The purpose of inbound marketing is attracting the right customers and offering content and service that is so great that they want to spread the word about your company. We'll cover that more in our next Intro to Inbound post about the Inbound Methodology, but today we want to talk about how those ideal customers make to your site to begin with.
History of the Buyer's Journey
Although the term "buyer's journey" is not used in every instance, the steps that a buyer takes when making the decision of whether or not to buy an item has been an integral part of marketing strategy for decades. The stages of the buying decisions process, as it is broadly known, were first described in 1968 as the following:
- Problem/Need Recognition
- Information Search
- Evaluation of Alternatives
- Purchase Decision
- Post-Purchase Behavior
When we talk about the inbound methodology, the journey follows the same basic course, but we have simplified it as the following HubSpot graphic indicates:
Becoming familiar with these three stages of every buyer's process will be key to understanding how to implement an inbound marketing plan.
The Buyer's Journey in 2015
As you might expect, the advancements in technology and changes in the marketing landscape have altered our understanding of this process somewhat. Although it was once the case that buyers would move seamlessly from one stage of the process to the next, the availability of content and information online means that firstly, the information search can take much longer and second, that the buyer can and often does bounce back to that research phase. No longer is the journey as linear as it once was and marketers must be prepared with answers to virtually any question a buyer could have, then position those answers in a place where the buyer will find them. That brings us to our next important point: how this journey works within the framework of inbound marketing.
How Inbound Works with the Buyer's Journey
Understanding the buyer's journey is essential to developing an inbound marketing strategy that works. One of the ways that this importance demonstrates itself is in content mapping. We know already how important content is for inbound marketing. It's the offer that brings in new contacts and lets them put themselves into our sales funnel. But content is not only valuable in the beginning. Indeed, at every stage, content can help keep prospects interested and maintain your brand at top of mind. When you understand this buying journey, you can effectively map your content to the different stages of the process. Some topics and types of content are simply better suited to a certain part of the process. For instance, someone who has only just realized that he or she might have a problem that needs solving will be looking for much more general information that someone who is on the brink of making a purchase. When you start to pull together your buyer personas and to understand how your customers' buyer's journey works, you will be able to offer the right type of content at the right time.
For many marketers, the buyer's journey may feel like common sense or old hat. But when you stop to evaluate how this process works in light of inbound marketing, it can start to yield much better results, generating more leads and ultimately helping your business to grow efficiently.