Understanding the Buying Process Can Increase Your Sales
Most marketers don't give a lot of thought to the buying
processes of their customers. That's a shame. Lending due
attention to the buying process can have a dramatic effect on
What is the buying process? Where does your customer fall
within it? How can you use it to help bring your customer to
the point-of-purchase? Follow me as we take a look at the
decisions customers must make before deciding to buy.
Each and every one of us goes through some sort of buying
process when we make a purchase. At times the process is long
and labored - as when buying a new computer. At other moments
it happens almost without thought - when buying a box of your
favorite cereal, for instance. But make no mistake. it does
Generally speaking, the buying process consists of five steps.
Those products/services that are new to the market, are new to
your customer, or are very expensive will require a longer
period of consideration in each phase. Products/services that
are familiar, that have market longevity, or that cost very
little will require a shorter (even instantaneous) process.
Step One - Need/Want Recognition
During this step, buyers realize they want or need something.
They recognize that they have a problem or a desire, and they
choose to find a solution. If this need or want is something
along the lines of lunch, the buying decision can be made
relatively quickly, without much thought of the actual buying
process. Hunger is a quick problem to solve, most options are
familiar to buyers, and the cost is usually low.
If the need or want is a new car, however, the actual buying
decision can take weeks or months. There is a greater risk, new
models and features come out all the time, the cost is high,
and the possibility of making a "mistake" when buying is great.
Step Two - Information Search
Once the choice has been made to fill a need or want, your
customer begins to search for information in order to make a
quality decision that is in his/her best interest.
Web sites may be visited (in which case you should offer some way for the
customer to remember you, such as printable versions of
information, downloadable brochures and catalogs, a way to
bookmark your site, etc.). Brochures may be gathered (be sure
to offer your contact information). Phone calls might be placed
(check to ensure you or your call staff has the information
they need to answer questions). Free samples, test drives, and
other means of "trial" work wonderfully to guide your customer
through the information search stage and onto the evaluation
and purchase stages.
Step Three - Evaluation
After your customers have collected all the information they
feel is necessary, they begin to evaluate their options and
narrow their choices until they finally pick the one thing that
they are comfortable with, and that they can afford.
This is the time to follow-up with your customers. Is there additional
information they need in order to choose? Did they have
problems with the free sample that can be corrected?
Your "presence" during the evaluation stage is important, so do your
best to retain customer contact information in order to
"gently" offer any additional details the buyer might need.
(Nobody likes a hard sell, or to be pushed into buying.)
Step Four - Purchase
Once all the information has been evaluated, a purchase is
made, and your customer walks away happy. right? Well. not
Step Five - Cognitive Dissonance (Post Purchase Anxiety)
While customers may have thought they chose the best solution
when they purchased, many times customers later experience
cognitive dissonance, a.k.a. buyers' regret. They second guess
their decision and begin to feel uncomfortable about their
decision. This is where trial periods, guarantees, and/or
warranties come into play.
Customers will have more confidence in their decision, even
after it is made, if they know they aren't "stuck" with their
purchase. Having a guarantee to fall back on gives them the
comfort to know that - should something go wrong - they won't
be left stranded.
Generally speaking, a guarantee is a
psychological support rather than a literal one. Most customers
never take advantage of guarantees. they don't think they need
to. However, if a guarantee wasn't offered, the anxiety of
feeling "all alone" would overcome many buyers and persuade
them into asking for a refund.
Understanding each step in the buying process can help you
structure your selling process and your marketing materials to
cater to the customer. Take the time to consider what your
customer goes through when making the choice to buy, and alter
your business accordingly. In doing so, you'll increase your
chances of making more sales, and landing more satisfied
Copyright © 2003
About the Author
Most buying decisions are emotional. Your ad copy should be,
too! Let Karon Thackston write targeted copy and ezine articles for you.
Visit her site at http://www.ktamarketing.com, or learn to
write your own copy at http://www.copywritingcourse.com. Don't
forget to subscribe to Karon's free ezine.
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