When I moved to Maine from Florida last year I made a priority list of items that were the most important purchases needed in order to comfortably adapt to my new city. Very near the top were a big, warm, indestructible pair of winter boots to help me survive the snowy winters.
I went about researching what boots would be the best. I could care less what they looked like really, all I wanted was to make sure they were warm and dry. My research consisted of the following two (extremely scientific) activities.
- I typed into Google: “warmest winter boots,” which provided me a bunch of “boot round ups.” Really not that helpful for narrowing down my options.
- I asked everyone I knew who lived in a cold snowy climate. This tactic was much more successful. Without a doubt the answer everyone gave me was one word: Sorel.
Over to the Sorel website I flew, excited to fall in love with my new pair of boots. I sorted the endless selection of footwear by “highest rated,” and ended up coming upon the majestic “Snow Lion XT,” which not only look big and scary, also brags about having an Omni-Heat™ reflective lining. I had absolutely no idea what that was (and still don’t really), but it sounded very warm. SOLD!
My boot buying story is a great example of the many influencers who affect a buyer’s journey from exploration to purchase.
What Influences Your Buyer
There are many things that motivate a buyer to purchase. In the beginning you normally have two types of buyers– those like me, with a goal (warmest boots ever made), and those with no clear goal in mind (they might not even know they want to buy…yet). We are going to focus on the goal-oriented buyer for now.
A goal oriented buyer is focused on achieving an objective. This gives you two very important pieces of information.
- They have a handful of selection criteria which they will use to make the final buying decision.
- They are willing to compromise other options or benefits to achieve their primary objective.
So, in my case, my top three objectives were: warm, dry, and comfortable. In order to make sure I got the warmest boots possible I was willing to sacrifice style,and to a certain extent price (I knew warm boots didn’t come cheap, however I had a budget I needed to stay within).
This is important; while having a well rounded product or service is important, focusing your communications on your niche and clear brand point of differentiation is what wins over buyers with goals. Sorel is known for their warm boots. I went to their site and that brand image was reinforced for me. The sell was easy after that.
Who Influences Your Buyer
You have many potential touch points with the buyer throughout their journey. Some are entirely within your control (website, social, content, advertising), some are not (reviews, word of mouth), and some lie somewhere in-between (organic search and the blessings of the Googles). Your goal is to map a buyer’s journey out in order to successfully determine how those influencers work together, and where you can best support each encounter.
Using my purchase of Sorel, let’s look at some examples of this in each media type.
- By segmenting buyers into the most common objectives, the company could re-organize their e-commerce set up. In addition to letting buyers search based on “most popular” or “top reviews,” the platform could allow search for common objectives, such as “warmth,” “style,” “snowshoeing” or “” Nike does a fairly good job at this by allowing sort by sport, type, and technology.
- A blog which covers any topics that might be related to boots and boot usage would also help support objective segmenting and focusing buyers in the right direction. Blog posts could cover shoveling and winter tasks, skiing and other winter sports, even winter fashion trends. At the bottom of every post and/or as in-content links, a few select boots that best match with the post’s focused objective could be displayed and linked.
- Written review testimonials with products are great, but how about taking it one step further with video. “These Boots are Made for _____” (cue music) letting fans video themselves and their boots in action.
- A lot of e-commerce sites use their email database to simply send out sale notification after sale notification (you can quickly see those that are mistakenly trying to win market share through price alone when you sign up for some of these). Instead, follow the buyer’s top objectives and distribute useful content this way. Even better, this allows you to segment lists based on clicks to further understand customers goals and follow-up with additional relevant content(therefore furthering their buying journey).
- If you are going to advertise this is a great opportunity to place retargeting advertisements based on need or objective (similar to the Google search I did at the beginning of my search). Again, it is very important the ad speak directly to the need and maintain brand consistency.
- Social media offers a fantastic opportunity to extend the reach of your owned content and further engage with buyers, prospects, and ambassadors in real time.
- Set up several keyword searches based on needs, objectives, or even geography if that makes sense for your product. So for boots, a focus on geographic areas with tough or long winters, along with popular ski or winter sport destinations might prove to be useful. Watch these searches and engage in conversation accordingly.
- Ignite your brand ambassadors through social by encouraging and sharing user-generated content.
- Build story pitches and guest blogs around buyer’s objectives and place in publications they trust.
- Think problem/solution stories that pinpoint the buyer need and provide tips, tricks, and ideas.
- For boots for example, stories could look at refreshing winter wardrobes (style objective), or gearing up for winter fun (utility/warmth objective).
- Bring in influencers with fun and interactive campaigns, making them a part of your organization and helping supply them with the info needed to help their communities.
As you can see there are endless opportunities to influencer your buyer’s journey by using the four media types. Understanding your buyer, their motivations and what influencers (whether they be people, publications, or problems) must affect their buying decisions.
Laura Petrolino is Client Services Director at Arment Dietrich a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She also writes regularly for their award-winning blog Spin Sucks Petrolino works with clients to help them effectively tell their organization’s story and create effective and measurable integrated communications strategies to directly affect their business goals.