What is the digital buyer journey (and how can you use it to grow your business?)

What is the digital buyer journey?

If you’re doing any kind of marketing activity for your business, you will be targeting some stage of the digital buyer journey – whether you know it or not.

The digital buyer journey is simply the experience a person has with your business – from knowing nothing or very little about how to solve their problem to eventually using your business for the solution.

A simple example of this is:
Start of the journey – Ben’s feet hurt when he runs (he doesn’t know this is because he needs new running shoes)
End of the journey – Ben buys new running shoes from your sportswear company

There are various different ways of breaking this buyer journey down into stages – we’re going to use the simplest version: Awareness – Consideration – Conversion.

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In the awareness stage, you should aim to educate the audience about what’s causing their problems and how they can solve them. E.g. Ben now knows that he needs new running shoes.

In the consideration stage, you should aim to highlight why your approach to solving the problem is right for the buyer. E.g. Ben finds out in this stage that the type of sole on the running shoe is what causes his pain – you offer a running shoe with a sole that fits his running style and requirements.

In the conversion stage, your aim will be to get them to commit to your business over another. Audiences in this stage of the journey know exactly what solution they want and are looking for the best provider. E.g. Ben chooses to buy shoes from your company because you use sustainable practices – something that aligns with his own values.

Why is the digital buyer journey important?

One of the most common issues SMEs have with their marketing activity is that they’re not thinking about what stage of the buyer journey a user is at when they see their marketing material.

Is someone in the awareness stage going to respond well to a message designed for someone in the Conversion stage? No. Because they haven’t got the same level of knowledge yet.

So if you’ve ever struggled to get results from your marketing activity despite having some great assets behind it, it’s likely you were using them on audiences in the wrong stage of the buyer journey.

Another common mistake SMEs make is only marketing to people in the conversion stage – i.e. those who know exactly what they want and are looking for the best supplier. Users who have reached this stage are likely to have already developed an affinity for particular brands during the earlier stages of the buyer journey who educated them this far – by only targeting the users at the conversion stage you’ve missed out on the chance to become a brand they trust and like.

How can you use the digital buyer journey to grow your business?

So, we’ve told you how important the buyer journey is and that you need to market your business accordingly – but how do you actually do that?

The first step is to know who your audience is – so make sure you create buyer personas before you continue to plan your marketing activities.

Choose the best platforms

The buyer journey is, at it’s core, a process buyers use to gather information. In the awareness stage they’re focused on a more general consumption of knowledge, in the consideration stage they’re actively researching a specific topic and in the conversion stage they’re comparing different businesses to each other.

Refer back to your buyer personas to identify the best marketing platforms for each stage of the buyer journey:

  1. Awareness stage – what platforms do they use to get news updates and stay up to date with topics they like?
  2. Consideration stage – where do they go to do research?
  3. Conversion stage – what platforms do they use to compare products and/or companies?

E.g. Ben uses Facebook to get his news updates and follow professional runners. He does research by watching fitness influencers review products on YouTube. He looks at Google reviews when comparing businesses online.

Target your audience

Now that you’ve selected the platforms you’re going to use in each stage of the buyer journey, you want to make sure you actually reach your audience on those platforms through targeting. Targeting is a term commonly used exclusively when talking about ads. But you can also target your organic content albeit in a slightly different way.

When targeting an ad you can often choose to target a personal attribute or a behaviour such as researching a particular topic. Whatever platform you’re advertising on will then match your targeting to it’s users. E.g. to target Ben with an ad in the awareness stage, you would target Facebook users who have an interest in running where as to target him in the consideration stage you’d be better running YouTube ads when a user searches for “running shoe review”.

With organic targeting, you can’t choose who can and can’t see your content – it’s technically out there for anyone to find if they go looking – but you can include certain elements in your content to increase the chance of it being seen by your ideal customer.

On social media you can include hashtags in your posts that your target audience would follow. Collaborating with other brands is another way to increase your exposure to the right audience – send some free products to a YouTuber or tag a relevant brand in your social media post.

Adapt your messaging

Messaging is where your marketing often falls down – it may be a great message, but it won’t resonate if it’s used at the wrong point in the buyer journey.
Refer back to what state of mind your audience is in at each stage of the buyer journey to ensure you use the right message.

Someone in the awareness stage doesn’t care about what values your company has – because they don’t even know why they should be interested in you yet. Instead, messaging in the awareness stage should be focused on the problem the user is having, not your company.

In the consideration stage, focus your messaging on the benefits of your solution compared to others. Again, the benefits of your company specifically at this stage are not going to matter to the audience – they are focused on finding a solution, not a provider of it.

The conversion stage is where you can talk about your company specifically and why you’re the best provider of their selected solution. Your messaging here should be focused on company values, testimonials and price.

By using the right messages and activities for the stage of the buyer journey your prospect is in, you can get better results from your marketing with a higher return on investment.

Analysing your buyer journey can be complex and time-consuming when you’re running your own business – for support developing your digital marketing strategy, get in touch with our team.