What Every Entrepreneur & Small Business Owner MUST Know About the Buyer's Journey

If your company is relying solely on inbound leads or cold calling to gain new customers, you might just be spinning your wheels. Instead, take a step back and identify who your ideal customers are, what information they want, and where they spend most of their time – like on Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn. Mapping out your buyer’s journey helps you target leads that are most likely to buy and move them through your sales funnel faster.

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The Buyer’s Journey


Understanding your buyer’s journey benefits everyone in your organization, from marketing to sales to customer support. The buyer’s journey is a framework for businesses to model their customers’ progress, starting from when they first discover your brand to the day they become a loyal customer. The buyer’s journey has three stages:

Awareness:

The buyer has a problem and they start looking for solutions. Maybe they need to buy a product, pay for a service, or they can solve the problem for free. This is when your company needs to get in front of them and show them how you can help their situation. You present a solution, not your product or brand.

A growing business may go to Google and search for “how to build a sales team quickly.” They’re going to see results about improving their hiring process, buying job ads, or paying a consultant to help them. A savvy marketer from a boutique recruitment agency can catch their eye with helpful guides on how to create a job posting or what qualifications are most important. 

Consideration:

Now that the buyer knows what solutions are out there to fix their hiring problem, they can choose a direction and create a shortlist of vendors. They want to hear more about your product, what it does, and why they should trust you. Sales reps need to capture their attention as well as their commitment to the evaluation.

The recruitment agency will now assign an account manager to this prospect who can answer questions about talent acquisition strategies, return on investment, and give examples of how they’ve helped companies in the past.

Decision:

The buyer has evaluated a handful of vendors and understands what they want in terms of features, services, prices, customer support, and more. But the deal isn’t done yet. Until they formally purchase, they may choose to put the project on hold and do nothing – which is every vendor’s biggest competition.

The account manager at the recruitment agency must convince the buyer that it’s worth investing their time and money by working with the agency. Resources like live webinars, technical guides, and case studies can bring the customer over the line.

The Inbound Buyer’s Journey Framework


Today’s remote-first selling environment has shown us that content marketing is the best way to reach new buyers and increase sales. Content marketing is a broad term that can be summed up as anything that provides explanatory, educational, and actionable information that helps solve people’s problems. This includes blog articles, industry reports, ebooks, webinars, video, infographics, and more. 

Small businesses typically focus on getting their brand out and creating a supply of new customers so they can grow quickly. There are multiple models but the Inbound Buyer’s Journey, created by HubSpot and IMPACT, is the best fit for most small businesses. This approach requires unique types of content for each of the three stages of the journey. 

Awareness:

Educational blog posts that answer common questions, thought leadership articles or industry whitepapers, and helpful content like checklists and explainer videos.

Consideration:

Competitor comparisons, live and recorded product webinars, technical how-to guides, and product feature highlights.

Decision:

Customer case studies, ROI worksheets, testimonials, one-on-one live demos, and free trials.

Define Your Perfect Customer


Creating content without a target audience usually results in low quality leads – or no leads at all. Going back to the recruiting agency example, they do well with high growth, medium sized businesses that don’t have an in-house recruiter. Gearing their content towards smaller businesses will have a higher close rate compared to targeting everyone, from multinational companies to micro-businesses.

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Ideal customer profile

Before you start creating content, you need to know what your ideal customer profile (ICP) is and how to reach these individuals. Your ICP is your perfect buyer who benefits the most from your products or services and will continue to spend money over time. Knowing your ICP helps you define and drive the right strategy at the start of your buyer journey, and all the way through to purchase. To get started, you can define your ICP with attributes like:

  • Industry
  • Geography
  • Annual revenue 
  • Budget or luxury buyers
  • Existing customer or new lead

For direct to consumer businesses, you’ll want to narrow down your ICP even further using psychographics, which tells you who your customer is as an individual including values and hobbies. 

A diner near a college campus may stay open late rather than open early in order to maximize student foot traffic. A hardware store that sells home improvement products may want to attract new homeowners between the ages of 30 to 50. A fashion brand will want to resonate with young urban professional women who have disposable income. 

Buying habits can also come into play. Do your services include customer support or is it self-serve? Is your ICP looking for convenience or a more indepth partnership? Is fast shipping important or will the customer wait longer to receive a one-of-a-kind piece?

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Personas

It’s helpful to create a fictional character for your ICP, known as a persona. This way, your marketing and sales reps can practice having a conversation with the right individuals. To start, look at your existing customers to identify different personas involved in purchasing decisions. 

Start by asking customers what they feel are the biggest benefits of your products and services. Why did they choose your brand over your competitor? In what ways are you helping this customer reach their goals? Surveying your customer base helps to identify trends in your buyer’s journey. 

The account manager at the recruitment agency may need to convince more than just one person at a company to purchase their talent acquisition services. Prepare ahead by knowing which personas have a final say in the purchase: 

Roberto, VP of Sales:

All new hires to the sales team will report to Roberto. He’s looking for talented sales reps with industry experience. He’ll want to see how the recruitment agency sources these people and hear testimonials from other customers.

Suzanna, CEO:

Suzanna will trust Roberto to decide what qualifications he’s looking for in a new hire. She’s more concerned with your company’s reputation, cost of your services, and how good of a partner you’ll be long term.

Mei, Customer Service Manager:

Once the sales team secures a new customer, Mei’s customer service team starts managing the relationship. She needs new sales hires to work well with her post-sales team. She wants team players, not lone wolves.

Update your buyer’s journey regularly


As your company grows and the market changes, so will your ideal customer profile and personas. Recessions, pandemics, and even political disruption may change how your company does business or push you towards a new niche. 

Buyers don’t remain the same for long and marketing content that worked for the last three years, can suddenly fall flat. Personas that used to love your brand, may want different offerings next year. Keep track of which marketing content pieces convert into sales and tweak your buyer’s journey at least once a year to stay ahead of the pack.

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Small Business Resources


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Guide to Small Business Software
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How to Share a Team Phone Number
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Learn the Parts of a Phone Number
Inspirational Small Business Quotes
Mastering the Art of the Cold Call

A special high five to Tahera Ali Khan for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs. Thank you Tahera! ❤️

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