Decisions, decisions! Even while we aren’t aware of them, we’re making them all the time. Many of those decisions we make quickly, without even thinking – orange juice or coffee? Gym or happy hour? TV or sleep? But with more significant decisions, we tend to think more in-depth and take longer to decide.
Purchasing decisions are similar. Some are made as soon as possible, without much thought, while others can take weeks or even months of research and deliberation to decide. That’s why, as marketers, it’s essential to anticipate the decision-making path of your consumers and to answer their questions before they arise.
When consumers start researching a purchase, they will inevitably be presented with many options. How will you differentiate your marketing campaigns from the competitors? Effective analytics are essential to unlocking the potential of your marketing initiatives. One of the critical ways data can help you is by unravelling the path your buyers take toward a particular purchase.
In 1968, researchers Blackwell, Engel, and Kollat developed a five-step model of the consumer’s buying decision process (it came to be known as the Engel-Blackwell-Kollat or EBK model). That model is useful for marketers even today. Here are the five steps of the EBK model, and how you can utilize them to stay a step ahead of your buyers:
The very first step of the buying cycle is that the consumer recognizes a problem that needs to be solved or a particular need that needs to be satisfied. Essentially, the consumer is looking for a solution to resolve a state of discomfort. The discomfort could be from anything – an inability to get work done within due time, frustrating processes or technology, or a competitor gaining an advantage.
At this particular stage, having built brand awareness is fundamental. If you can be the first and foremost solution a person thinks of – before they have even started to research – your business will have a huge leg up. This is also why you should highlight their pain points in your marketing. That kind of marketing resonates in the problem recognition phase.
The second step in the decision-making process is to gather all info available about possible solutions. The larger the purchasing decision, the longer this process takes. A consumer will be be very thorough in their research and seek out information regarding features, pricing, ease of use, etc.
While buyers used to contact companies directly to research, today, this information collection happens through self-education – which is where marketing leaps in. The consumer must find your marketing during their search. There are several ways to “get found,” but ranking highly in their search results is crucial. In essence, our SEO Cheat Sheet provides an excellent overview of leveraging website optimization for search engines to get found. You’ll also want a strong and helpful content marketing strategy at this point to help your purchasers get educated while they research.
The third and often tedious step is the evaluation process. Most people have a list of criteria that the solution must meet. As a marketer, you must know precisely what is on that list. What’s a deal-breaker, and what’s a deal-maker in the eyes of your consumer?
At this stage, as the buyer evaluates, your marketing campaign should speak to their needs and interests. There are various ways to make sure your marketing stays relevant: you can build buyer personas to understand the standard criteria, objections, and challenges; you can segment and target your lists to send useful nurture e-mails, and you can personalize your website (and other related content) in response to buyer attributes.
Purchase is fun, right? Once consumers have decided, they no longer have a problem…they have a solution! Time to celebrate and rejoice!
Furthermore, It’s also time for something more fun – consumer metrics! Now that you’ve guided them from problem to solution, you’ll want to replicate that success with others. And to do that, you’ll need accurate reporting on how your marketing actually affected the sales.
The best marketer knows that the process doesn’t end at the purchase. That’s only the inception of a customer’s value for your company. Once the acquisition is out of your way, your new goal is to create a long-term relationship between consumers and the company, ensuring that you get the most value out of them and they get the most value out of your services or products.
Now that you know the steps of the consumer decision-making process, start thinking ahead! Optimize your marketing strategy for every stage of the process, by building brand awareness, upping your inbound marketing game, personalizing your marketing efforts, running robust reports, and continuing to market to your current customers.
Do you consider the five-step decision-making process in your marketing? If so, how? If not, why not? Let us know in the comments section below.