Understanding the Customer Buying Cycle

While personas are used to model potential clients, the Customer Buying Cycle and the related Customer Awareness Ladder help us to better understand those clients over a period of time.

Let’s talk about the Customer Awareness Ladder first.

Customer-Awareness-Ladder

How to Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes

In his classic marketing text Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz describes the “states of awareness” in a market. As the term suggests, consumers have a certain awareness level when it comes to a particular product – ranging from completely unaware to highly aware.

Unaware of Need

Unaware prospects don’t realize they have a need. They may have some frustration with the way they’re doing something, but they don’t realize a better way exists. They usually don’t even have time to think about it.

Unaware prospects won’t be looking for a solution. They won’t be searching online and finding your website. They won’t be on your opt-in list.

Most importantly, they won’t be open to a sales pitch.

The Unaware prospect needs education. But not about your show. Not yet. Unaware prospects need to be educated about their problem.

Your promotion for the Unaware prospect needs to generate curiosity, interest and concern regarding the problem. Your approach will be very indirect: problem-oriented, not product-oriented. Your objective: to motivate the prospect to find out more.

Aware of Need

Your Need Aware prospects know they have need of entertainment. They may have even begun gathering information, so, it’s possible they may find their way to your website.

But the Need Aware prospect doesn’t yet know that the means to fulfill his need even exist. He’s probably never thought about hiring a magician because the only ones he’s ever seen were on a stage in Vegas. At this point, you’re still offering education. But now you can talk more about how you can help him and less about the problem itself.

And you don’t need as much space. Mention of the problem will grab this prospect’s attention and draw him or her into your promotion. All you have to do is promise a solution.

Think small. Again, as with the Unaware prospect, your trying to move this prospect to a higher level of awareness, so that you can talk to him more directly about your product.

Solution Aware

Solution Aware prospects understand their need and most, if not all, of their options for fulfilling it. Frequently, these will be people who know they want entertainment but haven’t really thought about using a magician.They know there are solutions, but they don’t yet know that YOU can be one of those solutions.

With this audience, you can be fairly direct in talking about your offering. You can go into detail on features, their specific benefits, and why your magic show is the best choice.

Most of your website content is directed at the Solution Aware visitor. They’ve been driven there by advertising, referrals, or a Google search for your type of solution. But remember, these prospects still aren’t ready for a sales call. They don’t want one. They’re still gathering information, educating themselves. They need to be nurtured until they’re ready to buy.

Your goal here is to get these Solution Aware prospects to sign up for your mailing list so you can keep in regular contact and be top-of-mind when the prospect is ready to buy. You’ll need offers on your website aimed at getting them to sign up for your newsletter. These sign-up incentives, as well as the content of your newsletter, will be aimed at turning the Solution Aware prospect into a Product Aware prospect.

Product Aware

The Product Aware prospect has a good idea of what he needs and is considering specific solutions. He’s the prospect you’re trying to turn into a qualified lead. He may not be ready to buy, but he’s ready for a sales presentation. It’s just a matter of getting him to sit down and talk.

With the Product Aware prospect you can take a direct approach. You’re going to reach out to your these prospects through email and direct mail with event invitations and special offers.

You’ll also want to duplicate these announcements and offers in the “latest news” section of your website, and the relevant product pages.

Potential clients at the stage of awareness are frequently best served with a Free Trial offer. Obviously, that won’t work for many magicians, but for some it can be the trick that seals a great deal. Restaurant magicians, for example, can offer a free or much reduced trial run.

By the way, the same emails, newsletter articles and other collateral and events you’re using to make your prospects Product Aware will keep your product-aware prospects warm until they’re ready to buy. But you never know when that’s going to be. So be sure to end all your product-related articles, collateral and web content with a strong call to action.

Fully Aware

Finally, we come to our Fully Aware prospects: the peope who know everything they need to make a decision. We just need to give them a little push.

Your Fully Aware prospects will usually be most influenced to make an immediate decision in your favor by some kind of a Guarantee or, again, a free trial where that’s possible. The stronger the Guarantee the more likely they are to jump.

Please note that the Fully Aware will also include our previous clients. We want to keep them informed, engaged and satisfied, so they’ll buy again and again.

Fully Aware prospects know and like our product, so we can be very direct with them. We’re not going to beat around the bush. We’re going to keep in contact with them through announcements, along with all the offers we’re making to our Product Aware audience.

Much of this engagement will be through email, our e-newsletter and social media.

The Customer Buying Cycle

The Customer Buying Cycle is very closely related to the Awareness Ladder.

buying-cycle-detailed-big

Depending on where a prospect is in their buying cycle, their expectations for how you treat them is different. If they are early in the cycle they want to be largely left alone to browse around and get educated. If they are later in the cycle they want highly responsive help to make their decision. Using the wrong sales approach leads to buyer frustration.

In the online world, we need to provide different paths through the website that are appropriate for each stage. It turns out that visitors will self-identify where they are in the buying cycle by the paths they take, provided you give them the option.


Understanding Buying Triggers

A Trigger is an event that causes a buyer to have a clear need, which usually converts into a sense of purpose and urgency in their buying process. For example, I might have a vague interest in getting a new camera. The thought prompts me to browse the web and perhaps read a few reviews. When I suddenly win a trip to Rome, however, it acts as a trigger that gets me shopping for a camera with with clear intent to purchase.

Working with Triggers to improve marketing

Let’s look at this in four steps:

  • Identify the different buyer persona that buy your product
  • Identify the trigger or triggers that typically get them into a serious buying mode
  • Create messaging and content for each persona & trigger combination
  • Look to see if you can create the trigger event or help them recognize that one has occurred