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The Buying Funnel – Understanding The Buyer’s Journey

The buying funnel (also known as the “sales funnel”), defines the path a consumer takes from the moment a business, product or service attracts his attention through an online ad or organic listing to the point of purchase.

As they go through the buying funnel, queries tend to go from general to specific as prospective customers become educated about the products and services they are interested in. When they start out, prospective customers are likely to use very broad and general queries such as used cars or fast computers, which is indicative of someone at the awareness stage of the buying journey, who is doing research into the cars or computers. The queries become more narrow and specific as they get to the latter stages of the funnel, such as dell xps 15 laptop, and we’ll want to bid higher as users travel further down the funnel.

CTR and conversions at the earlier stage of the process are likely to be very low, but these metrics are likely to increase as the buyer goes through the latter stages of the journey. Whether you want to bid at the awareness or latter stages of the funnel will depend on whether you have the type of content that can definitively answer specific queries, and the business goals of the campaign.

For example, if you do not have a blog that can answer informational questions at the awareness stage, then there’s no point bidding at this stage as consumers typically search for information at this stage, and you will likely experience very low CTR and high bounce rates.

The buying funnel is important because it helps online businesses understand the process consumers follow before making a purchase on the web. It is therefore crucial to align your online marketing campaign with the buying funnel so that you can tailor your marketing campaign to potential customers at various stages of the funnel.

There are four main stages to the buying funnel, although it has also been described as a five-stage process:

Understanding where a particular keyword falls in the funnel can help you understand how close the user is to becoming a customer. When you understand your prospects in this way, you can tailor your ad and landing page to your prospects at the right stage of the buying process and move as many of them through the funnel so they become customers. There is no time limit to the buying funnel. It could consist of five minutes from initial query to sale, or could take up to six months or more in the case of a B2B sale.

Consumers may also jump directly into any phase of the funnel, as some people will be more informed than others, and know exactly what they are looking for. It is significant to note that every keyword you choose for your AdWords campaign will fall into at least one stage of the buying funnel, although some keywords may be ambiguous as to which exact phase of the funnel they fall into.

Following are the various phases:

Awareness

The awareness stage is where you initiate the campaign to raise awareness of your brand, product or service through an AdWords, Bing or social advertising campaign. At this stage, most consumers are not aware of your business, and your main job is to let your potential customers know that you exist. This is where you need to arouse interest in your business.

The aim isn’t to make a sale at this stage. You simply need to engage the prospect and make them aware that your product or service can fix their problem. You also don’t want to use any jargons or technical terms because most people searching at this stage would not understand such terms.

At this stage, the type of keywords consumers tend to use will often have the highest search volumes of all the keyword types. They will be very descriptive, and often describe what they represent in very few words. Consumers do not yet know enough to perform a specific search for the product or service’s features or benefits, or part numbers. Examples of keywords used by searchers in the awareness stage of the buying cycle include broken screen, black suede shoes, used cars, emergency plumber, etc.

Consumers may also use keywords that describe the symptom of a particular problem being faced by the searcher. Examples include “low conversions” “freezing computer“, “slow computer“. Searchers who suffer from these problems use these keywords as they look for sites that can solve their problem. They are looking for answers or solutions to their problems, and this is why you need content on your site that is related to the potential problems your target audience may experience so that you can use that content to engage the prospect at this stage of their journey.

This is also the stage where users can discover the cause of their problems. For example, if they have been researching back pain, they could discover that their old bed has been the cause of their problem, and if you sell beds, you’ll want to make sure that they find your content.

If you’re setting up a brand awareness campaign on Facebook, this is where you want to focus the majority of your campaign. A consumer cannot search for something they have no knowledge of, so Facebook or the display network is probably more useful in reaching users at this stage. The display network helps advertisers reach prospects who are not yet in the buying cycle or searching for the products and services you offer, but who are actively engaging online with content that is related to your area of business. This enables you, as an advertiser, to connect with the most engaged audiences at the right moment. For example, if you sell wearable technology, you can have powerful and engaging ads featuring the most attractive smartwatches displayed next to articles about wearable technology.

At this stage, consumers are viewing ads by different brands. Why should they click on your ad? How do you stand out from your competitors? This is where you can influence Facebook friends and their friends’ friends through powerful and compelling content including images, blog posts and videos, to generate interest and define their opinion about your brand, product or service.

The search network is not the best medium to use to try to attract consumers in the awareness stage. The keywords are generally very expensive to bid on, and tend to have a very high cost per conversion.

