Veselina Dzhingarova writes: A look at the buying process and how and why consumers make the choices they do.

Most businesses, especially small businesses, don’t pay much attention to why buyers buy. According to Allen Stanley, President ofBest Attorney Rankings “Many go about their business with an attitude of providing a good product with good customer service at a fair price. “ While that seems reasonable enough, a better understanding of the buying process and how and why consumers make the choices they do can be extremely beneficial for any size business.

  1. Need or Desire. The first step in the buying process is the awakening of a need or desire. It is important to remember a couple of things about needs. One is that they can be real or imagined. In other words, the need can be an actual one, or the need may just be perceived. The other factor about needs and desires is that they can be created and influenced by outside forces. Every day consumers are saying “I just GOT to have that!” when referring to a product they didn’t know existed minutes before. Many times, needs are generated because of a problem. It may be a transmission breaking down, a toothache, or a legal issue may arise. In the case of businesses, it may be a cash flow problem or a sales slowdown. These problems will generally lead to the second step.
  2. Research. While the buying process has stayed relatively the same through the years, this particular phase has changed significantly with technology. In the past, consumers would ask family and friends who they would recommend. Today, research can be easily conducted online. “Today’s consumers are just as likely to trust online comments, referrals and testimonials as they are to ask a friend” says Greg Taylor of Rehab Facilities.
  3.  “It is why managing an online reputation is so important.” It is also why providing useful online information through content marketing is so valuable. If you are the source of this research, it greatly enhances your opportunities for being there at the end of the buying cycle. Giving away content and information is a type of “free sample” for consumers who are in the research phase of the buying process. This research phase is often where consumers are at when they say they are “just looking.”
  4. Comparison and Evaluation. This is where the consumer feels they have the information they need to make a decision, but now need to select the resource. They will consider factors they learned in the research phase, but will also include their own interactions with a potential vendor. Who are they comfortable with? Who seems to have the experience and knowledge to best help them? Are there significant pricing differences or guarantees? Was a vendor helpful, friendly and accessible in that research phase?
  5. The Purchase. The transaction takes place.

The challenge in marketing today is that many consumers can get to stage three and even to stage four without interacting directly with a vendor. That can make a vendor feel helpless, but that is not the case. “The key is taking the steps necessary to be as visible and accessible as possible in that research phase” says Cheryl Miller, President of Best Retirement Destinations. “If you are viewed as a resource, an expert so to speak, your chances of moving a prospect to a client increase tremendously.”

As anyone in retail will tell you, consumers are better armed than ever. Doctor’s offices are filled with patients who have “self-diagnosed” themselves before they’ve even got there. Auto dealers have learned to deal with this new informed consumer. But how are you handling it in your business?

The buying process may not have changed much through the years, but how consumers are moving through the process has. “Understanding the buying process and how it can be influenced with a well thought out and managed online marketing plan is a terrific place to start.” States Barbara Higley of Franchise Rankings. There are plenty of resources to help. Improve your sales and your bottom line and put knowledge of the buying process to work for you.

By Veselina Dzhingarova

Copyright 2015 © Veselina Dzhingarova – All Rights Reserved

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