For any business that sells a product it is important to know that there are stages in a buying process. Of course this is not new news. However, many small businesses struggle with these stages when converting them to a digital marketing platform.
Today, I would like to walk through 6 stages and give a brief idea of how you can utilize each stage in your own digital marketing campaign.
It is important that before you begin thinking through these stages of the buying process, that you understand your target audience, otherwise anything you do to market online will be like throwing darts blindfolded.
STAGE 1: UNAWARE
To create awareness for your product start by optimizing your website for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Add titles, descriptions, and meta tags where ever appropriate. Also don’t forget to use alt tags on any image on your website. This allows your images to help when your site is being indexed by search engines.
Then buy PPC (Pay Per Click) ads through Google for long-tailed search terms so they can capture the consumers who already know what they are looking for. This can also be done with Facebook and Twitter Ads if your company has a good presence on those social media platforms.
Lastly, consider partnering with group-buying websites like Groupon or Living Social. Awareness can be spread locally to those customers that never knew the company existed.
This would be a great start to spread awareness that would continue through satisfied customers on social media and review sites. Of course, not all of these methods may work for your product, but it might help you think of another way that you had not considered.
STAGE 2: AWARE OF PRODUCT NEED
Once a consumer is aware of their need for a product, they begin to develop focused reasoning for why they need it. This is where building their confidence in your brand is important. One effective strategy is by creating a company blog that writes about topics related to your products while sharing tips on social media.
This would help them become a resource where customers can come for advice and insight. “The beauty of this is that as they find you and like what you’re putting out there, they’ll share it and the effect snowballs” (Payton, 2012).
STAGE 3: SUPPLIER RESEARCH
After a consumer is aware of their need, they begin to research companies that can satisfy that need. Product reviews are important to have since many people look to these first, but differentiation is most important for any business that wants to be successful.
Here you must find what your unique differentiator is as a company. Once you find this…you must exploit it. Find other bloggers that review similar products that have high followers. Then send them a personal email and offer publicity for their blog in return for a review. Also, send them your product for free to use (if that’s possible).
Go to reddit.com and find a forum where people would be interested in a product like yours. Basically, look for online communities where your product would draw interest and get involved in those communities. Answer questions and ask for help. This will make you more personable and less a troll that everyone ignores because they think you are just there to advertise.
By doing this and utilizing your own company blog and social media regularly will help generate trust and positive reinforcement to your brand. Overtime these reviews and buzz will populate the first page of Google searches when people are trying to research other companies selling similar products. The more (positive) talk they see of your product, the more likely they will consider you.
STAGE 4: EVALUATE AND SELECT
The next stage in the buying process is evaluating the product or service and making a selection, which is where demonstrating value and emotional connections are most important. Providing valuable “content and information that enables and empowers your customers to do their jobs better is the ultimate way to thank them for their business, and support their success in ways that will serve volumes to your advocacy marketing” (Batista, 2013).
This is also where having a blog that shares advice, tips, and insights is helpful not only in differentiation but in maintaining a customer community that builds brand loyalty. You can also demonstrate value by sharing personal stories via social media to humanize your company in a positive light, which in return helps your customer get to know you a little better which is a form of relationship building (Batista, 2013).
A rewards program would also show value to your customer because it creates excitement to get free stuff and return customers. Remember if a customer has narrowed their decision down to you and one or two others, they will look to see who will give them more value over time. The details matter most in this stage.
STAGE 5: PURCHASE
When shopping in a real store, it’s easy for people to put something in their shopping cart thinking they needed something at the time, but after walking around for awhile they talk themselves out of it. This is why it is extremely important to guide the customer through a very simple shopping and secure buying process (The buying process, 2002).
There are still people out there that are not comfortable buying things online, and they need to feel like they can trust you and your site. Having different payment options like Apple Pay, Paypal, and Google Wallet will help ease some people’s discomfort, but having the “s” after “http” also helps because that indicates it is a secure website.
Ultimately, the idea is to make people feel good about buying from you by giving them peace of mind that nothing bad will happen all while making the buying process as simple and easy as possible.
STAGE 6: POST-PURCHASE EVALUATION AND FEEDBACK
In the last stage of the buying process it is important to look at the Model of Intention, Adoption, and Continuance which is a consumer behavior framework that shows the importance of continuing your relationship with your customer (Cheung, Zhu, Kwong, Chan, & Limayem, 2003). The idea is that the customer will be loyal to you and return to buy more while being an Advocate for your brand to others (Hawley, 2011).
When a customer is excited about the experience they had with your company, they will want to share it which is a from of viral marketing. A great way to stay in touch is by getting customers to opt-in to your emails so that they can stay up to date with your latest products and services. You may not be able to control what a customer says or does, but you can at least help guide them to what you want them to do.
The ideas and examples talked about in the different steps would be a great starting point for any company. They would need to be reevaluated the following year to see what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. Every company is different and nothing I say will work for everyone, but the stages are the same and are an excellent guide to build from. I would recommend every company to have a brainstorm session over each stage of the buying process and see how you can improve on what you are currently doing. Remember that no matter how good your company is doing, it can always be doing better.
Batista, A. (2013, July 10). 5 ways to demonstrate value to your customers. Retrieved from http://blog.eloqua.com/demonstratevalue/
Cheung C. M., Zhu, L., Kwong, T., Chan, G. W., & Limayem, M. (2003). Online consumer behavior: A review and agenda for future research. Retrieved from https://domino.fov.uni-mb.si/proceedings.nsf/0/c9beda3ca328c8b7c1256ea1002c72b8/$FILE/16Cheung.pdf
Hawley, M. (2011, March 07). Research Methods for Understanding Consumer Decisions in a Social World. Retrieved from http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/03/research-methods-for-understanding-consumer-decisions-in-a-social-world.php
Payton, S. (2012, January 20). How to create customer confidence for your new business. Retrieved from http://www.futuresimple.com/blog/how-to-create-customer-confidence-for-your-new-business/
The buying process leads to a decision to buy. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.grokdotcom.com/index10-15-2002.htm