(by Timothy Kelly) So many companies attempting online marketing think that it’s a matter of posting an offer and trying to sell their product or service as quickly as possible to the potential buyer before they lose interest. If it were that easy, you would not be reading this article right now, am I correct? So what is the right path to successful online marketing?
Buying is a Process. Selling Should Follow That Process
There is some truth to the decay factor of a prospect’s interest over time. However, the mistake is thinking that someone who responds to a blog post or advertisement is immediately a buyer is just not correct. Online buyers are a fairly predictable group. Research shows us that there is a well-defined buying cycle that dominates the online purchase process. Understanding where a potential customer is within the buying cycle and addressing their needs at the appropriate level consistent with their place in the buying cycle can make all the difference as to whether that prospect becomes a customer or tire-kicker.
Online Buyers Have a Common 3-Stage Purchase Cycle
- Awareness Stage – This is the stage when a potential customer begins to be aware of a need, opportunity or problem,
- Consideration Stage – The buyer begins to explore options to fill a need solve the problem or take advantage of an opportunity,
- Decision Stage – The buyer understands the need, problem or potential opportunity; they have an idea of how to fulfill the solution and are looking to purchase resources to accomplish the goal.
3-Stage Buying Cycle Explained
We often hear about sales success stories as “being in the right place at the right time”. That sounds a bit arbitrary, not something you want to present to your boss or a board of directors. Online marketing is about ensuring that you are at the right place at the right time, consistently. It’s not a simple process, but if followed correctly, online marketing can deliver consistent, measurable returns with an attractive return on investment (ROI).
How you try to engage a buyer at each stage of the buying cycle will likely affect the outcome of your marketing and sales efforts. After all, if a person decides they may want to purchase a new home, you would not try to sell them a homeowner’s insurance policy at that point, would you? Of course not, they are too early in the cycle. But if an insurance salesman offered that same person a guide to new home ownership that helped the buyer navigate through the buying process successfully, that buyer would have a much higher likelihood of buying an insurance policy from that salesperson.
Getting to a potential customer as early as possible in the 3-step buying journey, and delivering helpful, relevant messaging will virtually ensure that you will get consideration when the customer reaches the decision stage.