The buyer’s journey is the process of any given potential customer going from not knowing of your brand at all, to evolving into a loyal buyer of your brand. For the most part, analytical programs (such as Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, etc.) exist precisely to reveal data to you about where in the buyer’s journey each lead is, pertaining to what it is that you’d like them to buy from you. It’s a great concept to base the foundation of your small business’s Internet marketing strategy off of, as well as a great diagnostic tool when troubleshooting why you’re not making as many sales as you are online.
The Three Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey
There are three stages to the buyer’s journey:
- The awareness stage
- The consideration stage
- The decision stage
They’re pretty self-explanatory. The awareness stage is considered when the audience:
- doesn’t realize they have a problem
- first begins to realize they have a problem
- doesn’t know about your brand
- first begins to realize that your brand exists and can solve their problem
The consideration stage is considered when the audience is:
- aware of their problem
- aware of your brand and how it can solve their problem
- considering to purchase from your brand
The decision stage is considered when the audience has:
- narrowed down their choices to a shortlist of competitors to buy from
- become ready to make an actual purchase
The Three Major Hurdles Small Businesses Face When Factoring The Buyer’s Journey Into Their Content Marketing Plan
There are three major hurdles that small businesses must overcome in order to have a successful content marketing launch online and gain traction in the market:
- your target audience’s level of awareness of your existence
- the content of competitors
Once you’ve established your target audience, you have to assess the level of awareness your audience doesn’t have for your brand (keyword: “doesn’t”, pertaining to whether or not you are a tiny or big fish in the proverbial pond), as well as the competition you’re going to have to design your content to overcome.
By using the word “competition”, I’m referring to other websites producing similar content in order to market similar products or services that compete with your own in the same industry. Simply because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you’re a tiny fish in the pond; if the pond itself is the geographically designated market, then you’re really only as tiny as what would be inversely proportional to the size of your market. For instance, if you were trying to sell solar products to the locals in your town, the chances are that you won’t have much competition; you’d be one of the biggest, if not the biggest fish in your pond, and it wouldn’t take too much of an investment to get the town aware of your presence with clever use of social media. But the moment you try to become an international business is the moment you’d have to compete with brands like Tesla, which changes the entirety of the ball game, so to speak, which is going to require both genius and a ton of resources to stay afloat, that you’re likely not going to have being a small business.
Time and attention is a finite resource, and it’s precisely the time and attention of your potential customers that you’re competing for with your content over other websites/companies. Conventional thinking may lead one to fear competition and to think that competition is a bad thing. However, all it really means is that there is actually money to be made in the niche or industry that you’re appealing to. If there is no competition, none, zero…then that’s a major indicator of one of two things: either you’ve got a truly revolutionary product or service that no one’s ever heard of before and you’re truly breaking new ground as a pioneer…or no one cares enough to search for your product or service with the thought of actually spending money to begin with.
The more likely answer is the former, not the latter. Though, either is possible. It’s up to you to be truly honest with yourself about that. Everyone wants to believe that they have the next revolutionary product, but the reality is that that usually only comes once in a generation for each industry, out of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of entrepreneurs (depending upon what it is). Thus, humility is the name of the game here, and the strength it takes to view the world market as it is, rather than as you wish it was or fantasize it to be. Else, your mind will fall victim to confirmation bias (seeing what you want to see in otherwise neutral occurrences/data), which will lead you into making bad business decisions that may cost you the irrecoverable failure of your business.
Thus, all three stages of the buyer’s journey should be considered when designing the architecture of your content marketing plan; however, you should be realistic about the limitation of your business’s resources when it comes to producing content. Resources make the third major hurdle for small businesses/sole-proprietors like you.
If you’re selling a product or service that is not a brand new revolutionary invention that no one’s ever heard of (and thus searching the Internet for), then it’s wiser to design content mainly for the consideration stage, while sparing resources from the awareness stage. This is because, in this scenario, you have competition which means that the market already has a pulse. People are already searching for what you’re offering, which means that you mainly just need to make sure that your UVP (unique value proposition) is competitive and you’re providing enough content that will make your target audience consider you over your competitors, in order to win them over in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
If you’re selling a product or service that is a brand new revolutionary invention that no one’s ever heard of (and thus searching the Internet for), then it’s wiser to design content mainly for the awareness stage, while sparing resources from the consideration stage. This is because, in this scenario, you don’t have competition which means that the market doesn’t have a pulse. People aren’t already searching for what you’re offering, which means that you mainly just need to make sure that your content is able to establish the pulse of the market. This means you don’t have many, if any, competitors; you’re the first of your kind, which means that your UVP doesn’t have anyone to compete with, which means that you don’t have to work as hard in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
And if you’re somewhere in between the two scenarios (medium competition with a moderately innovative product/service), then it’s up to you to put an equal amount into producing content for both the awareness and consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.
You see how that works?
It’s up to you to use honesty with yourself, your gut instincts, combined with market research to be able to tell exactly how to structure your Internet marketing strategy and utilize your resources to produce content according to what will maximize your chances of success.
The Decision Stage Of The Buyer’s Journey
Once your analytics programs yield the data from which you can draw the accurate conclusion that you’ve got targeted traffic making it to the decision stage of the journey, at that point, it’s up to you to merely present a strong enough UVP to win over the customer. Your UVP is essentially your company’s offer in a nutshell; StrataGem Internet Marketing’s UVP is prototypically “Contract with us at x-price to receive x-boost in your company’s marketing results.”
McDonald’s UVP would be something like: “Pay $0.99 for a great tasting burger,” which may be cheaper than Burger King’s UVP, which would be something like “Pay $1.99 for a great tasting burger that’s guaranteed to be fresh off the grill with real meat.”
McDonald’s may compete in price, but Burger King may compete in quality. At which point, it’s up to the buyer to consider and decide which brand’s product (food) is best for them based upon their competing UVP. The market will then split into segments based on their preferences.
The less competition you have, the more beneficial for you your UVP can be (e.g. the higher a price you can charge, depending upon your ethics). The more competition you have, the harder you’re going to have to work and the more you’re going to have to be willing to sacrifice to win your customers over your competition (e.g. the lower a price you’ll have to charge coupled with higher quality).
Your Internet marketing strategy should be about creating content that efficiently raises awareness of your brand, provides enough for your target audience’s consideration, and delivers a strong enough UVP that beats your competitors in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. How to go about doing that is unique for every business, dependent upon a multitude of variables, but if you’d like to learn more about those variables, be sure to follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.