What are the Three Stages of the Buyer’s Journey?
November 9, 2021 by Waseem Bashir
Understanding various stages of buyers journey is a crucial component of successful marketing. After discovering buyers’ personas, understanding their journey is the next step towards creating a successful sales funnel.
In inbound marketing, it is essential for a company to personalise their marketing methods according to the target audience. It is a fact that expands from lead capturing to the final conversion. An in-depth examination of the state of mind of a prospect at different buying stages, therefore, helps build robust campaigns.
Keeping the above in mind, this blog will focus on the different stages of buyers journey and how you can effectively market prospects at each stage.
What is a Buyers Journey?
A buyer’s journey is the visualisation of how a prospect will become aware of a product and eventually a paying customer. By understanding how a lead might find a brand, consider its services as potential solutions to its pain points, and evaluate its buying decision, marketers can create an efficient brand experience.
As marketing teams pivots towards personalisation, it becomes crucial to understand the target audience’s pain points, research style, and purchasing nature to create better marketing campaigns.
As Rand Fishkin says,
“Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.”
To achieve the potential buyer’s attention, businesses owners need to create ideal buyer personas and what probable brand journey will turn them into clients. Various touchpoints, blogs, social media, ads, videos, etc., anything can be used to create a comfortable buyer’s journey.
Relation Between Stages of Buyers Journey and Leads
Every lead’s pain point is different. As a marketer, you need to group leads based on intent and where they are in their buying journey. It will help businesses in sharing relevant content with their prospects according to their needs.
In B2B marketing, the leads are divided into three types:
1. Information Qualified Lead (IQL)
2. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
3. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
In a typical B2B setting, you can see marketing teams complaining that the sales team is not following up with leads, and the sales team could complain that the leads are weak. We need to score or prioritise leads to match expectations on both sides.
Through lead scoring, leads get ranked through various points or by implementation rankings like hot, warm, cold, etc.
But lead scoring deserves a blog on its own, which I have here: How to Create a Lead Scoring Model.
To build a good lead scoring system, marketers first need to understand various buyer journey stages and should be able to connect them with different B2B leads. Below I have done it for you:
Stage 1: Awareness Stage- IQL
Stage 2: Consideration Stage- MQL
Stage 3: Decision Stage- SQL
What are The Three Stages of the Buyer’s Journey?
1. Awareness Stage: Information Qualified Lead (IQL)
In the awareness stage, a prospective customer is researching a problem they might have. At this stage, they are looking for a solution to their problem with the help of search engines. So your aim should be to educate them and tell them there is a solution that exists. Here, the prospect is looking for information you can provide them, which is why leads at this stage are called IQLs.
You can do this in a couple of ways by creating a blog post, explainer videos, white papers, increasing online presence, sharing a summary of the solution, and offering downloadable resources in exchange for which prospects can share their contact details. For example, if your prospect downloads an ebook, then you can nurture them with email series.
Using a marketing automation tool like ActiveCampaign, you can follow up with these IQLs and educate them on how your company can help solve their problem. This will be related to whatever they downloaded in the first stage.
2. Consideration Stage: Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
The consideration stage aims to educate the qualified information lead about your product or service and how it can address the problems they are facing. Such leads have enough information about your brand and are ready for direct marketing. So at this buyer journey stage, we target MQLs.
You can convert IQLs to MQLs by inviting them to a webinar or sending them case studies, offering them free consultations, etc. Many IQLs won’t engage, and you don’t need to worry them too much as you can always send them marketing email newsletters or put them in a lead nurturing series for building stronger relationships.
However, those who have shown interest in how you might solve their problem might reach out to you by giving more information about themselves like phone number, company information, and the exact problem they are facing.
3. Decision Stage: Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Now it’s time for the sales team to take over the MQL and turn them into customers. Studies have shown that the faster the sales team follows up with an SQL, the higher the closing rate.
At the decision stage, the sales team will be talking to potential customers who are closer to making the purchase decision, rolling out their sales pitch, and sharing a case study that complements the prospect’s industry or problem.
What Type of Content You Should Share At Various Stages?
All the different stages of buyers journey are designed for various leads at different buying positions. While some prospects are aware of their problem, some are aware of its solution. Here, it becomes essential for a brand to determine what different types of content cater to the current needs of a lead.
Marketers should utilise user behaviour tracking with tools like a lead scoring model and get deeper website insights with heatmaps. It allows them to determine and segregate leads according to their buyer journey stage. Through this exercise, marketers can get ideas for content and will be able to create targeted content assets. Different forms of content can then get distributed according to the stages and buying intent of the lead to create more impactful marketing efforts.
