As marketers, our job is simple: to influence the consumer decision making process. Understanding the various phases of the consumer buying process—and knowing which marketing tools to employ at each stage of the process—is crucial to leading consumers towards making a purchase decision in your favor.
Let’s explore the different stages of the consumer decision making process, and the importance of employing the right marketing tools and messaging—in the right place, at the right time.
Phase I: The Identification of a Need
During phase I, the consumer simply identifies the need for a new product or service, and your job is simple: branding, or brand awareness. You need a strong, salient brand coupled with clear, compelling messaging—and you need to be everywhere your consumer is, when they’re there, with that strong branding and messaging. Ideally, you want your branding to be so strong that consumers will think of your product or service as soon as they identify the need for it. Of course, building that top-of-mind awareness takes time, consistency, patience, and a killer brand marketing strategy.
Some marketing tools you can use to generate brand awareness and recognition include:
A stand-out logo, powerful tagline, compelling messaging, and consistent, easily-recognizable design elements across all marketing touch points (case in point: have you seen our bird?)
Signage & packaging
For brick-and-mortar businesses or tangible products, well-branded signage and packaging could be all you need to push the consumer towards making a favorable purchase decision.
Social media brand awareness ads
This is an affordable way to expand the reach of your brand! We’ve seen small businesses leverage social media advertising to effectively increase brand awareness for as little as $5/day. There are several campaign objectives that could be appropriate here: page likes, reach, impressions, ad recall lift, and video views are some of the most common. Of course, your branding and messaging play a huge role here.
Phase II: Product Research
Now that they feel the need for a new product or service, the consumer starts to do their homework: they research products and services that might fit the bill. They’ll likely start by searching online for options that meet their needs, clicking to various websites and blogs, gathering basic information, and eliminating options based on functionality or product specs.
Marketing plays a huge role in the second phase of the consumer decision making process. Here are some tools to use during this important phase of the consumer buying process:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Make sure your website is well-optimized for the appropriate pool of keywords and phrases. It’s important not to assume you know what keywords and phrases consumers are searching for. Do the research and get the facts—you might be surprised. We often are!
When a consumer clicks to your website during phase II of the consumer decision making process, they need to be met with—you guessed it—powerful branding, compelling messaging, and clear descriptions of the product or service they’re interested in. Most importantly, though, they need to see informative, non-promotional content that positions your brand as a thought leader and industry authority. Basically, they need to see that you know your stuff and get the sense that they can trust you. Post blogs, videos, and infographics liberally, and repeat often.
If you have valuable tools or resources to share with the consumer—e-Books, free guides, free webinars or workshops, or interactive assessment tools—you can really kick-up the lead-gen process. Require users to enter their name and email address to access these tools, but make sure you have a follow-up sequence ready to rock: phone calls or text messages, social media retargeting ads, and email nurturing campaigns, etc.
Chatbots can be great tools during this phase of the consumer buying process. They can eliminate the need for users to click around your website to find information. With the acceleration of AI technology, chatbots have come a long way.
Organic social media
We see this all the time while tracking consumer behavior across our own marketing platforms: a user clicks to our website—maybe they fill in a contact form, or send us an initial exploratory email—and then they pop onto our social media profiles. Make sure your profiles are fully populated with a backlog of valuable, educational, and entertaining content. If a consumer visits your social media profile, and the last thing you posted was 6-months ago, you might lose the sale right there!
Phase III: Evaluation of Options
The consumer has done their research and narrowed down their options. Now, they are beginning to evaluate which one to ultimately go with. To influence the consumer at this stage, there are a few key marketing tools you can use:
Whether collected via Google or on your website, consumer reviews can have a powerful impact on a purchase decision. There are ways to automate the process of asking consumers for reviews, like email and text automations. Some businesses even incentivize customers to leave reviews by offering a gift or discount on a future purchase. And, of course, simply asking a happy customer to leave a review can work wonders.
User-generated content (UGC)
Community question-and-answer forums are an effective way to influence the consumer decision making process, especially for tangible products or services that are sold online. Social media campaigns that encourage users to post about their experience with your brand or product can also be effective at this stage of the consumer buying process. UGC is actually a win-win for both existing and potential customers: it can reinforce the emotional connection that existing customers have with your brand, while showing potential new customers the value your product service brings into the lives of other people. A great case study in the value of UGC is Stanley® tumblers recent marketing campaigns.
Phase IV: The Big Decision
If the consumer has settled on a purchase decision in your favor, congratulations! However, don’t count your chickens before they hatch—you can still lose the sale at the finish line. Here are some marketing strategies you can employ to ensure your customer stays with you all the way through that final button click or signed contact:
If your checkout process happens online, make sure the user experience and interface is intuitive and easy-to-use—no glitches or confusion! You can even sprinkle positive customer reviews throughout the checkout process, just to subtly reinforce the consumer’s decision.
If you are in a service based industry and your prospect ghosts you at the last minute, you can use social media or pay-per-click retargeting ads to remind the consumer that you’re still there, doing what you do best! We’ve all seen these ads—you go online and search for a product or service, and then you start seeing ads for that product or service in your social media feeds, and in banner ads on third-party websites. Creepy? Sure. Highly effective? You bet.
Email nurturing campaigns
Automated nurturing campaigns can also help nurture a lost customer back towards the finish line. These generally consist of a series of emails on a time delay that are triggered by a certain action—like downloading a lead magnet, abandoning their shopping cart, or leaving a contract unsigned. Most email marketing systems and CRMs support this type of campaign. Make sure you map out your messaging, so the content builds appropriately and strategically across all emails.
Understanding the psychology behind the consumer decision making process can help your business better strategize to influence that process. It’s so important to take a multi-faceted, integrated approach to branding and digital marketing. If you have all of these tools in the mix with appropriately-tailored messaging—and you’re using your Analytics tools and pixels to gain insight into consumer behavior and the way they interact with your website and social media profiles—you’re going to be more successful than a business that’s just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
At Birdhouse Marketing & Design, we’re experts at influencing consumers through brand marketing, website design, and digital marketing. If you have any questions about how your brand could do a better job of influencing its target audience, contact us today.