Sales cycles are getting longer, especially in B2B environments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though – as buyers have more information (and more options) at their fingertips than ever, they can carry out extensive research to make sure that they make buying decisions that are truly right for them.
However, a longer sales cycle does create more work for those selling. Your average buying process has become less of a binary “shall I buy it or not?” over the years, migrating towards rough “phases” of purchase interest. This is where understanding your buyer’s journey comes in.
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey refers to the path that buyers take from initial knowledge of a product or provider through to making a purchase. It generally starts with awareness of a company or brand, moves through to more engaged interest, which then becomes a more serious buying consideration, which then leads to a sale.
There are numerous ways of envisioning the buyer’s journey – some longer, some shorter – though each follow roughly the same pattern. Below, we’ll put our spin on a classic method, AICA: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, and Action.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 1: Awareness
The awareness stage represents the customer initially becoming aware that you exist. The buyer may be taking their first few, faltering steps to find a product like yours and may have seen your brand mentioned in search results or on social media. Alternatively, they may have experienced an advertisement of yours in the media and acknowledged that they are in the market for what you sell.
Marketing Tactics that Encourage Awareness
- Content (blogs, videos, infographics, etc.) about topics relevant to your audience
- Social media presence to open a passive dialogue with interested parties
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements in search engines and social media
- Media advertisements that grow your visibility to a wide audience
- “Buyer’s Guides” and information that brings total newbies up to speed
- Lead magnets like whitepapers, e-books, and resources to grow your email list.
Data & Metrics to Understand the Awareness Stage
Website Landing Pages – On what pages do people commonly enter your site? Your homepage is usually the most common entry page, but what other pages do people “land” on when they come to your site? And what directed them to that page? Consider their intent – what did they click on to bring them in? What might they have been expecting to see?
Search Queries – What search terms did people use to reach your website? How does this translate to the keywords your website is optimised for? If you’re running search ads, what search queries resulted in your ad being shown (“Impressions”), and which ones generated click-throughs?
Website Bounce Rate – The bounce rate is expressed as a percentage and shows how many people left a site without visiting different pages. Ideally, you want to keep people’s interest in your site beyond a single page, so a high bounce rate may indicate visitor frustration, confusion, or boredom.
Website Exit Pages – An exit page is simply the last page that a visitor views before leaving your site. Knowing which pages people tend to leave through may flag opportunities to improve site content and keep people’s interest high.
Email Mailout Sign Up & Open Rates – This is basically the rate at which people sign up to your email mailing lists and the number of opens each individual campaign gets.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 2: Interest
This stage of the buyer’s journey goes past mere awareness. Now, your brand is an established fixture in the prospect’s mind; you’ve piqued their interest and they want to know more. They are exploring their options in more detail, learning more about your industry, and forming an idea of the market.
The secret to keeping them on the hook at this stage is to answer all of their questions and reassure them of the value inherent in your product or service.
Marketing Tactics that Encourage Interest
- In-depth product guides, industry insights, and whitepapers
- Webinars, podcasts, and longer blogs that answer lots of questions
- Use case documents that highlight your versatility and value
- Pay-per-click remarketing campaigns to keep brand presence high
- Case studies and testimonials that provide valuable social proof
- Email lead generation that lets you communicate with interested leads
- Email campaigns targeted towards subscribers who haven’t yet purchased.
Data & Metrics to Understand the Interest Stage
Webpage Visit Duration – Knowing how long people spend on which web pages (especially informational pages like blogs and case studies) can give you an insight into where their priorities lie and what information they’re most commonly looking for.
Website Heatmaps – Website “heatmapping” tools can be a great investment. They show on a “heatmap” of your website, showing where people have clicked, moused over, and scrolled down. It helps to show you where people are focusing their attention.
Behaviour Flow – This little known Google Analytics report can provide a fascinating glimpse into how people use your website. It provides a visual diagram of how people entered your site and navigated through to other pages. You can also tell from the size of each diagram piece relatively how much traffic is moving where.
Live Webinar Sign-ups vs. Actual Attendance – This may seem like an odd metric to measure, but it provides a good indication of your audience’s commitment to your brand. Yes, they’re willing to attend a webinar at the point they agree to attend, but are they interested enough to actually show up live?
Podcast/Video Statistics – If you publish playable media, it pays to know how your prospects made the leap from, say, your social media or website to your presence on a platform like YouTube or Spotify. It’s also worth taking a look at your engagement data to see how long people are staying to consume that content.
