stage one: Problem recognition

This is the part of the entire process that's arguably the most important. 

Before a customer starts their journey to purchasing your product, they need to discover the problem - or need - that creates the space that your product will fill.  

There are times when customers discover a problem they didn't know existed. For example, when a driver sees an auto insurance ad and suddenly realizes they're overpaying.

You need to find out what your customers want. Once you do that, you’ll prominently highlight your solution in your marketing efforts. Here are a few things you can ask yourself when doing this:

  • What circumstances motivate people to seek out your product or service?
  • How can you create an insatiable demand for your product?
  • How can you get individuals to realize they have a need only you can fulfill?

Once you answer these questions, you can move on to determining what kind of marketing campaigns you need to create to attract your ideal customer. In a traditional print ad, you’d explain what the customer’s problem is and how your product can solve it. If you’re running an online business, it may be best to use content marketing.

Stage two: Information search

This stage is where the customer begins searching for a solution to their problem. Except in the case of impulse buys, customers often do a lot of research before making a purchase. 

The person who realized they need cheaper insurance will often Google alternatives, looking for one that best meets their needs. Many people often turn to trusted friends and relatives for recommendations. They can also rely on print, visual, online media, or word-of-mouth sources for getting product information.

Ideally, you want your customers to find your solution with minimal hassle. 

Brands that thrive are often those who are in shoppers’ eyes long before they decide to actually make a purchase. If your efforts are successful, they’ll find the answer to their problem in what you’re selling. 

Put your offerings on the radar of target prospects any way you can. Here are a few ways you can do so: 

Google

A whopping 85% of consumers turn to the search engine giant when they need to research product alternatives. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that your brand shows up in relevant search results.

This will require extensive keyword research. Figure out the phrases potential customers use when searching for your type of product. Then, optimize your website so it contains these phrases.

For example, let’s say a customer wants to buy a decent reflecting telescope to use with their kids in the backyard. Ubersuggest (a free keyword planner) shows these relevant keywords:

  • telescope for sale
  • telescope for kids
  • telescope sales
  • telescope near me
  • telescope for beginners

Use this information to create marketing campaigns for your target audience. One thing you could do is to create a blog post you can add to your telescope-manufacturing company website.

Do search engine marketing

It can be tough to get to the top of Google’s rankings using organic search. 

That’s why you might want to do some search engine marketing, which is placing ads on search engine results pages (SERPs) to drive traffic to your site. This usually involves bidding on keywords to ensure you show up in keyword searches.

Online marketplaces

Besides Google, customers find product information on online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. If you’re selling on these platforms, optimize your listings for the search engine each site uses. 

Online marketplaces factor in seller performance and reviews when ranking product listings. This means that getting to the top of the rankings on these platforms will often require time, successful sales, and positive reviews.

Word of mouth

The power of word of mouth is real and cannot be underestimated. People like to solicit recommendations from friends and relatives they trust, either on social media or in person.

The best way to get your target audience to generate buzz with their friends is by focusing on customer satisfaction. Monitor satisfaction levels regularly by conducting surveys. Ensure you’re hearing their concerns, so you can then address them.

Stage three: Evaluation of alternatives

After conducting their research, consumers will often make a list of brands that best fit their needs. 

Some people will make a quick decision. However, most buyers won't settle for the first solution they encounter - they'll evaluate alternatives and weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each.

The best thing you can do at this stage is to offer more value than your competitors and communicate that to potential customers. The objective here is to position your product as the best choice for the customer.

Here are some ways to influence a customer at this stage of the buying process:

Optimize product descriptions

Craft product descriptions are so unique and compelling, they'll entice buyers to buy in droves. 

Descriptions ideally need to contain relevant keywords and be written in a tone and style that's relatable to your audience. Make the words scannable by using shorter paragraphs, headers, and plenty of bullet points.

Use fantastic looking visuals

Let's say you want to woo your target audience. In that case, you need to wow them with images that powerfully persuade them to open their wallets. An excellent way to do this is by using customer-submitted images in your descriptions.

This gives potential buyers a better idea of how your product looks in real-world conditions.

Stage four: Purchase decision

Once a customer has explored all their options, they’ll decide whether to move forward with the purchase. 

However, even if they initially decide to go with your product, that decision could be derailed by negative feedback from other customers.

Let’s say prospective buyers decide to buy what you’re selling—say, a fitness watch. However, then a few friends tell them that they had a horrendous experience with the device. This might cause them to change their mind.

To keep customers engaged, remind them of the problem that brought them to your website in the first place. It’s worth remembering that a purchase decision can also be disrupted by unforeseen circumstances, such as a customer losing a job or having to relocate.

Stage five: Purchase

The customer has already decided to buy what you’re hawking—don't make it difficult for them! 

This means your website needs to load quickly, and ordering from a phone should be as easy as on a desktop.

If your payment process software is slow, they might decide to buy from one of your competitors. Amazon is the undisputed master of this with their one-click checkout.

If you can’t do that, try these things:

Offer guest checkout

Let customers check out as guests when they buy from your site. Making them create an account adds an unnecessary step to the buyer’s journey, which could lead the customer to leave for greener pastures.

Pre-fill shopper details

If a shopper with an existing profile decides to buy from you, pre-populate the checkout form with relevant details to make it quicker to complete their purchases.

Instill a sense of urgency

Instilling a sense of urgency prods buyers to buy. Suppose you're running a promotion or special pricing. In that case, you could add a countdown timer indicating how much time shoppers have left to finish up before the promotion ends.

Stage six: Post-purchase evaluation

This is the stage where a customer evaluates what they just bought from you and decides whether they're satisfied. 

If they’re unhappy, you might have forever lost your opportunity to turn them into a lifetime customer. If they ask for their money back, handle the situation with diplomacy and tact. If you put them at ease, they might return and even refer their friends.

After a customer buys something from you, ask for a review. This can be done with an automated email requesting that customers share their feedback.  Analyze these comments to obtain actionable insights you can use in future marketing campaigns.

You don’t want customers to buy from you only once. That’s why you need to encourage repeat business by keeping in touch with your customers. When you do, offer great content and promotions.

Fine-tune your recruiting process

The customer’s journey isn’t the only process crucial to a startup’s success. The right talent can help you to supercharge your company’s success.

However, it can be incredibly challenging for founders to do their own hiring. That’s why Hunt Club offers a proprietary recruiting process we’ve fine-tuned to best serve the needs of startups.

Call us today! 

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