Understanding the Buyer's Journey in Inbound Marketing

Ultimately buyers are responsible for making wise purchases. However, they usually need help. That is your opportunity to guide them through the buyer’s journey.

Buyer’s Perspective

When buyers don’t know how to differentiate their vendors or the solutions they provide, they focus on price.

It is easy to blame vendors for not making things clear in their marketing and sales literature. How many buyers know what questions to ask a supplier, so the important differences are evident?

To get the results you want, purchasers need to define their real buying criteria. When you buy for the wrong reasons or can’t implement effectively, you won’t get the maximum value from those products or services.

This gap raises an opportunity for vendors.

The Vendor Opportunity

Shrewd vendors make sure they make it easy for prospects and customers to buy from them. They help them get to the root of what matters and then align the proper product or service to the specific need.

Wise vendors do this by meeting the prospects where they are in the buyer’s journey and helping them through the process. They help clients get maximum value from their purchases. They aren’t just order-takers.

Customers find you because you know the buyers better than anyone else.


The Buyer’s Journey

The earlier you can become involved in the buyer’s journey, the more likely you are to start adding value and guiding the process. I use the word guiding intentionally. You might have some influence, yet the client makes the final decision. As well, guides have the best interests of the customer in mind.

It is important to note that a prospect may not reach out to you early in the journey. The buying journey is also not linear. In fact, it can be quite complicated. The buyer controls the process more than ever, so meeting them where they are is a smart marketing and sales strategy.

So let’s look the three stages from a high level (definitions from HubSpot).

The Steps in the Buyer's Journey

The Awareness Stage

The buyer is aware they are experiencing some problems or symptoms. At this point, they aren’t even sure what the underlying problem or opportunity is. They are looking at possibilities.

In my experience, the majority of business-to-business companies don’t market to the awareness stage at all. Most of the rest don’t have a conversion strategy for that content. Only 3-10% of your possible customers are currently in active buying mode or close to it. At that point, prospects have already been talking to your competitors. Ignoring the awareness stage leaves 90% of your ideal clients out of your day-to-day marketing.

Your marketing would address the awareness stage through content aimed at helping pin down the problem. Ideally, you would not promote your specific products, solutions, or company at this time. Focus on providing education at a broader industry or solution category level. You might create a short eBook about evaluating common production problems with wells in a particular type of formation. This stage of the journey is excellent for building trust because you are not actively selling anything, yet you are adding value.

If they reach out to the sales team for assistance, remember that they are looking for help figuring out the scope of the problem. Jumping to a solution too soon will do one of two things:

  1. Drive them to a competitor because they don’t feel you were listening.
  2. If you do sell the solution, it might not be the best fit, and lead to buyer’s remorse.

At this stage in the buyer’s journey, marketing and sales should focus on helping the prospect get clear about their problem and what the benefits will be to solving it.

The Consideration Stage

The buyer is now clear on what the problem is, and they are looking to see how they could solve it. Note that they still aren’t looking for a particular solution. This step is more about the available approaches and options.

Your marketing content should now focus on categories of solutions. You might write a whitepaper comparing the relative success and costs of re-stimulating wells using several conventional and non-conventional approaches.

You are helping the buyer pick the right type of solution for their problem, even if it isn’t you. Filtering out the prospects that will not buy is just as important. Long maybes drain valuable resources on the way to no.

The Decision Stage

The buyer has now picked a specific type of solution and is evaluating the best combination of vendor, product, and service. If you were involved in the previous stages either through your marketing automation and assets or via contact with your sales team, you have a leg up on the competition.

You have already established trust. And if your earlier materials were educational and helpful, they helped determine the buying criteria.

Your content for the decision stage is more about your specific solutions and your company. Buyers are choosing between several similar solutions so now you can talk about your specific solutions and products.


Focus on Results

Most companies don’t set the buying criteria all that well. They buy and pay for features they will never use. They evaluate proposals on the wrong things.

We see this often in the marketing space in dealing with small and mid-sized companies. The business owner looks at price, who else has bought your services, what features they will get, and if they get a good vibe from sample sites. They might even get a few team members involved. But because they are not clear what business results they want, they are committing to the luck of the draw.

Know Your Customer

There are a lot of other factors that go into attracting your ideal client including targeting specific decision makers and influencers. Creating great content that gets results is both an art and science.

Making your marketing and sales work well together takes effort and consistency.

When you understand who you want to attract and support those people through the entire buyer’s journey, you are more likely to avoid the race to the pricing bottom.


Sunwapta Solutions is a Benefactor member with the Oilfield Hub. This article was originally published in the December edition of the Oilfield Pulse.

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