helping small businesses

Stages of a Buying Process in a Digital World

steps on buying process

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.



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.



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).



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 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.



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.



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.



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


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$FILE/16Cheung.pdf


Hawley, M. (2011, March 07). Research Methods for Understanding Consumer Decisions in a Social World. Retrieved from


Payton, S. (2012, January 20). How to create customer confidence for your new business. Retrieved from


The buying process leads to a decision to buy. (2002). Retrieved from


What is the Right Social Media for My Small Business?

Let's face it, most small businesses have little to no presence on the web and others barely have a website put together. The most common question I get with small business owners is, "What social media platforms should I be on?" Most think that they have to be on all of them, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Here are three questions you need to ask yourself when it come to figuring out which Social Media platforms your company should be on.

1. Who is MY target audience?

The most important social media platforms that you should be on are the one's where your target audience is. What does that mean? Well, if you're target audience is teenagers then SnapChat might be something you look into. If it's creative young do-it yourself mothers, then Pinterest should be on your radar.

It's important to know your target audience as specifically as possible. If they are men, what kind of men. What are their hobbies, interest, etc.. The better you know your audience, the better you can market to them and know where they go.

2. How much time can I devote to Social Media?

30 min to an hour a day is almost minimum for monitoring and managing your Social Media accounts. Ideally, you should staff a digital marketer who can do all of this for you and more, but many small business can't afford that so there are a few tools you can look into that act as a sort of aggregate to social media. HootSuite is a great one that allows you to login to one place and manage and post to any of your social media sites (well almost any of them). It also measures performance and give you some analytics tools as well.

Some have asked,"Why not just schedule a weeks worth of posts in one day then only check it once a week?" The reason is because you need to monitor what others are saying about your brand. If someone complains about you on your social media site and you don't respond within 24 hours at the latest then it can really make your brand look bad. Here are some examples of what can go wrong (6 examples of social media crisis).

3. How will I utilize the Social Media platforms I join?

So now we know who are target audience is, and where they are. We've joined the two or three social media platforms and are excited about getting started. The problem now is what do I post? This is not uncommon for small businesses to feel this way. This is why you need a plan. 

Decide before hand how many times you will post each week to each social media platform. If you are writing a blog, three original posts a week are stronger than daily regurgitation. Twitter and Facebook can be updated at least 4 to 5 times a week, and more if you find yourself in conversations with customers. 

It is very important that you don't just replicate the same material on all of your social media channels. Make sure each social media platform that you are on has a specific purpose that you are utilizing it for that is different than the other platforms you are on. For example if you are using Facebook for news updates about your company, don't just make yourTwitter account an aggregate for your Facebook feed. It's ok to post links for update to Twitter too, but use your Twitter account as another way for potential customers to contact you with questions, or host monthly Q&A sessions with other professionals in your field.

Just remember that you need to know your audience which will in turn help you know which Social Media platforms you need to be on. But have a plan once you decide where you are going to be and be consistent at executing your plan. And lastly, always ask for feedback so you can constantly be improving your methods. 


As always, please ask me any questions on here or on my Twitter account @daviddoughty83