understanding the buyer journey and how it can support your content

2 Feb 2023
Writefully

People don’t randomly wake up and think ‘I’m going to buy X from Y today.’ Instead, there’s a long, complex process that customers go through before reaching the purchasing stage. To maximise sales and attract loyal customers, the most successful companies will consider the buyer’s journey and optimise their content accordingly.

Think about it. If you were considering buying a car, you’d want to hear about all the specifications, add-ons and upgrades to help you make a choice. Let’s say you’re looking at all the options online and you come across a website with dozens of blogs about each car, explaining all the features and details you could ever want. They’re even offering you a free test drive and a consultation to go through your needs. The next website you see has very little information – it’s just a photo with a price and a phone number. Which company are you more likely to buy from?

This is why businesses have to understand the buyer journey. It’s not simply a case of meeting a need or solving a problem, or even offering the best product or service in the world. You must give customers an experience that ticks all the boxes – and that’s where content comes in. Content is crucial to engage and retain customers in every step of the buyer’s journey. Whether it’s social media posts getting your name out there or a newsletter offering a voucher: content and user experience go hand-in-hand.

There are three key phases in the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration, and decision. At every stage, you’ll need to plan your marketing strategies around content that’ll enhance their interactions with your brand. As your customer progresses from initially becoming aware of your business, to considering your service and choosing to buy from you or a competitor, there are a number of opportunities to lock in that loyalty with quality content.

In this guide, we take you through exactly what happens in each phase of your buyer’s journey and the questions you can answer along the way. This will influence your marketing strategy and get you thinking about the type of content you’ll need – but fear not, if inspiration doesn’t strike, we’re ready with all the tips and tricks to get you started.

stages of the buyer journey

awareness

At the first stage of their journey, customers are presented with a problem that they need solving. It could be house improvements, a piece of software or a new outfit for an important event. This is when customers become aware of the hole in their life and realise they need help filling it.

As soon as they understand they can’t do it alone, that’s when customers will look to other sources to give them the answers they’re looking for. They may be searching for how-to guides or scoping the selection of products available – even scrolling through social media for the knowledge they need.

At this point, the buyer has little value as a lead. They’re only at the information-gathering stage, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. If you can interest them and offer useful content, they may then progress to the consideration stage. It’s worth remembering that some customers might not invest in you immediately, but the content you offer them now may be translated into future sales. Keep in mind that while the buyer is becoming aware of their problem, it’s also a chance for them to become aware of you and what you do.

It’s important to create material that’s informational – not salesy – that educates customers and helps them on their journey. Providing these resources will support them to define the problem and work out what/how they need to deal with the issue.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself at this stage:

  • What’s the buyer’s goal?
  • Why are they asking for help?
  • How do they prioritise solving the problem?
  • What’s the biggest obstacle in their way?
  • How are they educating themselves to overcome these challenges?
  • Are there any misconceptions about solving this problem from a buyer’s perspective?
  • What are the consequences if they don’t take action?

This may seem like a broad list that might not apply to every industry/brand/service. But the truth is that every company needs to be mindful of what exactly potential customers want from them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you sell – you need to convince people to invest in you. This is the only way you’ll motivate buyers to move from the awareness phase to the consideration phase of their journey.

consideration

Now that your customers have defined their goal and have committed to achieving it, what’s next? This is when they begin to consider all the different methods and approaches that might address their pain points. At this stage they’re devoted to solving the problem and actively evaluating how they should go about it.

As the search for the best solution continues, your buyer is increasingly more likely to move into the decision phase. Now’s the time to capitalise on their attention and use this interest to engage them – hook them in with the whys and wherefores of what your brand does – and why you do it best. 

First, you need to understand how your product or service helps them. What do you have that other competitors lack? Is there something extra you offer, or do you simply do it better than everyone else? If you don’t know why your business is best placed to solve the buyer’s problem, they’re not going to know either. Take this chance to also look at how competitors are marketing themselves. Is there a gap or something they’re missing out on? Do you have a unique perspective to offer? Use this as a springboard to harness exactly why the customer should pick you over all others.

