Marketing is a very old tradition, as is sales. One can imagine salesmen haggling with customers in the marketplaces of ancient Babylon. Where there is trade, there is sales. In the early 20th century, one Frank Hutchinson Dukesmith wrote an article for Salesmanship Magazine that presented the first break-down of the buyer’s journey. He used the acronym AIDA: “attention, interest, desire, action.”
- Attention: A salesperson introduces a prospect to a product.
- Interest: As the prospect expresses interest, the salesman introduces specific details about the product.
- Desire: The salesman convinces the prospect that they really need and want the product.
- Action: The consumer makes a purchase decision. The salesman closes his deal.
A century later, the sales process has changed dramatically. The birth of the Internet has given people more purchasing options than ever before, and it has changed the way they look for the products they need. As traditional advertising loses effectiveness, marketers and salespeople have had to find new ways to bring in leads.
From Product to Problem: A Change in Focus
Today’s new buyer’s journey is no longer product-specific. It’s not a matter of seeing an advertisement for a product, then seeking it out. Instead, it revolves around the problems the consumer is having and their search for a solution.
AIDA has given way to “ACD”: awareness, consideration, and decision.
- Awareness: The consumer becomes aware not of a specific product, but of a problem that they have.
- Consideration: The consumer actively researches potential solutions to their problem. During this process is when they come into contact with marketing materials and sales representatives.
- Decision: With the aid of salespeople, the consumer makes a final purchase decision.
Most of the process is already complete by the time the person speaks with a sales representative. The majority of the process falls under marketing, rather than sales — specifically, inbound marketing.
Inbound Marketing: Meeting the Buyer on Their Journey
Today’s new buyer’s journey centers around the quest for information. People actively research their own options for solving their problems, which is simple given the wealth of information available through the internet. To succeed in this new landscape, companies need to meet the customer at various points in their journey, providing the information they’re looking for, to make a purchase decision.
The old ways of marketing and advertising were largely interruption-based, foisted upon the consumer whether or not they wanted it. The new approach is to create materials the customer is actively seeking out. The sales process is now within the buyer’s control. They’re calling the shots, not the sales team. They’ll connect with a representative when they’re ready to buy. It’s the marketing department’s job to usher them along until they reach that point.
Today’s buyer is proactive, conducting research before making a decision. They don’t want to be prospected by salespeople until they’re already ready for that. A badly timed sales pitch is a major turnoff.
To target information to your consumer base, you need to understand not only the broader buyer’s journey — awareness, consideration, and decision — but the specific buyer’s journey that people undertake when they’re looking for a product or service like yours. The way people buy real estate is different from the way people buy breakfast cereal. With the consumer calling the shots during the sales process, you need to cultivate a strong understanding of their behaviors and thought processes if you’re going to create content that resonates with them and persuades them to make a purchase decision.
The New Frontier
In many ways, the new buyer’s journey is far better for consumers. Instead of invasive commercials and overbearing sales pitches, they’re taking a proactive role in searching for solutions. For both B2B and B2C companies, it’s crucial to adapt to this new approach to buying. If not, you’ll be left behind as the world moves on.