The Three Steps of the Customer Buying Cycle
By Brad Sugars
A common misconception with a lot of people is that business transactions are simple affairs: customers express interest in something, they buy, and then they leave. This is a vast oversimplification of what is actually at work. Business majors and entrepreneurs have spent decades plotting out and exploiting every step of a customer’s buying process so as to better attract and retain their business. There are three sequential steps that customers take when they show an interest in purchasing something, and a lot of business owners are unaware of how to best target each of these phases. Each phase reflects a different stage of their mentality, meaning that the ideal strategy to exploit each phase will differ. So what are these three phases of the customer buying cycle?
Three Main Phases
These three phases are awareness, interest, and purchase. Awareness is the phase where they first become aware of the product or service that you are offering. Interest reflects the period of time where they show that they might want to buy your product – a customer that inquires about specific details relating to what you sell would be a good example. Targeted sales pitches are usually made in this phase. Lastly, purchase is the period of time where they make their final evaluation and the decision to purchase from you. Understanding how to address the needs of each phase will go a long way towards boosting your sales and securing long-term business from your customers.
This is the incipient phase of a customer’s awareness of who you are and what you are all about. This phase of the customer buying cycle is where customers make their first judgement of you, which is why a lot of marketing and advertising departments spend so much time and money polishing the image of their business. This phase is important because it is where you can craft your message to appeal to the desired market segment.
Another important tool that is commonly used during this phase is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This refers to the practice of tailoring your website to the demographic that you wish to market yourself towards. Businesses will commonly insert relevant keywords into their indexed pages with the intention of leading searching customers to their website.
This phase of the customer buying cycle is when customers come to you. The awareness phase is where you grab their attention, and this phase is where you have a chance to build upon it. Customers are typically non-committal during this phase; they are likely still doing plenty of research and shopping around. Targeting buyers during this phase means that you need to give your potential customer a compelling reason to purchase from you instead of your competitors.
The responsibility here is two-fold: first, you need to market yourself as the solution to the customer’s unique problem. Second, you need to address the customer’s needs and perspectives. Businesses will frequently offer positive reviews and testimonials of their products to convince these potential customers that they offer the solution to their needs. Offering a persuasive sales pitch is only half of the solution: make sure that the customer feels that you are concerned with what they want.
This phase of the customer buying cycle includes not only the actual purchase of the good or service itself, but also the final evaluation. A customer might still be reviewing their options in this phase, but what differs from the interest phase is that they have shown a distinct desire to purchase the good or service in question. This gives you an opportunity to give the customer a more comprehensive overview of what it is that they wish to purchase, and it is also the appropriate time to upsell additional products or features.
Car dealerships are especially fond of this point in the cycle. Once the customer sits down and begins negotiating the price of their future vehicle, the sales team moves in and does everything they can to get that person to buy the car. Whether they slash the price, throw in extra bonuses or offer them rebates, they will do whatever it takes to turn that expressed interest into an actual sale. This is where you want the sales team to take over: the amount of persuasiveness and personal magnetism they exhibit are every bit as important as their receptiveness and concern for the customer’s needs.