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Decoding the Buyer Journey: What Happens in the Customer’s Mind


Cover art for blog post: Decoding the Buyer Journey

If you work with Forge Marketing Group, you’re going to hear us mention the buyer journey at some point.


As we create the content and campaigns that will strengthen a client’s online presence, we’re very mindful of their customers’ buyer journey because it informs what we actually create.


In this blog post, we’ll explain what the buyer journey is and why it’s important for businesses to identify what the buyer journey looks like for their customers.



Why is the Buyer Journey Important?

When you create content and campaigns that satisfy the needs of prospective customers at each stage of their buyer journey, you maximize your potential to close more sales. This is because you’re able to:

  • Establish authority and credibility by addressing their needs and questions.

  • Control your narrative throughout each interaction with the buyer.

  • Influence the buyer to see the value in the services you offer.

  • Be present for the customer right when they are ready to buy.


Understanding the buyer journey also allows you to be more intentional about what content your team creates, what ad campaigns you run, and what needs/questions your advertising addresses.


Consequently, knowing the buyer journey for your customers allows you to tweak your marketing efforts and improve their effectiveness.


When you know the buyer journey, you can evaluate your online presence to identify gaps or insufficiencies in the content you offer and to uncover opportunities to provide more value to prospective customers.


This is demonstrated in our Why Your Online Marketing isn’t Working blog post as we reference the buyer journey when recommending that businesses and online marketers approach prospective customers with content and campaigns earlier in the buyer journey.


So we’ve talked a lot about stages and the buyer journey without even explaining what it is! We’ll define the buyer journey in the next section.



What is the Buyer Journey?

The buyer journey (also known as the customer journey) is a framework for understanding the needs, questions, and decisions a consumer has as they move from the point of realizing that they need something to the point of making the final purchase.


The buyer journey is broken down into 3 stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Let’s take a deeper look into each stage.


Graphic depicting the buyer journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision

Awareness

This is the first stage in the buyer journey when the consumer realizes that they are experiencing a problem or that they have a need of some sort. Depending on the complexity of the issue and the complexity of the solution, the buyer may or may not have the language to explain their circumstances.



What is the buyer thinking or feeling?

The buyer might have a range of feelings or thoughts depending on the issue or need at hand. Here’s a list of feelings and thoughts a buyer might have at the awareness stage:


They might be feeling:

  • Frustrated

  • Overwhelmed

  • Stretched too thin

  • Tired

  • Annoyed

  • Disgusted

  • Insecure

  • Inadequate

  • Ill-equipped


They might be thinking:

  • I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

  • I can’t keep going on like this.

  • I don’t know how to make this work.

  • I’ve got to get this fixed.

  • I don’t know how to fix this.

  • I’m tired of doing this.

  • I’m tired of looking at this.

  • Oh, this is urgent.


What questions is the buyer asking?

Here’s a list of questions the buyer might be asking when they’re in the awareness stage:

  • What should I do about this?

  • Can this even be fixed?

  • Is there anyone else who had this issue that I can talk to?

  • Where do I start?

  • What are people going to think?

  • Why am I feeling this way?

  • What problem am I having?

  • Is there a term for the issue I’m having?

  • What will fix this issue?

  • What are my options?

  • Is it worth addressing this issue or need?


What actions is the buyer taking?

The buyer is starting to seek out educational information to better understand and describe the problem. They might:

  • Google search to find information.

  • Search YouTube for videos that offer solutions.

  • Ask friends, family, or colleagues for suggestions.

  • Find Facebook groups about the need or issue.

  • Ask for recommendations in Facebook groups they’re already in.

  • Search for and read books about the problem or need.

  • Seek out expert advice.

  • Find influencer social media pages or blog websites about the topic.


What is the likelihood the buyer will make a purchase?

The buyer is not likely to make a purchase during the awareness stage – especially if the possible solutions to their need or problem are going to be expensive. Buyers might purchase low-cost resources to help them better understand their need or problem.



Consideration

During the consideration stage, the buyer knows exactly what the problem is and how to explain it. They are now researching all possible solutions to the problem (e.g. services, DIY options, products, etc.).


What is the buyer feeling or thinking?

Because the buyer has an understanding of what they’re dealing with, their feelings and thoughts are more direction and intent. Here’s a list of feelings and thoughts a buyer might have at the consideration stage:


They might be feeling:

  • Motivated

  • Determined

  • Knowledgeable

  • Empowered

  • Overwhelmed

  • Rushed


They might be thinking:

  • I’ve got to find a solution I can afford.

  • I’ve got to find a solution quickly.

  • There are too many options for me to choose from.

  • I need to find someone in the area who can do this.

  • I need to get this fixed asap.

  • I’m not sure how much it’ll cost to get this fixed.

  • There’s got to be a DIY option for this.

  • There’s no way I can do this on my own.

  • I don’t have the time to do this on my own.

  • I need a professional team to do this.


What questions is the buyer asking?

The questions the buyer asks during this stage will help them determine which type of solution will best meet their needs or solve their problem given their circumstances.


A business can create opportunities to influence buyers’ decisions by providing content and running campaigns that address these questions.


Here’s a list of questions the buyer might be asking when they’re in the consideration stage:

  • What’s the best solution for this problem?

  • What’s the option that best fits my circumstances?

  • Can I do this on my own?

