How to effectively nurture leads from first contact to final sale and beyond.

The buyer’s journey is one of the foundational principles of many digital marketing campaigns. It’s a helpful rubric to use when trying to understand how your customers approach your product so that you can create content that more directly addresses their needs. We’ve spoken about the buyer’s journey many times in the past, but we’ve never broken it down and explained each stage step by step. So, if you’ve heard the term and have been wondering what it means, look no further.

Stage 1: Aware.

Your customers won’t buy from you until they know who you are. That’s why the first stage in the buyer’s journey is awareness. Your name needs to be out there competing for their attention if you’re going to land sales, but how do you get it in front of people who have never heard of you?

Of course, this is what a lot of digital advertising is about, especially on Google Ads and social media platforms. You do some research on keywords and audience demographics and the put your money behind that campaign.

But blogging also plays a key role in drawing in organic search traffic. If no one’s ever heard of you, they may still find you by Googling a relatively broad or basic question and then discovering that blog post you serendipitously wrote on that topic.

This is why content designed to build brand awareness usually focuses on broad, entry-level topics. You’re trying to get leads into your sales funnel, and then once they get to know you business, they can sort themselves into a more specific persona category.

Stage 2: Convert.

OK, so now that you’ve accomplished Step 1 and gotten your brand in front of potential customers, how do you sell them on your product or services? This is what the conversion stage is all about. Your potential customers may know you, but they’re probably also looking at your competitors, weighing you against them, and trying to decide which will match their needs best.

The conversion stage of the buyer’s journey is about convincing your potential customers that you are, in fact, the answer they’ve been searching for. If you were to think about this from the perspective of a buyer doing consumer research, the “attract” stage is when they made their short list of potential purchases, and the “convert” stage is where they narrow the field. They’re looking for detailed information that they can use to compare across other products or services.

In some cases, you might not have clear competition. In this case, you’re trying to sell your customer on a brand new concept. You’re essentially showing them how your business is the solution to a problem they never knew they had. Again, detailed information and deep content is your friend here. If your customers are interested enough to do the research, that means they’re hot prospects. And there’s nothing forcing them to read a lengthy product description if they’re already sold on it. More information is always better.

Stage 3: Close.

You may be tempted to believe that once you convert a customer to a brand believer, there’s nothing left for you to do. You’d be wrong. How many of us have held out on making a purchase for reasons beyond our desire for or belief in the product? There are many factors that can prevent your average purchaser from pulling the trigger, from budgetary concerns, to timing, to needing approval from another party.

This is where the closing stage comes in. Most buyers need some reason to make a purchase todayrather than tomorrow. And while some may find any number of powerful reasons based on the conversion content alone, others require a little more convincing.

Closing content tends to press harder than other content types. It may be more persuasive, draw on statistics and customer reviews, or put a hard deadline on when a buyer can make their decision. Many retailers use sales, discount codes, or limited quantities to convince buyers to cross the line from window shopper to purchasing customer. But however you choose to close that sale (and earn that coffee), your job isn’t done, because there’s still one stage left.

Stage 4: Delight.

The worst thing you can do for your business after closing a sale is to leave your customer feeling like they made a bad purchase. Those sour grapes could lead to a bad review, or they could prevent that customer from recommending your product to other potential buyers. But most importantly, they keep that customer from coming back for more.

A good business never takes its returning customers for granted. Those are the bread and butter of the industry, the reliable patrons who keep your business afloat during the hard times. It is expensive and difficult to recruit new customers, but relatively easy to retain them once you’ve won them over—so long as you don’t screw up the relationship.

This is because your returning customers, having been convinced once, are more likely to be convinced a second time. And perhaps more importantly, they’re likely to feel more comfortable with the option they know well and forgive its slight flaws than to switch to a complete unknown.

“Delight” content might give your users tips on how to use your product more efficiently, or it may answer FAQs. It can also suggest similar products to customers based on ones they’ve purchased in the past, or share general knowledge about an area of interest. Think about a kitchenware company sharing recipes or writing articles about how to enjoy food. The best part about it is, after a while, that content completes the circle and joins hands with “attract” content. Your previous customers stay in your sales funnel, and so long as they’re happy with your services, they have no incentive to leave.

Published 04/19/19 by Laura Lynch