June 25, 2014
The process of selling, at its most basic, involves a shopper finding an item that they like, paying the seller for it and leaving a satisfied customer. In reality, though, it’s a more complex process.
Potential customers may not be as primed to buy when they first start shopping around as they are after doing research. Trying to push a sale too early could actually discourage people from buying.
When you’re marketing through social media, it may be tempting to push for a sale from the get-go. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to directly communicate with potential customers, but you have to get the timing right if you want to maintain good customer relationships and ultimately make sales.
Below are the four different stages of the purchasing decision process. By learning to recognize these stages, you can determine how best to engage your customers at different points in the process.
Recognition/Research. Think of this as the “just browsing” stage. Your potential customer recognizes they have a problem, but they don’t necessarily want to interact with a salesperson or commit to one brand right now. Instead, they want to research different options so they can decide what works best for them. They’re more likely to perform Google searches using broad, problem-oriented terms than to go straight to a business’ website or social media pages.
During this stage, you don’t want to come on too strong, but you do want to help your potential customer discover you using inbound marketing techniques. That means that you should be sharing information that will be valuable to the consumer’s research in the form of content such as:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Free eBooks
- Links to relevant articles from your industry
Don’t promote your product during this phase. Rather, your goal should be to share free information your potential customer will appreciate, leading them to think of you as a trusted voice.
Evaluation. The potential customer is becoming more focused during this phase. They’ve probably started comparing specific solutions in an effort to determine what will best address their problem. They may do this by reading online reviews, watching videos from specific brands, attending webinars, using more detailed search phrases, or even downloading a free trial or demo.
The consumer is becoming primed to buy at this point, so it’s OK to promote your specific product and brand through your digital marketing content. You can offer your potential customer more professional and in-depth information, such as a detailed white paper or product guide as opposed to a more general blog post. As you’re developing this material, keep in mind that you still need to focus on how your product can solve the consumer’s problem, not just how great your product is.
Purchase. By the end of the evaluation stage, you should use strong calls-to-action to encourage potential customers to buy your product now. Don’t be pushy, but do give your potential customers concrete options like, “Add to your shopping cart now” or “Try it today.”
And, of course, when the consumer follows up on the call-to-action, make it as easy as possible for them to complete their purchase. The fewer buttons they have to push and the less scrolling they have to do, the better. Offer multiple ways to pay (credit card, PayPal, etc.) if possible, and optimize your website for mobile so consumers will have no trouble completing their purchase from a Smartphone or tablet.
Satisfaction. The purchasing decision process doesn’t end once a purchase is made. If you want this person to be a repeat customer (and you should), you need to ensure they feel good about the product they’ve chosen and the treatment they’ve received from your business.
Encourage your customers to give you feedback through multiple channels, such as e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and a contact form on your website. If you receive a complaint, respond as soon as possible, and tell the customer exactly how you’re going to address the problem.
Satisfied customers are the people who help grow your business, so if you want to have great customer relations, make sure you’re tailoring your marketing content to the different stages of the purchasing decision process.