There are normally six stages to the consumer buying decision process. Making the purchase is only one stage of the process. Naturally it is the one step that most business owners concentrate on because it is the only one that is readily observable. But managing all six will consistently lead to increased sales.
Let’s look at each one.
1) Problem recognition or awareness of need. This is the difference between the desired state and their current actual condition. This is where content marketing can really earn its reward. Many times the customer is satisfied with what they are currently doing because they don’t know there was another option.
2) Information search. This can be a search of their memory for what they did in the past. It can be an external search of recommendations from friends, relatives, and colleagues. This of course includes online search engines. Providing useful information almost always ensures that you will be considered in step 3.
3) Evaluation of alternatives. After researching, your prospect evaluates all of the alternatives that solve their problem consistent with their needs. This is where other factors such as price and convenience usually come into play.
4) Purchase decision. The customer is ready to make a purchase. Remember, every customer can decide to live with what they have, solve the problem themselves, or just ignore the problem altogether and leave it for another day. Good marketers understand this and learn how to communicate why making a purchase today is the best choice.
5) Actual purchase. This is where all of your marketing and sales planning and work pays off. But even this should be managed to make it easier for your customers to buy from you. Always evaluate your systems to make sure your customer has an easy, convenient, and enjoyable buying process. Eliminate anything that makes it a hassle. Many people could save money by re-financing their current mortgage, but it is such a difficult, time-consuming process that many people just never get around to doing it.
6) Post-purchase evaluation. Very few companies contact the buyer shortly after the sale to make sure that “buyer’s remorse” hasn’t set in. If there is a delay between purchase and delivery. the customer may fear that they’ve made a bad decision and cancel the order. On large purchases they may start to wonder if they were “tricked” by a slick salesperson. Staying in contact after the purchase is key to alleviating fears.
Understanding and planning out every step in the buying process is the key to increasing sales, having happier customers, and gaining more referrals. Your company’s profits depend on happy customers who come back often, buy more, and refer their friends.