Most marketing agencies will happily tell you all about marketing - how it works, what they can offer, and why you should buy their services.
But we think that these things are all of secondary importance.
Our approach is slightly different.
This blog will be useful if you are looking for:
Want more customers?
What is really important is how buyers work, not about how a particular marketing tactic or strategy works.
If you start by understanding your buyers, instead of by trying to decide what kind of marketing services you need, you will end up with a very different answer to the question ‘what do I need to do in order to get more customers?’
A straightforward way to help understand your buyers is to use the buyer’s journey - a simple framework that maps a buyer's progression through the research and decision process they go through before making a purchase.
“You can use the buyer’s journey to understand the steps that people take before they make a decision to buy your product or service. You might have visitors to your website, and 100 of them every month click the button to have a free consultation with you. Essentially, they’re coming in at the bottom of the funnel, when they’re almost ready to buy.
But if you cast the net out further, you can multiply that traffic….by hundreds of thousands of people, because you take a step back and understand the thought process that people go through before they land on your site.
This then enables you to make your prospects aware of you at an early stage, when they first start to realise that they have that problem. You can then guide them towards you and your products and services, provided it’s a good fit for them. This way, you’re exponentially increasing the number of opportunities you have.”
Aviva Walsh, Channel Consultant / Partner Strategist, HubSpot
This blog goes through each stage of the buyer’s journey - awareness, consideration and decision - and sets out what you can do to keep your prospects moving through that journey until they become customers.
The Awareness Stage
While this sounds like an area for learning mindfulness at a slightly posh music and wellbeing festival, it isn’t.
What is it then?
Marketing bods usually think that this stage means developing brand or company awareness. Sales bods think it should be about developing awareness of a product, and its features and benefits.
However, we strongly believe that the awareness stage means making your prospect aware of their challenge or opportunity.
Try and think about the start (I mean the VERY start) of your own thought process when you buy something.
Initially, you’re not thinking about brands, products, features and benefits – you’re thinking about you (or your business), and the challenge or opportunity you’re facing.
So firstly you need to make your prospect aware, and you need to help them ‘frame’ the problem. This means putting a box around it in order to help understand it. You need to get them to think about the problem, and ask themselves questions like:
- Does this problem have a name?
- How long will it last for?
- Where does it come from?
- What colour is it?
- What’s its inside leg measurement?
Once they have the answers to some of those questions, they will have divided the problem up into chunks that are easier to deal with.
As you have helped your prospect to understand their problem, you will have built trust with them. There is then a good chance that they will then turn to you (or your content) with the question ‘we understand that, so now what?’
This presents you with the opportunity to ‘shift’ their thinking towards ways of dealing with the problem that they haven’t thought of before.
This will then move the prospect to the next stage – consideration.
The Consideration Stage
This is the second stage of the buyer’s journey.
Here at BabelQuest, we have identified three parts to a cheese sandwich – cheese, butter and bread. And by coincidence, we have also identified three parts to the consideration stage – do nothing, DIY and ask for help.
1) Do nothing
This first part of the consideration stage is all about your buyer’s competing priorities. At this point, your real competition is not other companies – it is other things on your prospect’s to-do list.
What they care about is what else is competing for their attention or their resources.
Like everyone else, your prospects are extremely busy. If someone has tried to shift their thinking towards solving a particular problem, the first thing they do is think ‘where is this on my list of priorities? Right now I have five urgent things to get done…..and when they are complete, there are another 50 things that I need to get done.’
So unless what you’re offering is going to knock out at least one of those top five urgent tasks, then your buyer will decide that it is not top priority - and will therefore decide not to do anything.
This is where most buyers stall. They may have some interest in your product or service - but don’t want it yet.
To move them onwards, you need to help them re-prioritise their to-do list.
This has nothing to do with step ladders, Polyfilla or breaking a drill that you borrowed from your neighbour.
Your prospects will usually try to work out if they can fix things by themselves first. They would almost always prefer to solve problems in house, with existing resources.
However, it is likely that (in relation to what you’re trying to sell) they don’t have the skills, time or resources to do it themselves.
What you need to do is to build a picture of exactly what would be required for them to do a good job of it by themselves.
Spell out that to really do a good job, they would need a comprehensive selection of skills and resources.
If they don’t have all those things, then logically, they will have to ask for help from someone else.
3) Ask for help
Hopefully your prospect will now be thinking something like ‘Wait…doesn’t this company say that it can provide all the skills and resources that are needed?’ This will lead them to ask for your help.
If you’ve been thorough in the DIY stage, they should know what help they need to ask for.
You should respond by checking that you properly understand what help they’re asking for.
To do this, you need to engage with them and ask questions - not just bombard them with testimonials and case studies.
At this point, you need to get sales to go into a discovery session with the prospect, to move them into the decision stage.
There are two parts to this stage:
1) Giving advice
To give good advice about what they should actually do, you’ve got to ask the prospect plenty of questions to find out what’s going on. What’s on your mind? What’s the challenge? What’s the biggest problem here? Where does it hurt most?
The objective here is to make the buyer feel that you understand what it’s like to be them.
You won’t achieve that if you just give them your company’s standard elevator pitch, because you will be missing the chance to maximise your relevance to them. By asking questions, you will build trust and credibility, and they will believe in the advice that you give them.
2) Providing options
If the prospect then asks you ‘what should I buy?’ and your response is a single option of ‘buy this’, then you’re presenting them with a binary choice between yes and no. A buyer will always veer towards no, because as humans our natural tendency is to be risk averse.
If you can give them three options (two options of yes and one of no), then you can reduce the possibility of a ‘no’ right down to about 30%.
Creating options in this way also puts the power back in the buyer’s hands. This means you can say something along the lines of ‘ultimately it’s your choice, it’s your decision, I’m not forcing you to do anything’.
Providing your prospect with a choice really is vital. You could spend ages on preparing the world’s best solution for them, understand their situation really well, you’ve got the price to match their budget, but if you don’t give them a choice at the end they could easily say ‘we’re going to get another two quotes’.
HubSpot and the buyer’s journey
The purpose of using HubSpot is not to try to automate the whole process of the buyer’s journey – so that every step is dealt with automatically using blogs and downloads – but to get prospects to engage with you. Because you are providing them with information or advice that they value, then they will be more likely to engage with you to find out more.
Also, because HubSpot allows you see what your prospect is reading and downloading, you will be able to make an informed guess of where they are in the buyer’s journey. (All your content will be aimed at specific stages of the journey). This then gives you the opportunity to jump in if you need to.
If a prospect has engaged with a particular piece of your content, but hasn’t taken any subsequent steps, you could get in touch and ask them questions about the problem they’re facing - what things are in the way? What have you tried before, why are you still stuck? What barriers do you see?
In other words, combining HubSpot with the buyer’s journey is extremely powerful. The buyer’s journey enables you to better understand your prospects’ thought process, and HubSpot gives you visibility into all the tools you can use to help move them towards becoming customers.
Successful sales and marketing ultimately comes down to the simple thing of helping someone who has a need.
The beauty of the buyer’s journey is that it allows you do that really well – because you can enable your prospect to identify their issue or opportunity, and then to work through the process of resolving it.
When you combine this with the inbound methodology, you create a process during which the buyer never actually feels ‘sold to’, and is therefore much more likely to actually become a customer.
And as we all know, more customers = better life.
Inbound Marketing & Sales Strategist