A buyer journey without marketing automation is like a boat without a rudder

Posted by Graeme on 18 March 2014 | Comments

       

Take any course in marketing and you’re guaranteed to learn about the consumer decision making process. In a nutshell, the consumer decision making process is the set of decisions that every consumer makes before buying a product or service.

Marketers in a retail environment put a lot of stock in the consumer decision making process. As such, a huge amount of money is spent on research that tries to find out how to sway a shopper towards buying a particular product over another. The optimal height of the shelf, the best colours for packaging, the effect of a yellow sticker saying ‘SPECIAL’ – all of these things affect the consumer decision making process in a retail environment. 

When we move away from the retail industry and look at the B2B sphere, the consumer decision making process is just as important. But B2B marketers can’t rely on snazzy packaging or eye-level positioning to influence potential customers.

B2B marketers try to influence leads as they move through the consumer decision making process – or buyer journey – with an arsenal of direct communications.

Marketers base buyer journeys on the consumer decision making process; putting themselves in the consumer’s shoes and working out the series of decisions they’re likely to make leading up to purchasing a product. They then base a series of emails on these decisions and send them out to leads at specified intervals. When a lead makes an enquiry or downloads something from your website, they begin to receive this series of emails, which are either sent manually through a CRM system or through some sort of email marketing platform.

The problem with sending a series of emails at regular intervals is that it assumes that people follow the same series of steps every time they make a purchase.

This isn’t really the case – individual buyer journeys aren’t always linear. While the series of steps or decisions may be more or less the same for each consumer, there are circumstances that commonly cause consumers to either skip steps or take unusually long to move from one step to the next. For example, a lead might get put onto an urgent project half way through the buyer journey that causes them to drop everything else. A few months could go buy before they eventually turn their attention back to buying your product and move forward in the buyer journey.

Marketing automation allows you to track exactly where a lead is in the buyer journey, enabling you to send them the most relevant communications.

With marketing automation, you aren’t just sending a series of predetermined emails at set intervals; you’re sending a series of behaviour-triggered emails. Marketing automation technology monitors leads’ online behaviour, determining where they are in the buyer journey and then sending them content that is most relevant to the decision they are currently making. This means that if a lead skips a few steps in the buyer journey, your marketing automation programme will adjust your email sequence to suit.

Email marketing platforms don’t allow you to have different leads at different stages of the buyer journey.

Ordinary email marketing platforms allow you to send bulk emails to a specific category of leads. For instance, you might be able to send the same email to all of the female leads in your database or to all of your leads living in the Western Cape. However, this results in everyone in that category getting the same email, whether they’ve been in your database for two days or six months. This system doesn’t allow you to base communications on where individual leads are in the buyer journey.

Marketing automation allows you to simultaneously communicate with different leads based on where they are in the buyer journey.

Without marketing automation, it would be impossible to send each individual lead communications based on where they are in the buyer journey – doing this manually would simply get too complicated. With marketing automation, however, each lead is automatically sent communications based on their individual online behaviour. After the initial setup, no further human intervention is needed.

Ensuring that leads receive communications that are relevant to where they are in the buyer journey is the best way to influence the consumer decision making process.

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Author: Graeme Wilson

Image credit: World Shipwrecks

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