In this series of articles on how small businesses can better market themselves and improve sales, I have previously covered the importance of segmentation, targeting and key methods of promotion. Today, I am looking at how small businesses can utilise the buyer journey to improve sales.

Simply put the buyer journey describes the stages the buyer goes through before they decide to make a purchase. You may be thinking: I know what my service or product does – I have my sales pitch, so what are you talking about?: I will be alright. Well, unfortunately, you won’t be alright because the buyer wants to know many other things, before they decide to hear about why you are good. Read on to learn why the buyer journey is important, no matter your business size, what the stages are, and how you prepare for them.

Why Is the Buyer Journey Important?

Have you ever walked into a shop, or done web research, or called someone up to try and get information? How do you feel when the person in the shop tells you they have the No.1 selling of it class in the world and can I put one in the bag for you? The chances are you walk away annoyed.

What happens then when you go to the next shop and and they are opposite: they don’t try and sell their product but just give you a balanced assessment of the options to help solve your problem. In this case, the chances are you walk away thinking that was incredibly helpful. You are even a little perturbed that he didn’t sell you anything. You might also find yourself glancing back over your shoulder and thinking that you can’t be bothered to go and research it, that person was pretty trustworthy and knowledgeable I am going to go and buy from him.

The reason why you either bought, or considered buying from the second person, is that he understood the buyer journey; that the buyer has stages of awareness, consideration and decision, and he tailored what he said to meet where you were on that journey. It is a powerful tool and can help you increase your sales.

The Awareness Stage

The first stage is called the awareness stage. At this stage the buyer recognizes they have a problem but isn’t aware of the solution.

Now you may be thinking that I want to open a cleaning business so how can someone not know their house is dirty? Or how can they have never heard of getting a cleaner? Of course, the answer is they have heard of those things, but they haven’t necessarily decided that getting a cleaner is the solution to their problem.

What do I mean? If they have already decided they need a cleaner they are at the decision stage – which we will talk about later – but in many cases your potential customer may simply have recognised that they don’t seem to have time to clean their home, or to relax, or to spend with their kids – Or, that, perhaps, they feel they do it badly. However, in spite of those problems, they were still planning to do it themselves.

In response to these problems, they may well google, ‘quickest way to clean my house’, ‘tips on more effectively cleaning my home’ or ‘key suggestions for making more time for myself.’ When they do, this is your opportunity to jump in and suggest things that leads to the conclusion that hiring a cleaner is the best option.

At this point your customer doesn’t want to be bombarded with messages saying get a cleaner, they want to read a balanced article that covers their options. Your blog’s focus will therefore be to tell them they could make more time for themselves by being a better cleaner, using better cleaning materials, buying a better hoover, or perhaps hiring a cleaner.

I Should Talk About Other Solutions??

If you are thinking it is madness to introduce other solutions apart from your own, I will explain why that is not the case.

You should not be opening a business unless you have researched that someone wants your product. In the case of a cleaning business, you armed yourself with the information that cleaners only charge around £12 an hour, they are fast and professional. You also discovered that the increase in demand for cleaners is due to an increasing number of women in the workforce and a rising demand among young professionals.

If you did your buyer persona correctly then, when you do your promotion, you will target those people. Some people will read your article and decide to buy a better hoover, those people are not your target audience, because you didn’t create your business for them. You created it for the ones you will read your article and identify that they are a young professional, working full-time, are extremely busy, and actually earn more per hour than a cleaner so it makes sense to hire one. 

Next: the Consideration Stage

In the consideration stage your customer is now aware of your solution and is making up their mind whether they will go with it over the other options. They will have read your article, but they may still want to clarify the right way forward, and therefore will Google, ‘The pros and cons of hiring a cleaner’ – among other similar topics. This may sound a little long winded but think about your own experiences of buying completely new services or products – Have you ever done that kind of research?

It is important to also remember there is not just one definitive way to search for information. Different people start with different keywords, and search to different levels of thoroughness. For example, the paranoid, may Google, ‘will a cleaner steal my things?’ You therefore should brainstorm around different keywords or topics to try and cover a broad range of possible bases.  

In the Internet age, people like to find out as much information as possible before they commit to something; they like to think they made the right decision, and got the best deal. This is an opportunity for you to get your brand in front of people and be helpful.

The Decision Stage

The final stage is the decision stage, in which that target customer in your buyer persona has made the decision they are going to hire a cleaner. If you are lucky then they will have read all your amazing content at the awareness and consideration stages, fallen in loyalty, trust and love with your brand and decide to hire or buy from you.

 Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all the time and the customer will still continue their research. At this stage they will be googling or asking around for price and feature comparisons, to understand service packages, looking for reviews to ensure you are trustworthy, and seek answers to how to judge if a cleaner has done a good job, or not. Consequently, tou need to have answers for these questions.

It Can Help Whatever Your Business Size

For a small business this may sound daunting, but to help yourself you can look at your own experience and the way you research buying products and services; what questions you ask yourself on the way to making a purchase.

In our next blog we will look in more detail at the types of content and promotion that work best for each of these stages, but the buyer journey works even if your planned promotion method is just knocking on doors. After all, promotion is entirely dependent on budget and company size. Larger companies can have sophisticated omnichannel campaigns, but the principles of rolling out the campaigns according to the buyer journey remain the same.

Why Does It Work for Knocking on Doors?

It works because knowledge that there is a buyer journey allows you to adjust your sales pitch to meet where the person is on their journey. When you knock on the door, rather than just jumping in and saying something like, I am a cleaner and my price is X, you can start a conversation around whether they are finding it difficult to balance looking after children and working. They may reply that they have thought about getting a cleaner, but they think it is a lot of trouble. They may directly ask you your price and if you have any references. This is your opportunity to jump in with helpful, prepared answers for the right stage of their journey.

 You may not convince them that day, but you can jot it down on a piece of paper where that person is on their journey; when you get home, you can then prepare some more information for them that persuades them to go forward. This may not have been some elaborate, expensive campaign but you still used the buyer journey to improve your sales.   

About Hoof

Once you have utilized the buyer journey to improve lead generation and sales, you need to send quotes, invoices and take payments. Hoof payment solution has all the tools to help you win business and more efficiently manage payments.