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August 16th

Understanding Buying Cycles and Triggers

Understanding Buying Cycles and Triggers

purchase cycles

The Customer Buying & Purchase Cycle

Here at Klicker, your favorite lead marketing agency we have the opinion that depending on where your customers are in the buying cycle, they’ll expect different interactions with your company. Specific triggers can tap into each area of the cycle to get customers in the mood to buy, let’s go through the buying cycle, take a look at triggers, and use that knowledge to make even better marketing. Sound good?

The Customer Buying Cycle

The buying cycle can be broken down into three phases:

  • Awareness: when a prospect first notices your product or a need they desire to meet
  • Contemplation: when a prospect starts weighing their options in terms of solutions to that need
  • Purchas

How the Buying Cycle Dictates Your Sales Approach

Say you just walked into a shoe outlet. When you first enter, you didn’t really have a specific item in mind. You might not have even wanted to buy anything. Immediately, a salesman walks up to you with the gleam of money in his eye, and starts hounding you to buy something. What was supposed to be a laid back day of browsing has turned into something quite different, and totally ruined your mood.

On the other hand, pretend you just walked into the same store but with a burning desire to buy a new pair of running shoes. You search up and down each aisle, desperately seeking the same salesman to help you make a decision. The guy is nowhere to be found, and you leave feeling equally as irritated as before.

What’s the difference?

The big difference is where you were in the buying cycle in each scenario—awareness in the first example, and purchase during the second.

Your expectations on how you want to be treated by a business are totally different depending on your location in the buying cycle—ranging from “leave me alone” to “someone please help me ASAP.”

That’s why companies who use the same sales tactics for all prospects are turning off a large portion of their customers.

Adapting Your Marketing to the Buying Cycle

Online, we have to provide different routes for our buyers to take, which also allow us to identify where each person is during the buying cycle. Someone downloading a free trial is closer to purchasing than someone who checks your home page for the first time.

What is Lead Nurturing?

Not everyone who visits your site is ready to buy right away, which is where lead nurturing comes in. Many people make the mistake of ignoring lead nurturing, which is costing them tons of sales in the long run.

Lead nurturing is all about keeping in contact over a long period of time, which in turn builds trust. After trust is built AND your prospect experiences a trigger that lets them re-enter the buying cycle, you now have a good shot at turning them into a sale.

But to get started, we need email addresses. Because visitors to your site are typically shy about handing out their email address, we need to give them something valuable in exchange—such as an eBook.

With email address in hand, we can plug these new leads into our lead nurturing program and work towards making them trust us. Lead nurturing is most easily accomplished using software, and not done manually. Once your list of leads starts to grow, it will be virtually impossible to keep up with all those emails. Software like Marketo, InfusionSoft and Hubspot are just 3 examples.

Lead nurturing software also allows you to track exactly who is advancing in the buying cycle by observing which pages they return to, allowing you to further hone the specific materials you send each lead for maximum marketing potential.

Lead nurturing is all about taking people who are stuck in the decision-making process of the buying cycle and getting them to the final step, which hopefully means buying from your company.

Online Lead Sources and the Customer Buying Cycle

Online leads can usually be grouped into one of two categories depending on their source—one for late-stage buying cycle leads, and the other for people in the early stages of the buying cycle.

People using sites and tools like review sites or Google to find products or sellers to solve a specific problem are typically high-value, and are either in the contemplation or purchase stages of the cycle.

Likewise, leads coming from social media, banner ads, etc. are usually lower value because those people are often in the awareness stage of the buying cycle, having just become aware of a company, product or service.

The maturity of your market also plays a role in how late-stage or early-stage your leads are, with leads for new markets requiring more education, and thus being earlier in the buying cycle.

Understanding Buying Triggers

Triggers are events that cause prospects to realize a very clear need, which typically transforms into a sense of urgency and purpose—key ingredients to advancing in the buying cycle.

In the shoe store example before, your vague interest in a pair of running shoes may have suddenly become an urgent need after coming home from work and finding out that your dog ate your old pair of running shoes. Here are some examples of other triggers:

  • You’re constantly backing over your mailbox, and realize you want a car with rear camera
  • Your cashier can no longer keep up with lunchtime demand at your restaurant, so you decide to purchase a second register

Triggers will vary for your particular business, but figuring out the triggers that matter to your business will help you improve your marketing attempts, help you qualify leads far better, and puts yourself in the perfect position to help your customers when the trigger does occur.

Using Triggers to Improve Marketing

There are four steps to working with triggers in your marketing process:

  1. Identifying your buyer personas
  2. Identify your buyer persona’s triggers
  3. Craft content and specific messaging for each combination of persona and trigger
  4. Look for ways to create triggers for your buyer personas or help them notice when one has happened

For this example, let’s consider a PaaS (platform as a service) business, which lets developers reduce the time it takes to develop new applications.

Identify the Buyer Personas and their Triggers

Our PaaS has four specific types of buyers:

  • Business owners who want to solve problems through new app development
  • App developers
  • IT teams responsible for development infrastructure
  • People used to outsource projects, such as systems integrators

For example, a business owner might be excited about our PaaS because of possibly getting apps created faster than they can with old IT systems. Because they probably don’t want to transfer an existing project onto our PaaS (since they’ve already created the IT infrastructure), the trigger we’re looking for is waiting for them to start a new project.

Building Content to Target Specific Triggers

By understanding each trigger we can create specific messaging for each buyer persona. For example, the business owner above might be targeted with a pop-up on your home page for resources specifically geared towards building apps in a fraction of the time. Whatever content you link to would be perfectly tuned to help this specific person move through the buying cycle.

Creating Triggers on Your Own

Nurturing leads who reach you early in the buying cycle usually means staying in touch until some external trigger happens that causes them to jump into buying mode. However, with the right understanding we can initiate some of these triggers by ourselves.

The business owner from the example above might be triggered through blog content or newsletters suggesting that many companies have seen great financial success with new apps lately, planting the idea that they too should jump on the bandwagon and get a project going.

Encountering Customers Too Late

This situation is common for many types of businesses—a customer comes to your site after having their opinion shaped by a competitor’s product or service, meaning your features, price, etc. are forced to compete on their terms.

Comparing price and features for a simple product is easy—when one company clearly has a better price or superior features, the choice is clear.

But with complicated products that require more customer education, you’re now at a disadvantage. There’s no easy way to dig yourself out of that hole besides engaging with customers earlier on in the buying cycle, circumventing the issue entirely.

Final Words on Buying Cycles and Triggers

Buying cycles and triggers are vital to online marketing efforts, but your own buyer personas and even buying cycles may be more complex than what we’ve talked about here. To see the most success, be sure to:

  • Learn where your leads are in the buying cycle
  • Create paths for your leads to follow to continue further into the cycle
  • Realize that most leads aren’t ready to buy at first contact with your business
  • Create compelling content for each combination of trigger and buyer persona
  • Understand which triggers cause which buyer persona to become a customer
  • Look for ways to help buyers recognize when a trigger has occurred, or create your own triggers

If you’d like to learn more about about triggers and behavioral models, check out this fantastic piece of content by Stanford’s BJ Fogg on what drives users to take action.

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I'm Sam, and I'm the founder of Klicker. My mission has always been to understand what separates the 1% of winning businesses from the 99% who never see results online. Klicker is my attempt to share these findings and organize a system to push a select few of those 99% into the 1%.

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