What Is a Buyer Journey and Why You Should Create One?

Every single purchase happens at the conclusion of a buyer journey. Yes, even your impulse buys on Amazon. No matter what you need, you go from learning about a product to deciding to hand over your money. And if the decision seems easy, that’s because someone successfully sold their product to you. As a business owner, it’s important to flip the script and envision how your customers move from Awareness to Decision. This is the buyer journey, and understanding how it works for your target audience is crucial to your business’s success.

The Steps in a Buyer Journey

It may seem excessive to call the buying process a journey, but that’s typically what it is. Just as in our favorite adventure stories, the hero (your customer) starts out on a quest to solve a problem. As they seek a solution, they encounter the usual characters: the villain who’s making the problem worse, the wise guide who helps them along, and the magical amulet (or whatever) that will make everything better. If your product is the amulet, then you should be the wise guide who shows the hero the right path and helps them discover their worth.

In other words, your job is not really to sell the product. That happens naturally after you provide value to the customer. It’s the difference between showing off features and demonstrating the benefits. As you probably know, the latter is what customers really want. And they discover it through these three stages of their buyer journey:

Awareness: The hero has a problem. They might not know the name of the problem or even that they have it, but once they begin their journey, they realize how bad the problem is, and they feel compelled to find a solution.

Consideration: The hero sheds some light on their problem. Perhaps they encounter more information about it, or they figure out what they need to do to solve it. They start envisioning a better life in which the problem is fixed.

Decision: The hero finds the solution, and their path is clear. Obtaining the solution consumes their thoughts and feels natural and right to do. They conclude their journey and enjoy a better life.

When you think about our audience in terms of their buyer journey, you’re able to position ourselves at the right plot points, so to speak. After all, you don’t want to come across as the villain who’s making the hero’s problem worse. And you definitely don’t want to be a minor character who distracts the hero from finding their solution. You want to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi or Gandalf of the situation, gently guiding our hero toward their destination (your product).

How to Build Your Audience’s Buyer Journey

The buyer journey is frequently portrayed as a sales tool, but it’s immensely useful to your marketing strategy as well. Email marketing provides a particularly powerful way to nurture your hero from Awareness to Decision. As you likely know, cold sales emails that jump directly into pitching a product don’t work. You may get some bites, but you’ll also get a lot of unsubscribes or, worse, spam reports. The great thing about email is that, like a great story, it slowly feeds your hero valuable knowledge and helps them realize that your product is the magical amulet they’ve been seeking.

Of course, no two brands are alike, which is why you need to craft your buyer journey for email marketing based on your target audience’s particular needs. Some journeys are longer than others, and as mentioned, not everyone knows that they have a problem that needs solving. Start by putting yourself in your prospects’ shoes:

  • What are they worried about?
  • What frustrates them?
  • What happens if they don’t find their solution?
  • How do they verbalize these thoughts and feelings?

Now, turn those ideas into awareness-building tactics. Let’s take the iPod as an example. In just a few years, iPods conquered the market share of portable CD players — a curious achievement, given that no one was clamoring to replace their CD player with an unknown device. The key was to show how the iPod would solve problems consumers didn’t know they had. No more swapping out discs. No more struggling to fit CD players into bags or pockets. No more need to purchase a whole album instead of that one track you like. Once people realized they had these problems, they moved onto the Consideration stage of their buyer journey — and the iPod was the clear solution to all these problems.

To position the iPod in this way, Apple spent time identifying not only the frustrations their target customers had, but also how they’d try to resolve those feelings. Ask yourself these questions about your audience:

  • Where do they seek information about their problem?
  • What benefits are they seeking?
  • What do they value most in a solution?
  • How are they evaluating each option?

It’s important that your product’s benefits outweigh any problems they present. For example, a large part of the iPod’s appeal was its small size and simple functionality. Would consumers have gone to the trouble of swapping out their portable CD players for an equally cumbersome device? Unlikely. The iPod’s combination of flexibility and convenience was what made it a hit. Apple knew that their prospects didn’t want to spend a ton of time researching new technology.

After considering their options for solving their problem, buyers arrive at the Decision stage. Depending on your product, you might have few competitors and be easily able to position yourself as the natural choice. However, it’s more likely that you’ll need to convince your audience that you’re their best option. To do this, be sure you understand what your prospects are thinking at this stage:

  • What criteria are they examining?
  • What objections do they have to your offering?
  • Do they have a deal-breaker — or deal-maker?
  • What do they need to do to get started with your offering?
  • Will the benefits outweigh any problems that emerge?

Yes, there are a lot of questions to answer, but the more details you have, the better-equipped you are to craft amazing marketing content. Which brings us to…

Using Your Buyer Journey in Email Marketing

Obviously, most of the buyer journey happens outside your prospects’ inboxes. They may be searching Google, asking friends for advice, checking out Amazon, and so on. However, marketing emails can play a pivotal role in any stage of the process. You can launch prospects into their awareness stage with a cold email, or follow up on a lead magnet they downloaded to nurture them through the Consideration stage. If they previously purchased from you, emails can keep them connected to your brand and funnel them back into Awareness for a new solution. Here are some common email marketing campaigns and how they connect to a buyer journey:

A welcome sequence for new subscribers helps them get oriented with your brand and discover the value you provide. Prospects are likely in the Awareness stage, perhaps close to Consideration. Tap into their pain points and affirm their primary interests and motivations.

A drip sequence that’s triggered after a prospect downloads a freebie or books a free trial is a great way to push prospects through Consideration. Take this opportunity to “poke the bear” by showing what life will be like if your hero doesn’t solve their problem. Express your products’ benefits more than your features.

A nurture/hot lead sequence that follows up from a consultation to close the deal happens at the climax of the buyer journey. Prospects are in the Decision stage. They’re feeling the pressure to solve their problem, and they’ve gathered enough information to understand how to do so. To seal the deal, emails should overcome any objections, clarify concerns, and portray your offering as the inevitable solution.

As you see, a full understanding of your target audience’s buyer journey is crucial to crafting email content that combines the right timing with the right message. It’s an unfortunate but simple fact: no one likes being sold to, especially through email. That’s why your email marketing journey needs to tap into your heroes’ frustrations, values, and preferences to show them what’s next on their journey.

Wrapping Up

Mapping out your buyer journey is vital to your marketing success. The information you will gain provides actionable insights into how you can position your offering as your audience’s optimal choice. Your email marketing to existing customers or new prospects can send targeted messages along with a large dose of value, which makes this tactic ideal for nurturing people from Awareness to Decision. Don’t be afraid to be personable and authentic in your campaigns. After all, your prospect is the hero, and you should be their wise guide, mentoring them on their journey to your offering — and their solution.

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