We all may think we understand how buyers make purchases. After all, we are buyers ourselves. We like to think that it works just as Ariana Grande describes it: I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it. Still, we know that it isn’t how most purchases are derived. Instead, careful thought and planning are put into them. Taking that further, there are recognized steps of the buyer process that marketers follow, taking care to address each phase of that process to ensure proper positioning.
Step 1. Recognition of Need – This is where consumers and businesses learn, through internal and external factors, that they have a problem that needs solving. In most cases, they decide that there is value in paying for something that addresses this problem, and thus identify that the need warrants a solution.
For marketers, it is imperative that they communicate specifically why their product or service addresses this initial discovery. While there are several other steps and moments to consider in the buying process, this is the most important because it serves as the catalyst for the process.
Step 2. Information Search – When a need has been identified, buyers will then begin searching for the solution to their problem. This is the time where buyers will utilize their resources to learn more about ways they can satisfy their need, such as internet searches, referring to friends of colleagues, or shopping vendors. This is not a decision-making phase; instead, it is a time to gather information to help them when the decision-making phase arrives. Think about a time when you were planning on making a big purchase, like a car. For most people, they would hit the internet to learn about what options are out there. Most people would read reviews, watch YouTube videos, ask their friends on Facebook. Did you do these things, too? What methods of research did you find most valuable?
For marketers, this is your time to shine. Positioning your product or service at the forefront of the buyer’s research will have a direct impact on whether they purchase from you. Targeting ads to segmented groups is a primary focus. Additionally, ensuring your brand is featured in content that evaluates similar brands is a great way to position yourself. SEO optimization also plays a vital role in brand accessibility for researchers.
Step 3 – Evaluation – This is where buyers take the information they have gathered from the previous step and weigh out the data based on what is most valuable and relevant. Primarily, buyers need to determine if the proposed solutions satisfy the needs decided upon in step one. This still is not the decision-making phase, but instead helps narrow down the options prior to coming to a decision by identifying the strongest and best options.
For marketers, it’s imperative that you have communicated every feature, benefit, attribute, and reward for potential buyers so that they can be equipped to make the best decision about your brand. Without all of the relevant information available, purchases will not be able to properly evaluate you as an option.
Step 4 – Purchase – This is the exciting part. Empowered with the knowledge of understanding your needs, what the options are for solving that problem, and understanding the value of each option, you have concluded that one works best for you. Referring back to a car purchase, you have researched and narrowed your decision down to two makes and models. You visited dealerships, test drove the options, worked with the finance manager to agree on prices, and now it’s time to choose which car you will be moving forward with buying. Will you purchase from the dealership you visited, or will you visit another? Will you finance it or pay in cash? Will you purchase it now, or wait until next month? These are all questions that are part of the purchase formula.
As a marketer, you need to make it as easy as possible for buyers to purchase from you. Your locations need to be accessible and convenient. Payment options need to remain flexible. Help must be readily available by way of customer service or sales professionals. Make sure that your customers know how to find you and how to buy from you.
Step 5 – Post-purchase Evaluation – Once the prospect has become a customer, they will take time to internally and/or externally evaluate their purchase experience and the product. When you purchased your car, was the experience easy and enjoyable? Would you recommend that experience to your family or friends? Maybe you had the opposite of a pleasant time buying your car, and you want to make sure nobody you know ever feels that way, too.
The purchase experience isn’t the only thing to evaluate. Revisiting step one, did the product ultimately do what it promised to do, and solve the problem identified originally? Was the quality of the product what you expected? Would you purchase this product again?
As a marketer, you want to be there to capture all that information. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most common and effective is through a survey. This is often done after purchases to understand how the buyer felt about the overall process and is direct feedback for marketing teams to decide how to position the product in the future.
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