I’ve blogged often enough about the value of niche marketing, having strong customer personas and targeting your prospects clearly. So it should come as no surprise to learn that one of the benefits of doing these things is that it puts you in the position to leverage the various stages of the customer’s buying cycle.
Knowing what to market, to whom and when to market is one of the most valuable aspects of inbound marketing, and one that generates a better response in terms of consumer behaviour than any broader marketing efforts.
Here are the 4 primary stages of the buying cycle, and how you can use them to your advantage:
Stage 1: Awareness
In this stage, your customer first becomes aware of a need he (or she) has, and the ways in which a particular product or service can fulfil that need. He goes looking for information, and because he has a relatively clear idea of what he wants to find he’s less likely to visit a site that doesn’t target him specifically.
How to leverage this: By having a clear vision of your ideal customer, it’s possible to customize your website design and content marketing to appeal to him. You can create targeted content specifically for buyers in this stage, by reviewing what people are searching for and then creating material that moves them closer to the next stage.
For example: Search queries for your website show activity on the term “homebuilding contractor.” To target buyers in stage 1 of the cycle, create content educating them on how to identify suitable contractors for their needs. We’ll stick with this example all the way through, for the sake of keeping it simple.
Stage 2: Consideration
Your user has found your website and information, and now begins to evaluate whether or not you can meet his need, and how you compare with other providers of the product or service.
How to leverage this: Make sure your website content is comprehensive and searchable. Optimize it for the use of long-tailed keywords, and create webpages where you answer specific questions buyers have at this point. Create individual landing pages for each of the services you provide, where users can download additional information, with a call to action that shifts the user to the stage of making contact.
For example: Set up separate sections of your site to deal with the two different types of service, so users don’t find it confusing. Create content around topics such as:
- how to budget for a renovation project, or
- how to identify a suitable lot to buy for a custom home.
This helps to establish your company as an expert in the industry, and builds your reputation with the user.
Stage 3: Intent
A customer who has done her homework thoroughly will begin to form an overall opinion of the various potential service providers. If her opinion of your company is favourable, she’ll be starting to form the intention to make contact with you.
How to leverage this: At this point you want to know who’s looking at you. Create individual landing pages for your various services, such as custom homebuilding and home renovations, so users who search within your site can find the solution to their specific need. Create content for each of the individual services, which can be downloaded from the landing pages. This will give you:
- Contact details for the prospect
- Clarification of whether she wants a new home built, or an old one renovated
- A way to shift her to the next step, which is becoming educated about your method of operation.
Your website content at this stage needs to lead your prospect to read customer reviews, sign up for your newsletter or download and read product information and specification sheets, if those apply.
This is also a good time to implement an email nurturing campaign to nudge your buyer closer to making a purchase.
For example: Develop an eBook on homebuilding that covers how to choose a floor plan, deciding on finishes and requesting a written contract. For the renovation section, create material that compares the ROI of various remodelling projects to help the user decide what to tackle first.
Stage 4: Purchase
Just because your product or service isn’t something that can be purchased online doesn’t mean this stage is any less important. “Purchase” means the user takes action that leads to a commitment to buy. So in the example of a homebuilding contractor, this would apply to making the call to request a consultation and an estimate.
How to leverage this: At the stage of purchase, the trick is to give the customer every motivation to make a commitment. If you have special offers and discounts, you’d offer them to users who have reached this point. How do you know they’ve reached it? Because they’ve provided you with their contact information, downloaded in-depth material on redirection from your content pages, and indicated their choice of product or service through their actions.
For example: Offer email recipients in this stage a limited-time option for a discount on a particular type of renovation, if they schedule their first consultation within 30 days.
So while we know the whole point of inbound marketing is to get sales, avoid falling into the trap of believing it’s all about selling. By leveraging the information you have on potential clients and their stage in the cycle, you can shepherd them through the process. You’ll lose fewer customers along the way—and that translates into more sales. After that you just have to keep them, and that’s a different story entirely.