Unless you’re in the business of catering to impulsive buying decisions, you’ll need to consider the distinct stages of the buying cycle in your industry—and cater to those stages in your marketing and advertising. One of the most useful tools for securing this progression is your content—but only if you’re using it properly.
Understanding the Phases of the Buying Cycle
Your first job is understanding the phases of the buying cycle. These will vary by industry and by target demographic, but they typically look something like this:
- Awareness. First, the customer is made aware that the problem exists. You can’t exert much control over this stage since most companies rely on customers figuring out their own needs.
- Research. Once the customer is aware that a problem exists, they initialize research to learn more about the problem and, hopefully, find an effective solution.
- Comparison. The customer then shops around, looking at different potential solutions or providers, to determine which one will be most effective.
- Trial. If they haven’t yet, the customer then takes the solution for a trial run.
- Purchase. If they like what they’ve seen so far, they’ll make the purchase.
How Content Can Help
Ordinarily, consumers will move from one stage of the buying process to the next at their own pace, gradually, and occasionally dropping off at a stage with too many hurdles for forwarding progress. The role of content here is to gently persuade consumers to get to the next cycle.
- Setting expectations. One of the most effective strategies is to set proactive expectations for your customers, either thoroughly informing them about the problem they’re facing, or setting expectations for which stages of the buying cycle will come next. For example, you could write an article helping consumers understand when to repair a home appliance vs. when to replace it or explain how to buy a motorcycle, with stages of the process from start to finish.
- Providing instructions. You can also use instructional content to direct consumers to the next stage of the buying process. For example, you might write an article targeted for consumers in the “research” phase of the buying process informing them about the importance of shopping with multiple competitors for the purposes of
- Closing with a call to action. Finally, you can include an appropriate call-to-action (CTA) at the end of a piece of content targeted for one phase, leading to another phase. For example, if you’ve created an infographic that compares different providers of a product you sell, you can close with a CTA that leads them to a free trial of your product.
Key Tips for Implementation
Not just any content will do in this strategy. If you want to be effective, you’ll need to follow these important tips: