You might already be familiar with the three stages of the buyer's journey. The concept has become especially important to digital marketers in recent years, as marketing has shifted to a customer-centric approach that puts the audience at the centre of the planning and implementation process. Considering your buyer's journey means understanding just what steps they take on their way to helping your business grow.
With a basic understanding of the buyer's journey, you can implement a digital marketing strategy specifically designed to give your audience what they want and need at their current stage. That means building a more focused website, social media plan, and general online presence. Building your efforts around the buyer's journey takes effort, but that effort ultimately pays off in more effective digital marketing.
The Basics of the Buyer's Journey
At its core, the buyer's journey consists of three stages. Each of these stages results in a different audience segment and intentions:
- Awareness, in which potential customers recognise a problem or pain point that requires a solution. At this point, they're unaware of any potential solutions to that problem.
- Consideration, in which your audience begins to research potential solutions for the problem. This is where, hopefully, they come across your company as a solution to their problem.
- Decision, in which the customer decides between the various alternative options to pick the best one for the situation. You've made the case that your decision is the best option.
Each of these stages requires very different marketing tactics and messaging points. They tend to apply to all customers across industries, including both B2B and B2C variants. And yet, beyond that general framework, the buyer's journey can quickly get complex.
The Need for Greater Details
Understanding the buyer's journey, as defined above, can only be the beginning. You have to make sure that you can capture the exact steps that your potential customers take as they move towards your company.
Think about it: you probably use very different processes when dealing with a business compared to a personal pain point requiring a solution. And even in a business context, a daily decision to improve the way you work through your emails will be very different from a strategic decision to improve the ordering process throughout the organisation.
To get there, you need a comprehensive process that builds your marketing around the buyer's journey for your specific company. Ultimately, your goal is to end up with a map that outlines the journey, your potential marketing touch points, and how these touch points help to move your audience to their (and your) end goal of solving their pain points by becoming your customer.
7 Steps to Build a Customers Journey Map that Enhances Your Website Design
These seven steps can help you in that process, building a buyer's journey map that ultimately enhances and guides your digital marketing strategy and implementation.
Step 1. Conduct Basic Audience Research
First, it pays to start with the right data. Every step you take below will be based at least partially on your audience. Without an in-depth understanding of that audience, missteps are easy.
Your audience research should focus on how buyers in your industry typically make their buying decision. What type of resources do they use, and whose opinions do they seek? How long do they take from starting the awareness stage to making their final decision?
Some of that research will inevitably be qualitative. Use your experience, and don't be afraid to ask customers directly. Still, more quantitative data (like the average lead-to-customer time in your CRM system) can help to support and reinforce that qualitative data.
Step 2. Outline Your Customer's Goals for Each Step
Based on your audience research and the customer knowledge gathered in the step above, begin your customer journey map with the three basic stages that apply to every audience. But don't end there; instead, add in their specific goals.
In other words, what problems do they typically look to solve when they begin to consider potential solutions like yours? What would an 'ideal path' be that gets them exactly what they need at each stage? The more specific you can be, the better.
In the first stage, they may be looking for others like them who encountered similar pain points. In the second, their focus shifts to the industry and what solutions are out there. In the third, goals will be more closely related to finding the right pricing, support, and long-term partner.
Step 3. Integrate Various 'Sub-Stages' Typical for Your Industry
Here, you start to go beyond the basic three stages. Though these stages summarise the buyer's journey well, each industry sees an additional number of steps that is intermittent to the basic framework. Your goal should be to find them and add them into the map.
Take the second, consideration step as an example. Especially if you're dealing with large purchases or business customers, your audience may research a very defined, standardised way. That might include gathering recommendations from industry experts or input from stakeholders across the organisations.
Chances are that within your industry and target audience base, these steps are pretty standard. On an eCommerce site, the average customer may always look at online reviews. Find these intermittent steps, and add them into the basic framework where appropriate.
Step 4. Add in Your Touch points at Each Step and Sub-Step
So far, you've only mapped how customers behave as they seek help from a company like yours in the industry. That's independent of your own company's efforts to reach and influence the customer journey. Now, it's time to add your perspective.
Start with your current digital marketing tactics. Fit each effort to reach out to potential customers, from sales calls to print advertising, into the map you've begun to build. Look for the 'best fit' - a marketing campaign may reach multiple stages at once, but is typically directed to one stage more than others.
Your website will play a crucial role in this step as well. When are visitors most likely to visit your homepage, compared to your pricing page? How does that fit with the way that your audience tends to do research and go through the buyer's journey?
Step 5. Integrate Communications Goals for Each Touchpoint
This step adds nuance to the previous one. Each of your marketing tactics probably has a specific goal, designed to generate more customers or move your audience through the sales funnel. Add a layer for each touchpoint that outlines this core conversion goal.
In addition to making the model more complex, this step also helps you optimize your communications. You will find, for example, that it's easier to find the 'best fit' mentioned above if the goal of your touchpoint matches the customer goal at a given touchpoint.
If you don't currently have digital marketing goals set up, now is the time to create them. Knowing where in the buyer's journey your tactics fall, as you determined in the previous step, can help you set goals that are designed to optimise your marketing.
Step 6. Include Backend Steps to Show Work Done Internally
Naturally, all of your marketing and sales conversion efforts require significant backend work that the audience doesn't always see. Adding that background into the buyer's journey can help you better understand scope as you begin to evaluate the success of your efforts and plan your strategy.
Backstage work may include anything from the software needed to send an email to the work hours required or the budget necessary for an advertising campaign. Keep it to the basics, creating a high-level overview that helps you understand what it takes to increase or decrease any given marketing tactic.
The most important added value for this step is the ability to evaluate your marketing across tactics. Once you understand workload and resources required, you can easily make determinations on changes for under-utilised or overexposed channels.
Step 7. Turn Your Customer Journey Map Into a Living Document
Congratulations! With the above steps, you have created a buyer's journey specific to your company and its customers. Now, it's time to leverage the information you can glean from it. That includes turning it from a static piece of information into a living, real-time document.
Naturally, that means regularly updating the various factors on the map depending on current variables and developments. It also means evaluating whether your current touch points are accomplishing their goals in moving your audience through to the decision stage. A strategic overview of your entire journey is an ideal opportunity to make adjustments, shifting priorities to underserved stages and optimising the messaging to fit your audience's goals at a given time.
Of course, this is only the beginning. Complex buyer's journeys can include much more information, such as the efforts your competition is undertaking to accomplish the same goals as you. Still, it's a vital tool to help you better evaluate your digital marketing and your efforts to reach and convert your core audiences.
Digital marketing is complex. So is building a website that's designed to respond to audience needs and provide them with the information and action steps they need to convert to customers. A reliable partner can help you get there. Contact us to start the conversation about a new or updated website, and how it may play into a more strategic digital marketing approach.