Consideration or Interest

At this stage, the consumer has discovered the type of product or service that can be the solution to their problems, and you now need to attract their attention in the product or service you are selling. For example if the user has been researching back pain in the awareness stage, she may have found that she needs a new bed, and is now searching for certain types of beds that are good for back pain, and the ads that you create for your campaign should be targeted at this type of user.

At this stage the prospect is likely to also be researching features and benefits of the type of products she is looking for, and if the search network is part of your campaign, this is where to start targeting consumers so that they can generate interest in your products or services. Using benefit-driven ad copy that tells a story of how your business, product or service can improve the life of your ideal target customer is a powerful way to engage prospects at this stage and generate interest in your product or service.

Page posts ads on Facebook are also great for users at this stage of the buying journey because you can engage the prospect through stories that they can relate to. A great way to attract interest of potential customers at this stage is by using keywords that are used to describe the problem solved by your product or service.

Essentially, this is the stage where your advertising campaign should focus on highlighting the product’s benefits for consumers so they want your product to solve their problem. You need to get them interested in your products. At this stage, there can be some overlap with the keywords you use in the awareness stage of the funnel. Examples of keywords to use include “poor quality traffic“, “flooded basement“, “can’t run excel“, “improve golf swing“, “lose weight fast“. Your ads at this stage should focus on providing enough information to convince the user that a solution to their problem can be found by dialling your number, watching your video, clicking through to your website to read a report or downloading your app.

Once the customer’s interest has been aroused in the awareness and interest stages, it is at this stage that a consumer’s research transitions from just understanding the benefits to learning about the features and benefits of your specific product or service, and how you differ from your competitors. Mixing both benefits and features within your ad copy will help transition users to understanding why they need the product or service and then start them down the next path of the buying funnel into feature comparison.

At this stage the consumer tends to compare products and use your industry jargon as keywords. At this stage, jargon can be useful as keywords. When people use industry jargon at this stage, you can be sure that they are more informed about the product or service they are searching for, so your landing page should reflect that.

Consumers at this stage are keen to know details of the product features in a bit more detail. If a searcher is looking for a new computer, this is where they would started to compare features and benefits of different models of computers, and you need to get them interested in the products that you sell.

This is also the stage where consumers become familiar with industry jargon and their search queries are often more specific and commonly include brand names and service specialties. Keywords used by consumers at this stage should showcase both benefits and  features, and can include brand names, product features, product part names and specifications.

Product or part numbers are common keywords that are used mainly by customers at this stage. Examples include P-10113/ 4 (a pipe number, which might be used by a user with a flooded home, Mint Soufflé Cleanser which might be used by someone with a particular skin problem, or ralph laurent big pony, samsung galaxy 5 128gb, london virus removal, etc. Your advertising campaign at this stage should focus on providing detailed and enough information about the product to help the consumer make an informed buying decision.

Shop

At this stage the consumer understands enough about your business, product or service and are seriously considering your product along with various competitors and they are narrowing down their choices. At this stage, they are looking at product specifications to make informed decisions and they will begin to compare different products together. If the consumer is in the market for a laptop, they might have decided that they want one with a 17-inch screen and built-in webcam, but they might not know whether a Sony VAIO or Lenovo will have features that the other doesn’t have.

In addition, although they have decided to purchase, they are not sure exactly what to buy or from whom. This is where all of the content you have produced to inform and educate your target audience will prove invaluable. The type of keywords you use here should be designed to attract potential customers by educating and informing your target audience. Most consumers at this stage will also be looking for reviews and social proof that buying from you is the correct decision, based on reviews from other buyers.

When shopping around, search keywords at this stage are very specific to product and it’s features which represents a certain level of knowledge the consumer has about the product. At this stage, you should help potential customers compare similar products and at the same time showcase your unique service proposition to keep the consumer focused on the quality of your product or service, and how you stand out from your competitors.

At this stage, the potential customer is ready to buy the type of product or service you sell, and the only question is where to buy. This is where social proof in the form of customer reviews, ratings and testimonials can be very influential. The consumer will be shopping around to compare similar products in order to make an informed buying decision.

Buy

While make this buying decision consumers will also look for things like price, return policies, service warranties, shipping, support and service etc before making a final decision. This is where consumers can be enticed to buy immediately with time-constrained offers, special discounts or promotional offers. You should help consumers at this stage by providing simple buying work flows, clear terms and conditions, privacy policy and ease of access.

Post Sales

At this stage the customer has taken the leap of faith and purchased your product. This is where you can use different marketing techniques such as remarketing, customer engagement, recognition and special offers to turn your customers into repeat customers and brand advocates for your business.

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