Understanding the Consumer Decision Making Process
Before you can sell anything to anyone, you need to understand how and why they want to buy it. The better your understanding of your clients needs, and how your solution stacks up against the competitors, the more likely you will move them toward a sale.
To help you get more clarity, you can use the consumer decision-making process and how it applies to your company, products, and services.
Over 100 years ago, John Dewey, a philosopher, psychologist, and educator, established the five stages of the buying process. While they have been refined over the years, they are still essentially the same in 2020.
The five buying stages are:
- Discover a Problem or Need
- Search for Information
- Evaluate the Alternatives
- Make a Buying Decision
- Post Purchase Behavior
To better understand how your customers buy your products or services, let’s take a closer look at each of the five stages.
Stage 1: Discover A Problem or a Need
At this first stage, people are just starting to understand their problems. They might be looking at online forums or websites that offer advice. If it’s a business problem, they may even look for educational material on sites like LinkedIn groups.
Rarely at this early stage are they aware of solutions, but might think they can solve it themselves.
A great tool to help you as a business, understand what people are looking for is Answer The Public.
If you’re looking to understand what product or service is out there and what the need is, type in a few primary keywords that link to your business or the problem you solve.
Remember to think in terms of the customer’s problems and speak in their language. For example, if they were having an issue with cybersecurity, they might search for ‘how to stop hackers.’
Next, once you know the questions people are asking online, you can start to shape your top of the funnel (TOFU) content towards useful blogs, videos, and infographics to help them.
Stage 2: Search For Information
Once someone is aware of their own need or problem, they have a stronger desire to solve it. But first, they need to determine a couple of things:
“Could I solve this myself?”
“If I hire someone or make a purchase, which is the best option for me?”
In the pre-internet era, people would gather information through friends, television, newspapers, radio, etc. But today, that has all shifted to online research. They’re going to use search engines and social media to find the information they need.
Because of this, you need to make sure that your brand shows up not only as your website, as one of those ten possible Google search results, but also as one of the four Google ads.
Keep in mind that potential B2B customers are just the same as B2C customers. Consumers don’t want you to tell them why you’re so great, but instead, they want to hear people saying that you’re great. This is why sites like Yelp and Amazon have done so well – they offer people the chance to independently review products and services.
Once a person knows they have a problem, they will decide if they need a product or service to solve it.
Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives
In the past, you could control what people thought about your product. Today, other people influence what is being said about your product, and when potential customers are evaluating alternatives, you must make sure you are part of the discussion.
This is where a great strategy can be to launch ads on your competitors’ brand terms. Take your primary keyword and add “Top” or “Best” before the term. Or take your primary keyword, and add “Reviews” or “Alternatives” or “Competitors.” From here, you can start to see the ecosystem in which your brand, product, and services exist. With the right mix of content and advertising, you can make sure that you’re a part of it and noticed as a viable alternative.
Stage 4: Purchasing Decision
When a person is ready to buy, there are not many elements that will deter them.
The only factors could be what their peers think of the product and any unforeseen circumstances, such as financial losses or timing, leading to not buying.
From the business owners’ perspective, the purchasing decision is often an undervalued part of marketing. They are often so worried about generating leads that they forgot that you could generate a million leads and close none of them.
You can lower your cost per acquisition drastically by improving your close rate. By investing more in the closing stage of the deal, you will see a greater return.
Stage 5: Post-Purchase Evaluation
Even though they have bought from you, the reality is not every customer will love you. But they are also some of your greatest learning opportunities.
You can try using a simple Net Promoter Score software, or even simple things like quarterly check-ins and monthly check-ins with your customers.
The more accurate you can get your feedback loop from customer success or customer failure, the faster you can improve your marketing, products, and services.
Ask yourself: “What features or innovations can my service or product offer so natural word of mouth marketing happens after someone purchases it?”
Make your product or service so good that they can’t help but tell their friends. In this way, you can make your post-purchase activities critical to help you grow.
Using The Consumer Decision Making Process
If you can understand the five stages of the consumer decision-making process, you can then adapt it to make sure you are using it for SEO and social media marketing. If you understand how people are now discovering information, you can supercharge your marketing and create successful campaigns that generate terrific returns.