Remarketing Ad Engagement – These ads target users who have already shown interest in your brand. How successful are your ads at reigniting interest from colder leads? How do people engage when they come back to you via remarketing campaigns?
Fix That Leaky Sales Funnel!
This article focuses largely on how people follow your buyer’s journey through to completion; however, there is another important factor to bear in mind – how people drop out of the buyer’s journey without buying. So get your detective hat on and uncover where, why, and how people are losing interest!
Buyer’s Journey Stage 3: Consideration
This is where interest starts really hotting up. Your buyer knows that they need to buy a solution to their problem and may even have a shortlist of providers. But a touch more research is needed for them to whittle that list down further.
Buyers will start to compare solutions and identify which option fits in best with their desired outcome. They’ll start thinking more carefully about the realities and logical justifications of purchasing. In B2B environments, they may have to rationalise their choice to managers or whoever looks after the purse strings.
Marketing/Sales Tactics that Encourage Consideration
- Product reviews and comparisons that sing your praises
- Demo videos, guides, and webinars to give people a flavour of your solution
- Case studies and use cases that illustrate what you offer in real terms
- Clear pricing and buying options so leads know what to expect when they buy
- Targeted email and remarketing campaigns to reinforce brand presence
- Any data that presents a positive picture of costs vs. benefits
- Sales outreach activity to manually encourage leads towards a sale.
Data & Metrics to Understand the Consideration Stage
Webpage Visit Duration & Heatmaps – Again, seeing where people are lingering can give you an idea of what factors are most important to them and what thoughts may be holding them back from buying.
Behaviour Flow to Conversion Pages – How are people getting to your crucial conversion pages? Are they navigating directly there, or are they taking a more meandering path through different pages? Are they clicking on an ad, social post, email, or are they getting there through consuming other content? Their route may shed some light on what’s on their mind.
CRM Engagement Data – It’s likely that you or your prospect will have made contact by this point, so CRM engagement data will start to play a part. How many outbound/inbound calls have been made to each prospect? How many emails have gone back and forth between the prospect and the sales team? Make full use of the Opportunities and Forecasting functionalities in your CRM to understand how leads flow through.
Analysis of Intentful Keywords – This is the last and most crucial stage of prospect fact-finding, so pay close attention to the search queries that bring people your way. There may be some highly intentful keywords that show what people are looking for, like “[product name] guide”, “[product name] demo”, “[product name] price”, or “[company name] review]”.
Buyer’s Journey Stage 4: Action
The part we’ve all been waiting for – the purchase! But before they hit “Buy Now”, they probably won’t just be thinking about the money. A B2B buyer will likely be thinking harder than ever about onboarding, getting buy-in from the team, the practicalities of implementation, and generally how they can make those transitions as painless as possible.
So as they weigh up the realities of working with each company on their shortlist, you need to reassure them of any after-sales support that they will enjoy from you – especially if that’s not something they’ll get from the competition.
Marketing/Sales Tactics that Encourage Action
- Product comparisons that highlight your solution’s comparative strengths
- Demo videos, guides, and webinars so leads can know what to expect
- Discounts and offers to tempt leads to buy soon
- Free trial or limited access to experience the product first hand
- Gather reviews from happy customers which encourage new business
- Email campaigns focused on offers and after-sales benefits
- Technical and support information, especially around onboarding
Data & Metrics to Understand the Action Stage
General Sales KPIs, CRM Engagement Stats & Conversion Data – These should probably go without saying! How do sales show up in your CRM and ultimately your bottom line?
Webpage Visit Durations & Heatmaps on Crucial Pages – Heatmaps can help you understand where people are hesitating on conversion and comparison pages so you can help ease their journey towards a sale.
Uptake Rates for Bottom-Funnel Actions – How frequently do people take you up on things like live demos, discount codes, and limited time discounts? Why might they be hesitating? Are these offers visible enough – or indeed being presented to leads consistently?
Bottom-Funnel Email Marketing and Social Media Stats – How frequently are leads taking you up on offers made within your outreach channels to “buy now”? Do they tend to react better to a certain type of messaging over others?
Customer Reviews & Satisfaction Surveys – Record levels of customer satisfaction through customer surveys and reviews. Remember that reviews aren’t just a marketing tool – they are a valuable way to hear about a customer’s experience in their own words.
The Sales CRM That Helps B2B Teams Work Smarter
Keep track of all of your leads – wherever they may be in the buyer’s journey! Join over 3,000 businesses who rely on our intuitive sales CRM to build great relationships, collaborate internally, and analyse sales data.