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Business

Inside the Buyer’s Journey: The 3 Stages of the Buyer’s Journey

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 20, 2020 • 5 min read

Inbound marketing is a technique that companies use to draw potential customers in, using social media, digital marketing, targeted content, and SEO. When a business begins to develop their inbound marketing strategies, they look to a process called the buyer’s journey to determine what content they should produce to attract prospects.

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What Is the Buyer’s Journey?

The buyer’s journey is the process by which every potential customer decides on a product or service. In general, every buyer follows three main steps in the buying process before becoming a customer: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Understanding the buyer’s journey allows companies to finetune their marketing strategies to attract the optimal target audience for their product or service. Knowing this purchasing process helps sales development representatives qualify and generate leads and helps sales professionals offer the best solutions for potential customers at the specific stage of their journey. Additionally, sales managers can align their sales process with the buyer’s journey so sales reps can meet the prospect’s needs at every stage and hopefully land their business.

What Are the Stages of the Buyer’s Journey?

There are three stages of the buyer’s journey:

  • Awareness: The first stage of the buyer’s journey begins when the potential customer becomes aware that they have a problem that needs resolution. They can either come to this awareness on their own or encounter a piece of content that informs them of a particular problem. During the awareness stage, the buyer will do research (usually through online search engines) to further diagnose their problem or need.
  • Consideration: In the consideration stage, buyers have identified the specific language they can use to define their problem—particular search terms or descriptors that yield results. They then use this new knowledge to do further research, focusing on the various solutions to fix their problem or fill their need. Next, they will begin to create a list of all possible companies or products that offer a good solution.
  • Decision: In the decision stage of the buyer’s journey, a buyer narrows down their list of vendors to the best few possibilities and finally chooses one with which they’ll make their final purchase decision.
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Why Is Understanding the Buyer’s Journey Important?

Some traditional marketing strategies are often so focused on making a sale that they alienate potential customers or fail to offer them the right information. The buyer’s journey focuses on providing solutions that aid consumers throughout every stage of the decision-making process. Here are a few reasons why businesses need to understand this journey:

  • It encourages solution-focused marketing. If you’re just starting as a marketer, you may be unsure how to position your brand or pitch your product. Using the buyer’s journey is a great way to market your product or service, highlighting how it solves a particular pain point or fills a specific need for your potential customers. This solution-based marketing is often the best way to turn a buyer from prospect to customer. Learn more about sales prospecting in our complete guide.
  • It allows you to tailor your marketing. The buying journey breaks up your customers’ trajectories into three simple stages or mindsets—making it much easier for you to optimize relevant content marketing solutions to any buyer persona on the spectrum. For instance, a person in the awareness stage will benefit from educational content diving deep into the possible problems they encounter or checklists to help them troubleshoot. A person in the consideration stage wants articles on solutions to their problem, as well as testimonials, webinars, infographics, or differentiators that show your company is better than your competitors. A person in the decision phase wants to be confident that your company is the best choice and can benefit from product reviews, case studies, or free trials to make the decision.
  • It helps you build trust before making a sale. Looking at the sale from the potential buyer’s point of view will help you recognize that making a sale takes time—and in fact, that trying to make your sale too early in the sales funnel will only turn a potential customer away from your business. Instead, work on providing useful content during the early stages of the decision-making process. This way, by the time the consumer feels comfortable talking to a salesperson or making a purchase, they already recognize and trust your brand late in the sales process.

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Buyer’s Journey Example

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Here’s a basic example of the buyer’s journey stages to help show you how it can influence what content buyers look for at different stages:

  • Awareness stage: Dave is trying to paint his bedroom when he realizes that he isn’t quite tall enough to reach the vaulted ceiling to apply paint. He goes online and types “ceilings too tall to paint” into his favorite search engine to see what results come up. He reads several list articles detailing the problem of painting tall walls and ceilings.
  • Consideration stage: Through his searching, Dave discovers the search term “vaulted ceiling” and reads several different articles of potential solutions for how to paint vaulted ceilings. He now has a list of several options that includes step ladders, extra-long paint rollers, or paint sprayers. Dave is afraid of heights, so ladders are not a viable option, and the pricing of a paint sprayer is out of his budget. Ultimately, he decides that a long paint roller will be the best solution and begins making a list of all the paint rollers available on the market using online customer testimonials as a guide.
  • Decision stage: Dave has narrowed down his list of paint rollers to three different products. To decide which is the best, he scrolls through product reviews on each website and realizes that one of the paint rollers has an adjustable tip that allows him to change the angle while he’s painting. That differentiator, combined with the glowing customer reviews, is enough for him to make the purchasing decision.

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