While the customer buying cycle will naturally vary from customer to customer, it is usually comprised of seven stages: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, support, loyalty, and advocacy.
Not surprisingly, you need to tailor your online presence, and the functionality of your website, to support each stage of the customer buying cycle. We’ll take a look at each stage, and the most appropriate way to use your website, in turn.
As the name suggests, the awareness stage is when potential customers become aware of your brand, your company, your products, and your services. It is also the stage during which they become aware of the problem or pain point that they need to address.
During the awareness stage, you need to use the content on your website to attract the attention of potential customers. Ensure that your content talks directly to their problem, that it addresses their pain points. Make sure that your website content is crafted to encourage potential customers to move forward; it should demonstrate that you can provide exactly the right solution for them. It can often be useful during the awareness stage to use landing pages; smaller, stand-alone pages of content, tailored to specific customer needs.
During the second stage, the interest of your potential customer in your products and services increases. They will want to learn more about what exactly you have on offer, and how exactly it can help them. They will want to understand the features and benefits of your products and services, and perhaps even your pricing structure.
Your website can assist enormously during this stage, by thoroughly educating potential customers. The best way to educate customers through your website is to incorporate a blog, featuring regular articles that demonstrate your authority in your chosen field. You can also offer free, downloadable whitepapers or e-books, in exchange for contact information.
Depending on the products or services you have on offer, this stage may not be appropriate, or necessary. However, if you can offer your product (or part thereof) on a trial basis, it can often help boost the likelihood of lead conversion. For instance, if you supply some type of product is as promised, this type of offer will often put any lingering customer concerns to rest.
If your product or service is not suited to a trial offer, this stage may be replaced with late opportunity negotiation, or, in the case of a large contract or sale, a smaller product or service may be purchased first.
During this particular stage, it is useful to have content readily available to answer any questions that your potential customers might have. So, a list of regularly asked FAQs can come in handy, as well as a dedicated online help desk or phone number. It is especially important that content during this stage fosters engagement with your product or service, and builds customer habits. It is also important to track customer conversions during this stage. Knowing if, and when, content is being engaged with, and which customer convert, can help you improve your processes for future campaigns.
Arguably the most important stage, this is when all your hard work and dedication pays dividends. Your potential leads convert into actual, real-life customers. Your website needs to facilitate the purchase process in the easiest, most streamlined way possible. If you have an online checkout system, make sure that it works properly, is user-friendly and intuitive.
This stage is all about after-sales care. Your customers should receive support and help so that they get the most out of your products or services. This stage is all about ensuring customer satisfaction. Your website plays a vital role during this stage. Use it to host tutorial blogs and instructional videos, customer forums, and a help desk. Happy customers become repeat customers, and are much more likely to refer your products and services onto others.
If you have handled the support stage well, this should naturally flow into the loyalty stage. During this stage, you should be able to build successful, fruitful, long-term relationships with your customers. Relationships that result in repeat business, up-selling, and cross-selling. You might offer annual subscription or maintenance plans, or discounts for bulk expenditure. Again, you can use your website to facilitate this type of up-selling and cross-selling. E-marketing combined with specific, targeted landing pages can often work quite well to further engage loyal customers.
Last, but by no means least, we come to advocacy: the stage where your customers refer you to all their friends, family, and colleagues. Your website, and its content, should be designed to make referrals easy. So, make sure you have social media sharing buttons on all your website pages, on your blog posts, on your e-newsletters. It can often be useful to offer discounts for referrals (for either new or existing customers).