Using content to help buyers in their evaluations is a quick and easy way of telling them why you’re the superior choice. The best way to do this is by comparing options, encouraging consultations and offering free trials. This gives customers practical and tangible reasons to believe in your products and trust in you.

have a think about:

  • What information does the buyer need to compare solutions?
  • How do they inform themselves about this?
  • What are the pros and cons they may be weighing up?
  • Are there any specific things that might stop them from purchasing from you?
  • Does the customer value a try-before-you-buy experience?

 

decision

Hopefully you’ve hooked your readers enough to get them to the final stage – decision time. By now they have a few options they’ve investigated in depth. They pretty much know what they want from a solution, and at the end of this phase they’ll likely make a purchase. 

Your aim is to persuade the buyer to invest in you – not in your competitors. Focus now on creating content that shows off the merits of your solution, and provide concrete evidence of how you’ve helped other buyers with this problem. This could come in the form of testimonials, reviews, case studies etc. Price point will also have a bearing on their choice, but remember that being competitive isn’t all about money – the experience and value you add to the buyer’s life will contribute to their decision-making too.

Reminding your customer that a decision needs to be made can also be effective. For example, sending an email to let them know their trial is coming to an end, or giving them a coupon that expires soon.

Content targeting in this instance should present evidence of expected results, as well as persuade buyers that your solution is the best one. In regards to messaging, you should emphasise the urgency and gravity of making this decision, while highlighting your USPs and features.  

There could be a number of factors influencing the customer’s decision, some of which may be beyond your control. However there are still many issues you have the capacity to impact on, and it’s crucial you utilise this power as much as possible.

If your products or services require aftercare, now’s the time to highlight how exemplary this aftercare is. Tutorials and instructional materials are particularly important in these arenas, as well as a dependable customer service team. Make sure the buyer knows your representatives will be on hand to deal with all of their queries, questions and issues – and follow up on this to reduce churn rates.

Some final points to consider:

  • What information does the buyer need to make a decision?
  • What questions do they have about the solution?
  • What concerns do they have?
  • What are the most important factors that’ll influence their decision?
  • Are other people involved in the decision-making process?
  • Do they need to make additional preparations before buying?

content

As the buyer progresses through their journey, they are guided along the way by the content you provide. Once you have an idea of who the customer is, what they need and why they need it, you can start to create material tailored to them. To recap, these are the things that buyers are looking for at each stage:

  • Awareness – answers, insight, data, opinions, education.
  • Consideration – comparisons, trials, samples, consultations, free trials.
  • Decision – reviews, testimonials, success stories, coupons.

How much time buyers spend in each phase will depend on your industry and the type of products or services you offer. For example, buying a £50 dress is a whole different scenario to buying a £4000 holiday. You should keep these nuances in mind when deciding what content to put out and which stages to focus on in particular.

awareness content

Content in the awareness stage should be focussed on informing, defining, clarifying and educating. Your customer isn’t looking to buy at this point, but is highly receptive to information that could help them solve their problem. In that case, let’s take a look at the forms of content most useful here:

  • blogs
  • how-to videos
  • tools
  • social media
  • e-books
  • checklists.

blogs

When your buyer wants to learn more about a topic, the first thing they do is head to Google. This is where they hope to get answers to their questions and potential solutions to their problems. Blogs are the perfect way to provide useful information and educate customers on everything they could possibly want to know on a subject. If you think about what questions they’re asking or concerns they’re having, you can start to come up with a whole host of blog ideas. Examples might include:

  • 5 ways to save money on your wedding
  • Why is my dog shaking? Causes and solutions
  • 10 reasons why your radiator is making a noise

how-to videos

Sometimes the only way to solve a problem is to learn something new. The buyer may still need to purchase something along the way, but first they need to know what the issue is and how they can fix it. How-to videos give them an instructional guide to follow, providing more information and hopefully offering a solution to their dilemma. 

tools

Information is not always enough for your buyer. In some cases, taking this further and offering a practical tool is exactly what they need. For example, if they were thinking of taking out a mortgage and wondering how much they’d be eligible for, they might look for a tool that works this out for them. If you can provide a useful tool with a little more personalisation, this will help the buyer along their journey.

social media

A fantastic way to promote your other content and create new stuff too. With the majority of people using social media, this is a golden opportunity to get their attention and reel them in. Use your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok channels to hook potential buyers and encourage them to engage with your brand.

ebooks

A great resource for buyers. This kind of downloadable content allows them to delve deeper into their subject – even share the information around. Your ebook could even incorporate other content pieces from the awareness stage, e.g. blogs and checklists.

checklists

A super handy tool for your buyer. Having a blueprint is a quick and easy way to deal with a complicated task. They might not realise they need it, but having an itemised list will help outline anything they’re not sure of. 

consideration content

Now they know what they need to do – or more specifically, what they need to buy – the next stage is all about where they’re going to buy it from.