To make it easier to understand stage, content, and lead relation, I have created a table; let’s look at it:
The above table can help you create compelling content for the right audience and help you win their purchasing decision.
What are Content Gaps and How to Solve Them?
Content gaps refer to the missing or incomplete areas in a brand’s content marketing strategy that are crucial in the buyers journey. These gaps can occur at different stages of the buyer’s journey, from awareness and consideration to decision-making and post-purchase.
Identifying and addressing content gaps is essential for marketers to deliver valuable and compelling content that guides prospects along the buyer’s journey and ultimately drives conversions.
Content gaps can arise for various reasons. One common reason is a lack of alignment between the content being created and the needs, preferences, and pain points of the target audience. For example, a brand may be producing content that focuses solely on product features and fails to address the specific challenges or questions that potential buyers have during their research process.
To figure out content gaps, marketers need to conduct a thorough analysis of their target audience’s needs and behaviour at each stage of the buyer’s journey. It involves researching and understanding the target audience’s demographics, preferences, pain points, and motivations.
The content map shared in the previous section can help businesses immensely in overcoming content gaps. Some other ways in which marketing teams solve content gaps in the marketing strategy are:
- Conduct Content Audit: Conduct a thorough content audit to get an in-depth view and identify any gaps or overlaps in the existing content. Analyze the performance of each content asset in terms of engagement, conversions, and other relevant metrics to determine if any gaps exist that need to be addressed.
- Analyze Competitor Content: Research and analyze all pieces of content produced by competitors to identify any content gaps that the brand can fill. Look for areas where competitors are lacking in terms of addressing the target audience’s needs or where the brand can offer unique perspectives or solutions.
- Measure and Optimize: Continuously monitor and measure the performance of the content produced to ensure that it is effectively addressing the identified content gaps. Analyse the data and feedback from the audience to identify any further gaps or areas of improvement and optimise the marketing strategy and create engaging content accordingly.
Buyer Journey vs Customer Journey
The buyer’s journey and the customer’s journey are not one and the same. Oh no! They require distinct attention and focus. The buyer’s journey is all about wooing and winning over new customers, using persuasion and influence to showcase the greatness of a product or service.
But the story doesn’t end there! The customer journey picks up where the buyer’s journey leaves off, delving into the realm of customer support and experience and leveraging customer data to create captivating content strategies. It’s about nurturing relationships with existing customers and keeping the magic alive for customer retention. It’s like saying, “Remember that incredible experience you had with us? Well, we’ve got more in store for you!”
In a nutshell, the buyer’s journey is the exciting pursuit of customer acquisition with the help of quality content. In contrast, the customer journey is the ongoing saga of building loyalty and maintaining the spark with existing customers. It’s a tale of two journeys, each with its own distinct flavour, and businesses must ensure they complement each other to avoid leaving customers feeling disconnected.
Having an understanding of the buyer and customer journey eases the buying process and helps create good content marketing strategies. Businesses can analyse what they can deliver in the customer journey, and marketing teams can leverage it as a promise in the buyer journey.
Below is a simple table to understand the buyer and customer journeys clearly.
How to Create a Buyer Journey Map?
After knowing what is a buyer’s journey, it is time to organise all your thoughts, ideas, and types of content. The best way to assemble your buyer journey is by creating a map. Understanding the stages of the buyer’s journey is only fruitful when you know how to execute it.
Through a buyer journey map, marketers can create a blueprint of how their ideal customers will move from one sale funnel stage to the other through different content types.
Here is a whole blog post discussing how to create a buyer journey map step by step.
How to Create a Buyer Journey Map: A Complete Guide
Ready to Create Robust Stages of Buyers Journey
Now, by creating and analysing various buyer journey stages for your leads based on their engagement with your website, you can ensure that the sales team is following up with the warmest leads. And spending less time with cold leads will turn to make your sales team super happy and make the sales process easier.
Download the sales funnel mind map, which shows various examples of content you can use at each stage and how leads flow through each stage one by one.
I hope you found this article helpful in understanding the different buyer journey stages. Check out my other blogs on lead generation through landing pages to generate high-quality leads for your sales process.
Related blogs to read:
Top Of Funnel Marketing: Best Practices to follow
How to Nurture Leads With Middle of the Funnel Lead Generation
Nurture Bottom of the Funnel Leads With These Strategies
How to Do Heat Map Analysis: Guide to Better Conversions
5 Proven Techniques for Generating Inbound Leads