  • What are my criteria for choosing a solution?

  • What’s going to be the most cost effective solution?

  • What are the pros and cons of each option?

  • How do I properly compare my options?

  • Does one solution stand out above the rest? Why?

  • What do I need to do to prepare for the solution?

  • Will I be inconvenienced by certain options?

  • Do I have the money for this solution?


What actions is the buyer taking?

Knowing what their need or problem is and how to describe it, the buyer is now researching options for how they can solve their problem or address their need.


The buyer might:

  • Google search “How to ___” phrases

  • Google search lists of “Best options for ___”

  • Search YouTube for DIY video tutorials.

  • Call a few businesses to get initial pricing estimates.

  • Submit a few website forms to get initial pricing estimates.

  • Search YouTube for comparison or ranked options videos.

  • Research how a solution is implemented (e.g. steps to replace carpet).

  • Research necessary budgets for certain solutions.

  • Ask friends, family, or colleagues about what they used to fix a problem.

  • Compare pros and cons of paying a professional vs DIY.

  • Review and participate in topic specific forums to identify solutions.

  • Read solution comparison blog posts from an influencer or expert.


What is the likelihood the buyer will make a purchase?

The buyer is not super likely to make a purchase at this stage because they are weighing their options. If the solution to their problem is low cost and low commitment (e.g. fixing a clogged drain) they might make a quick, less-informed purchase during this stage – especially if they’re leaning toward a DIY option.



Decision

This is the last stage in the buyer journey and will result in the purchase or adoption of a solution. The buyer has determined what type of solution will work best for them.


If they’ve determined paying for a service is best, then they will compare different businesses that offer the needed service. If they've determined DIY is the best option for them, they might compare products and brands as they select the tools or materials needed.


*Note: A buyer may revisit this stage if the solution they originally choose does not work for them.



What is the buyer feeling or thinking?

Here’s a list of feelings and thoughts a buyer might have at the decision stage:


They might be feeling:

  • Impatient

  • Nervous

  • Empowered

  • Excited

  • Rushed

  • Hopeful

  • Pressured

  • Relieved

  • Determined

  • Savvy


They might be thinking:

  • I need to find the cheapest option.

  • I can’t sacrifice quality or customer service.

  • I need the fastest option.

  • I want a business that has good reviews.

  • This is going to cost a lot of money.

  • I’m ready to be done with this.

  • At this point, I just need this fixed.

  • I hope I can trust this business.

  • I hope they do a good job.

  • I don’t trust this business.

  • I don’t want to have to worry about this anymore.


What questions is the buyer asking?

Because the buyer knows the solution they want, they will ask questions to decide which business is the right fit, to identify which service package/offering they need, and to determine whether the buyer should follow through with pursuing the solution.


A business that can offer favorable answers to the questions that are most important to the buyer is likely to earn their business.


Some questions buyers will ask during the decision stage include:

  • Which option best aligns with my needs and preferences?

  • What is my criteria for choosing a company?

  • What service features or packages do I need?

  • Can they deliver the solution for the budget I have?

  • Will my family or colleagues be impacted by this choice?

  • Is there anything I’m not considering?

  • Will this option continue to meet my needs in the future?

  • Do I need to consult with anyone else before making a decision?

  • Is there any “catch” or “fine print?”

  • Am I making the right choice?

  • Will buying this hurt me financially in the future?

  • Are they able to fix all of my problem or just some of it?

  • How can I afford this?

  • Can I trust this business?

  • Is the price justified by the value I'll receive?

  • Are there any discounts, promotions, or bundles available?

  • How is their customer service?

  • Are there any red flags or negative stories associated with this business?


What actions is the buyer taking?

The buyer is gearing up to make a decision, and more importantly, to make a purchase. They are shopping their options, doing due diligence on the top picks, and are making sure they are ready to make the purchase.


The buyer might:

  • Schedule consultations with multiple vendors.

  • Interview sales reps from multiple businesses.

  • Ask a partner or spouse what they think about their decision.

  • Read reviews on the business’s Google listing or Facebook page.

  • Compare features, specs, and functionalities of options.

  • Read testimonials and case studies from each business under consideration.

  • Getting price quotes from different sellers or providers.

  • Get recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues.

  • Take recommendations from experts or influencers.

  • Analyze return policies, warranties, and guarantees.

  • Consider additional costs like maintenance or subscriptions.

  • Ask questions to clarify doubts with sellers or support.

  • Reflect on values, preferences, and long-term needs.

  • Trust intuition for emotional resonance with a choice.


To signal to customers that your business understands customers and can anticipate their needs, your business should provide content that makes the actions involved in the decision-making stage easier.


Your business can earn more trust and influence the sale by proactively offering the information in a way that’s easy to digest to potential customers.



What is the likelihood the buyer will make a purchase?

The buyer is likely to make a purchase at this stage in the buyer journey. The time it takes for the buyer to complete this stage and to make a purchase will depend on the complexity of the decision, the level of commitment, and the cost of the service.



Buyer Journey for Your Customers

If you hadn’t already guessed; the feelings, thoughts, questions, and actions at each stage of the buyer journey vary depending on what the consumer is buying.


We recommend you spend time thinking about what the buyer journey looks like for customers that need your services so your team can better align your marketing and sales efforts with the needs and sentiments of your prospective customers.

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