During the consideration phase, buyers are taking stock of their options and weighing up different solutions. No matter what their problem, they’re bound to be faced with all kinds of suppliers and products to evaluate. This is where your content can really help your buyer on their journey.

While the buyer might not be fully committed to making a purchase just yet, they are keen to try things. Your content should therefore encourage them to use free trials and samples or book a consultation. To help them make a decision, use case studies and product comparisons to highlight why your solution is the best one.

Ideal content for this stage would be:

  • case studies
  • free trials and samples
  • product comparisons
  • consultations.

case studies

Speak to logic rather than emotion. It’s hard to argue with cold hard facts, and some people need this clear reasoning to come to a decision. Case studies establish how providers achieved clear results and helped their customers – indicating that the buyer will have the same experience too. Dive into the details of your case study and don’t be afraid to go into specifics – the more these problems and solutions resonate with your buyer, the more likely they are to believe in you and give you their custom.

free trials and samples

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Free trials and samples give your customer a chance to try before they buy and see for themselves why they should invest. It also shows you believe in your product and are confident that the buyer will too. 

product comparisons

A useful way to help buyers assess their options. Lining up the products side by side and comparing specifications will give customers a clear idea of the differences between each solution. You could even use a pros and cons list to emphasise your points.

consultations

Depending on the products and services you offer, some buyers may need more hand holding than others. Offering a consultation can give them the extra confidence they need to invest in your business. Whether they want to see the product in person, ask questions or try it out for themselves, providing that personalised touch could be the thing that stands you apart from competitors. 

decision content

It’s crunch time. Your buyer has gathered all the information they need and weighed up the options – they’re now ready to make a final decision. They more or less know what they need, but they’re looking for something that ticks all the boxes.

Your task is to drive home all the benefits your services offer. This is your last chance to convince the buyer to choose you – your content should focus on why you’re the best and why other customers agree.

At this crucial stage, you should be offering things like:

  • testimonials
  • success stories
  • reviews
  • voucher codes.

testimonials

If there’s ever a time to instil confidence in your company, it’s now. Testimonials from former clients assure potential buyers that you can deliver on your promises and help them achieve the best solution. Customers may be sceptical of the pledges you make, but having previous buyers sing your praises will give them more reason to believe in you. This is a solid way to gain their trust and showcase your reputation.

success stories

Spotlighting your success stories will give buyers more insight into how you can meet their needs. Less detailed than a case study, a success story offers a brief run-down of how you’ve achieved results for other customers. If a buyer is still unsure, seeing how others have successfully used your service will influence their decision.

reviews

Customers expect businesses to rave about their own products. That’s why genuine, honest reviews have such an impact on potential buyers – they want to hear from real people whether your solutions work or not. Giving them the opportunity to read reviews and hear from previous customers may be your last chance to impress.

voucher codes

You can offer voucher codes at both the consideration and decision stages, but for any customers still on the fence, this discount may just tip them over the edge. Nobody wants to miss out on a good deal, and this could be the only difference between you and a competitor. Even if they’ve already decided to purchase from you, this improves their good feeling towards your brand and may encourage them to come back in the future.

Creating content for every stage of the buyer journey is key to attracting new custom. As we’ve explained, there are so many resources and tools you can offer to help answer their questions and guide them through their purchase. If you do it right, this content can have a huge impact on how the buyer prioritises their criteria and how they decide the right solution for them.

In every phase of the journey, the information you provide is influencing the buyer and encouraging them to solve their problem with the help of your products and services. Thinking about the questions and concerns they might have will guide your blogs, social media posts, website copy and more.

For more marketing tips and content ideas, check out the writefully knowledge hub here.