Buyers' Journey

Business buyers don’t just wake up in the morning and decide to purchase something. They go on a journey:

  • First, buyers have no problem (or think they don't);
  • Then they do;
  • Then they know what they need in a solution;
  • Then they consider their options;
  • Then they choose between those options;
  • And finally their purchase solves the problem.

align.me refers to this progression of thought as the buyers' journey - a term first coined by founder Hugh Macfarlane in 2003 in his book The Leaky Funnel. The term has since become popularised, but is correctly attributed to Hugh.

Depending on the business, it may take months or even years for the stages to play out. But the selling process does not – and cannot – precisely follow this path. There are steps the seller must take that are important for the seller but which are not part of the buyer’s journey. So how do you align the journeys of the buyer and seller?

Marketing is a crucial means of identifying and managing the steps in the journey. Begin by identifying the problems your best customers faced before they came to you – what was the pattern? Then set out to find more businesses that match this pattern, and position your business with this new group.

Salesperson: How many times have you met with a well-qualified prospect, listened intently (and actively) to their needs, played them back diligently, made a compelling case for your well considered solution, and come second? The vendor who came first had either done a better job than you at shaping the buyer's concept about what they needed than you, or were lucky enough that their solution happened to meet that concept better. Either way, you got out sold; you failed to shape the buyer's concept before you made your offer. For more information please visit the Sales demo wiki

Marketer: This is your failing. You have failed to play an adequate role in shaping the buyers' (plural) concepts. This is why thought leadership is so critical in contemporary marketing. With rise of the web and social media, buyers now take control of their own education. Marketing needs to position your company as a possible solution provider, then trouble buyers about the problem you solve better than your competitors, then Sales needs to help the buyer understand and buy into the consequences of failing to act on that pain (otherwise they will fail to act), then shape what the buyer thinks they need, then show him your solution meets that need.

Incisive marketing helps deliver to sales departments the information and tools to convince a buyer (singular) that the pain of inaction will be greater than the pain of action. You need to help sales people to spell out the repercussions for the buyer if they procrastinate. We also need to help the buyer focus on the right problem. If you like, this is the 'why rather then the 'how's or the 'what'. See also |Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action on TED.

Use avenues such as seminars or articles in trade journals to alert buyers to their potential troubles and let them know that you have experience in solving the chosen problem. Your tactics need to help buyers take each step in their journey.

It all boils down to the fact that businesses pay money to have their problems solved. Choose the right one, help your buyers see it – and profit.

Tactics by journey stage

Tactics are selected based on how well they move buyers from one stage in the journey to the next, not by how much coverage that tactic gets in the 'cool' media. Below you'll find each stage of the buyers' journey accompanied by a list tactics that are suited to targets located in that particular stage of the journey.

Find new names

Whether by list, research, or capture, what are the best ways to obtain the names of your prospects?

Position your brand in the category

It's not really a question of what business think about you, but whether they do at all. What tactics work best to get you on the list?

Establish who of your prospects is interested in engaging

They know who you are and what you do, but how can you get them interested enough to engage?

Get them to acknowledge the problems with their current approach

They're interested, but do they have a problem? Use these tactics to get them troubled.

Help shape their concept of what they need

They have a problem, but aren't sure what they need to solve it. Help them define a clear need.

Propose a complete solution to meet the need / address the gap

They know what they need, but what does the complete solution look like? Make yours easy to understand and compelling.

Have them prefer your solution over others

Your solution is in the mix, along with your competitors. How do you get them to prefer yours?

Get B2B buyers to make a decision

They prefer your solution, but haven't quite signed on the dotted line. Close the deal using these tactics.

Recycle leaky buyers

Your buyer has leaked, but don't turn your back on them! Recycling leaked buyers pays huge dividends. Put a recycling program in place using these tactics.

Funnel Vision articles about the buyers' journey

A little rant on attribution here.