All customers – consumers and business buyers alike – follow a process for decision-making, consciously or unconsciously. Simply put, this process includes stages of awareness, consideration and purchase. Effective communications programs address all three of these stages, with the ultimate goal of moving customers to select your product or service.
Here’s how to map your communications to increase the probability that prospects will choose in your favor:
Just as the label implies, customers become aware of something, somehow. They read about you, see you at a conference or event, or hear about you from a colleague or friend. Prospects need to first become aware that they have a problem and then realize that you have a solution for it.
Most communications programs are built to generate awareness. Tactics to do so include: advertising, publicity, SEO, social media and many others. If you start with these, you’re on your way to moving prospective customers through their decision-making process by first being introduced to your solutions.
Once a prospect knows about possible options, they move to the “kick-the-tires” phase – consideration. Much like the car-buying experience, customers in this stage “test drive” your offerings by taking a closer look at available options and then narrow their choices. You want yours to be among them.
How can communications help customers consider your options? Participate in industry trade shows or events where you exhibit your wares, giving customers an opportunity to see and experience your offerings – and their advantages. Develop case studies and post them on your website so customers can understand how others like them have benefited from your solutions. Execute a direct marketing campaign that leads prospects to a white paper on your website. If you produce consumer goods, providing product samples is an old standby that’s still effective today. Your goal is to provide prospects with a positive experience to test your wares.
In this phase, you want to make customers feel confident they’re making the right buying decision. Give them the tools to make the purchase as simple for them as possible.
Interactive selection tools, product demonstrations and sales collateral are common tactics used to simplify purchase decisions. You want to include content that helps the prospect envision how he or she can acquire and apply your product. The sooner you can lead prospects to these tools, the quicker they can cut a purchase order with your company’s name on it!
By consciously considering how customers make purchase decisions and mapping this knowledge with communications strategies, you increase the odds that customers will choose your products or services.