small business

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.

 

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.

 

CONCLUSION

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

 

Understanding a Statement of Work (SOW)

Man Thinking About How to Write a Statement of Work.

Man Thinking About How to Write a Statement of Work.

A Statement of Work is not something many small businesses provide or ask for when they are selling or receiving a service. It could be because many small businesses are satisfied with just an invoice or a project proposal. It could also be that many small businesses don’t really understand what a Statement of Work is. If you are a free-lancer working by yourself, then it can be daunting to try to write any kind of statement up when you may not have any background in business, but don’t let that be an excuse.

A Statement of Work (SOW) is a document that shows specifically what type of work is going to be completed and how long it is going to take. Yeah…it’s pretty much that simple.

Now the reason this is important for you is because it can help a small business outline with details what they can expect from the company providing the service with costs and time associated with it. If the providing company then doesn’t do what they have stated in the SOW then you have something you can hold them to and if you have to, take them to court with. You could almost look at it as a sort of insurance policy.

SOWs are like project proposals on steroids. After you read through one, you should have no questions about how long the service will take, how much each step will cost, or how the process will roll out. If you do, then it needs to be revised.

Now let’s say you are interested in writing one. I’ll overview the very basic sections you should include to clarify any confusion. 


OBJECTIVE

This is the area where you want a detailed summary of the end product or service that is expected to be delivered. Create definitions of what success looks like and what failure looks like.

APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

There needs to be a section that really lays out what is going to happen and how. There should be a task list of pre-production, production, and post-production that all needs to happen so that neither side of the agreement is surprised by the events that need to take place.

MILESTONES

It is so important to have milestones. Create a time table with milestones along the way so that it is easy to track how far along a project is. Outline any costs that have to happen during these milestones to keep the work moving and avoid delays. It is also highly recommended to schedule formal reviews at key points to double check everything and make sure everything is continuing as planned and expected.

COSTS

This section should outline every cost and where the money goes. If you are trying to figure this out, walk through the process and think about the cost at every step. Then write those down. Think about material costs, time costs, testing costs, and delivery costs. It is even ok to have a miscellaneous or unforeseen costs. The more research you do before hand, the better and more accurate these numbers become. Make sure to include costs for extra work that might need to be done for revisions. The more detailed you outline the costs the less friction there will be when getting paid.

STATEMENT OF UNDERSTANDING & SIGNATURE

After you lay everything out as detailed as you can, have both parties sign that they understand the agreement before you start doing any work.


Now you know the basics of a Statement of Work. They can get much more complicated than this and often do, but now you know a good framework to start from.

SMART-HD Goals

Let me start by explaining that a SMART goal is an acronym that stands for:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time sensitive 

If you create goals using this method, it can help you better strategically think through your company goals. But I think that this method can be improved upon even further. Even though attainable and realistic are safe words to use when creating goals, I think that they create a sense of underachievement. Don't get me wrong, we want our goals to be attainable and realistic, but goals should also be motivating and create a desire to want to achieve them. That's why I like what LeadershipIQ has suggested with their HARD goals

Heartfelt - My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me
Animated/Affirming - I can picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals. 
Required - My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company. 
Difficult - I may have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone. 

I would take out Attainable and Realistic from he SMART goals and replace them with Affirming and Required. I don't like the word Animated so I would use Affirming because when you feel good about completing a goal it affirms you and encourages you in your work by telling you that you are capable. These replaced words would help make the goals matter more to the goal-setter by allowing them to visualize their success and be more relevant to the company.

The Specific, Measureable, and Time sensitive would stay the same, but I would add HD at the end which stands for Heartfelt and Difficult. These two words would enrich the company environment and push employees to grow personally and professionally in their work capabilities. The combined result would be:

Specific
Measurable
Affirming
Required
Time sensitive
Heartfelt
Difficult

By combining these two methods to create SMART-HD goals, you would get superior goal setting that would inspire employees or yourself to push your goals to the edge while being energized with a stronger desire to achieve them.


