Think Hourglass – The Buyer’s Life Cycle

Buyer’s Life Cycle

In the past, I have blogged about the importance of understanding the buyer’s journey and how it relates to the marketing/sales funnel. Have you ever thought about how to change that funnel into an hour glass shape by focusing on retaining customers? First, let me quickly review of the buyer’s journey — sales funnel concept:

Buyer’s Journey — Sales Funnel Concept Review 

The buyer’s journey accounts for all the interactions a buyer experiences with a brand during the process of identifying and eventually solving a problem or satisfying a need. The phases of a buyer’s journey — becoming aware of a need and that a solution exists, considering various ways to meet the need, and deciding which brand will provide the best solution — affect how to critically think about marketing tactics. The time a buyer remains in each phase can vary so marketing tactics must consider the ways prospects educate themselves, the criteria they use to evaluate, who is making the buying decision and how your business compares to alternatives. I suggest using the Buyer-Sales Map spreadsheet as a format to insure all buyer journey 5-W’s (Who; Why; When; What; Where) have been asked and answered. Remember, the number of prospective buyers continues to get smaller as they proceed down the sales funnel. For this review only, think of a simplified buyer’s journey as divided into three distinct stages: 

  • Awareness: A buyer realizes they have a need, problem or opportunity and researches it to determine if it’s a priority. At this stage, a buyer would benefit from having access to resources that answer the question, “Why change?” Many prospects start by viewing your company’s blog so use it to alert the customer to a problem that they might face every day. These customers are not ready to make decisions yet, but guiding their awareness through thoughtful blog topics will help them get to the next stage of the buyer’s journey. Narrow down which topics to focus on by speaking with your customers and determining what content will be relevant for them. What are the problems they face every day? How can their lives be made easier? Your customers might not know they need to change until they read your content.
  • Consideration: The buyer has clearly defined their need, problem or opportunity and committed to addressing it. During this stage, the prospect needs to know when to move into the purchase stage. Any content served to this project needs to answer the question, “Why now?” Why is their problem (discussed in the awareness stage) so pressing that it should be at the top of their mind? For example, your company might strive to share content that identifies the buyer’s pain points so that they know you fully understand what their struggle might be. You might describe how their pain can be solved through your solution. This will help your customers move to the next stage.
  • Purchase: The buyer knows that there needs to be a change and that they will eventually make a purchase. A prospect in the purchase stage is focusing on looking at different solution options. Your job is to craft messages in webinars, e-books, blogs and social posts that answer the burning question, “Why you?” Why is your offering better than all the rest? Why is your approach unique. Pair the prospect’s specific pain points with your specific solution.

For more detail on the buyer’s journey and sales funnels, view the short video entitled Marketing For Business Owners.

The Customer Life Cycle Is A Focus On Retaining Customers

The buyer’s journey is just a small piece of the overall customer life cycle. When prospects enter your marketing/sales funnel, the business goal should be to have them begin a customer life cycle. In other words, the business should be providing a positive customer experience that is related to solving a prospect’s problems or satisfying their needs over time. The customer life cycle is more directly related to the formation of a relationship between a customer and a particular business…meaning the business should THINK RELATIONAL INSTEAD OF TRANSACTIONAL. It is a process that helps drive prospects through buyer’s journey stages of the marketing/sales funnel and turn them into a customer who will be an advocate, supporter and third party endorsor of your brand. Think of it as an extension of the sales narrowing funnel into an hour glass where to bottom gets larger by focusing on retaining customers.

Establishing and truly understanding the difference between the buyer’s journey and the customer life cycle provides the foundation startups need to create messaging that will directly speak to your customer’s pain points over time. How do businesses implement the two (top narrowing “funnel” side of the hour glass & the inverted, expanding funnel customer retention base) into your marketing efforts? How each company approaches these leads is different. For instance, a new prospect should not be receiving the same marketing content as a long-term, valued customer. Companies should develop lead nurturing campaigns for former customers with personalized messaging to recapture and keep them. If they need information on features first, then you offer the benefits of your solution or the other way around? Are you solving a problem or enhancing a need?

Another way to critically think about the customer life cycle relationship is to explore how to make the customer “experience” an important competitive differentiation just as using a unique selling proposition (USP) with a product/service. With so many competing products in the market, customers can afford to be picky. The customer “experience” includes such things as customer service continues after the sales funnel buyer’s initial journey to the purchase.

Recent research studies have shown that about 50% of consumers would switch to a competing product or service after just one bad customer service experience. The majority are willing to spend more to buy from a company that gives them a better customer experience. Optimizing toward customer convenience can give you a competitive edge, and as a startup, you should be able to do this faster than competitors. Be an early adopter of new customer service channels, such as WhatsApp and Instagram. Utilize things like Chatbots on your website to improve customer feedback.

Customer service now means that your customers expect help 24/7…it’s one of the most important criteria of good customer service cited by customers in recent surveys. Empowering customers to help themselves 24/7 can be achieved by using self-service tools such as help centers which, when deployed in conjunction with chatbots, can be “always-on” for your customers with minimal added load on your employees. App integrations are important not only for internal collaboration but also for your customer’s experience. When you can integrate systems, such as your user database or sales software, you can provide better, more personalized customer service. This can also eliminate little annoyances, like customers repeating their contact information over and over again and can get to the heart of a customer’s issue faster.

Your business goal should be to perfect the sales process in a way that provides the positive customer experience necessary to build a buyer life cycle. You need to completely understand and craft the purchase process for your customers. Think about exactly how and why someone will buy from you, then create the “system” that drives and supports that decision while optimizing a positive customer experience.

For more thoughts about the Buyer’s Journey and Sales Funnels, click on the following blogs:

Copyright ©John Trenary 2022

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