Leadership IQ Study: Are SMART Goals Dumb?. (n.d.). Leadership IQ. Retrieved April 07, 2015, from http://www.leadershipiq.com/materials/LeadershipIQ-AreSmartGoalsDumb.pdf 

My Business Has a Website, But Do I Need a Social Media Presence?

Many small businesses have a website which is a great thing. However, most people don't market their website or buy ads with Google or Bing to help their website get found in search engines. But this is ok and normal. I don't know many small business owners who have a lot of extra time on their hand to learn Google AdWords.

But now with Social Media being so important, everyone is joining everything so that they can say they are on Social Media. The first problem with this is that being on Social Media is a broad term and should not be a static statement. The second is that unless you are creating content on these different Social Media platforms, then it's actually probably hurting you more than helping you.

Establishing your website is extremely important and should be your number one priority for your online presence. But, Social Media is too big to ignore and every small business should be on a Social Media platform. But don't get caught up in trying to be on all of them. For example, if you are a visual media company then you should probably be on Instagram and Pinterest since you want people to see what you do and share it with others. However, a financial focused business might not have as much use with putting up pictures, but they could use Twitter to share compelling stats and figures that might draw a customer in to ask more questions.

The most important thing you can do as a small business, is define the goals you hope to achieve and then make sure that whatever Social Media platform you choose will align with those goals. If you don't know how to set good goals then look up SMART goals. That will get you started. 

If you are still not sure if you should be on Social Media or what platform you should be on, then send me a message and I will be glad to help you out.

David Doughty
Multi-Media Storyteller
@daviddoughty83
daviddoughty.com

Online Time Management for Small Businesses

How can a small business owner think about Social Media and digital marketing when their plate is already full with just keeping their business a float? Not to mention trying to make room for family time and a resemblance to a social life?

Luckily their are tools out there to help streamline your company's digital footprint so that you can make every step count. I will give my 3 recommendations in Social Media, Project, and Email Management, so that you can save time and resources while getting everything done.


SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGMENT

Hootsuite

Hootsuite

Hootsuite allows you to manage all of your social media platforms from one place and schedule future posts so that you can work around the schedule you want. The dashboard also allows you to see the analytics of what posts are getting looked at and shared so that you can know what is working and what isn't. It can also show you what people are saying about your company so that you can be quicker to put out fires if need be.

You can also share your workload amongst teams, departments, or regions. Assign tasks, receive real-time notifications, and have internal conversations right from the dashboard. Hootsuite is an incredible time-saver and a must have for any small business.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Basecamp

Basecamp

Basecamp helps you bring people together with different roles, responsibilities, and objectives toward a common goal: Finishing a project together. Basecamp helps small businesses delegate tasks and track progress of goals and deadlines set. There is a calendar integration and a notification system to keep everyone on the same page. Another great thing about Basecamp is it's ability to give clients their own login so that they can make comments and suggestions to the progression of their project. A great tool to centrally focus your team.


EMAIL MANAGEMENT

MailChimp

MailChimp is still my top choice for email management. The ease of use and vast template options for any kind of email need is far better than anything out there. The subscriber profiles for each person on your email list will tell you which emails they opened and what they clicked on. Each campaign you send also gives great detail on where in the world each email was opened and what was clicked on. 

Now, MailChimp has a responsive design so that no matter what device you are on, you can send out email campaigns from any device. This is truly a dream for any small business owner on the go. And MailChimp already integrates with hundreds of apps and services, like Salesforce, Eventbrite, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Shopify, and SurveyMonkey. Sync your data, import content from other sources, and see how your newsletters affect your business.


With the addition of these tools, you can worry less about how you are going to keep up with Social Media and Digital Marketing and focus more on your customers and their needs.

If you need any advice or help getting your small business jump-started on some of these or other online tools, please contact me and I would love to help.

 

David Doughty
Multi-Media Storyteller
@daviddoughty83
www.daviddoughty.com