If you’ve had the good fortune of reading German writer, Rudolf Erich Raspe’s 1785 masterpiece, Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia, you may well agree with me that the good ol’ baron took some endearingly eventful and exciting journeys all over the land to both entertain and annoy both his companions and enemies roughly to the same degree.
So, when we think of the buyer’s journey inside the sales funnel, we have to provide content that informs, educates, entertains and persuade buyers.
- Content that informs tells readers about new concepts.
- Content that educates unpacks new concepts into learnable pieces.
- Content that entertains eases up the learning process.
- Content that persuades encourages readers to take the next action in the sales funnel.
The first three components are called conventional content and #4 is called sales copy, which is responsible for escorting buyers to the point where their interest turns into commitment, leading to a sale.
So, in this article, we go a bit deeper into this buyer journey and discover what exactly happens at each point.
Since every sales is a change process, let’s start with…
How Humans Change
One of most broadly recognized human change models was developed by Dr. James Prochaska (Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology University of Rhode Island) and Dr. Carlo DiClemente (University of Maryland) in the mid-70s and it was documented in their 1994 book Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively.
Considering its level of recognition in the psychologist/psychiatrist community, I think we too can use it in our analysis of buyers’ journeys.
As an example, let’s use weight loss.
Let’s start the change process with the…
Physical Change Stages
Stage 1: Pre-contemplation – The ignorance stage: At this point people are not convinced they need to change at all. They definitely don’t plan to start within six months. It’s a state of blissful ignorance. At this stage, cons of changing outweigh it pros.
Example: “Ignorance is bliss and my weight is not a concern for me right now. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Stage 2: Contemplation – Sitting on the fence: Interested, convinced but not committed. These people plan to implement changes in the next six months, but are still unsure whether or not to change at all.
Here people learn about what benefits they can receive by changing.
Example: “Yes, my weight is a concern for me, but I’m not sure whether or not I’m willing to start losing weight within the next month.”
Stage 3: Preparation – Testing the waters: Making a plan to make the change within the next month. Some behavioural changes have already taken place.
Example: “My weight concerns me. I know the benefits of losing weight, and I’ll start in the next month or so.”
During stages 2-3, the pros of change surpass the cons.
Stage 4: Action: The change has taken place in the past six months. People are in the process of change. Here the pros of change outweigh the cons.
Example: “I’ve actually started the weight loss program and started losing weight. I feel good about my progress.”
Stage 5: Maintenance: Forming new habits after the change has been made for over 6 months. Continued commitment to sustaining new behaviours.
Example: “In the last six months, I’ve developed new habits and have been gaining more and more momentum to strengthen the “lean me” and eliminate the “fat me”.
Stage 6A: Termination: Leaving the past behind and live in the new world with no danger of ever returning to the old habits.
Example: “My new habits are so strong that I can never gain the lost weight back.”
Stage 6B: Relapse: Losing faith in the change process and resuming old behaviours. This time the change didn’t work out. Back to square 1 and maybe start again someday.
Example: “My old habits have duked it out with my new habits, and the old habits have won. I’m gaining my lost weight back, maybe with “interest”, but I don’t and/or I don’t care.”
But the journey wouldn’t be complete without looking at the…
Psychological Change Process
- Consciousness Raising (gather the facts): This stage involves providing and gathering information about the unsafe nature of the current behaviour and the positive impact the new behaviour can offer.
- Dramatic Relief (mind your feelings): At this stage people identify and express their emotions regarding the risk inherent both in the current situation and the change process. By expressing their emotions, they actually relieve themselves of the burden of the old habits.
- Self-Re-evaluation (build your new Self): At his stage, people accept the benefits of the change and the new state.
- Environmental Control (impact on others): At this stage people assess how their new selves would impact people around them, many of them still in the old state. For instance, how a lean and healthy person can impact his predominantly overweight and sickly colleagues in the office.
- Commitment (liberate yourself): At this stage, people feel a certain level of commitment to making the required change and inner encouragement to actually doing it.
- Social Liberation (invoke public support): Here people connect with others with similar problems and become role models for them. In doing so, they secure their own success.
- Helping Relationships (find support): At this stage, people build communities of like-minded with similar problems people for better support.
- Countering (Find substitutes): At this stage, people cross their Ts and dot their Is. They substitute the freshly lost unhealthy habits with new healthy habits.
Example: “What can I replace the old habits with that made me fat in the past?”
- Rewards (assign mini prizes): Design a reward system that rewards you for sustaining the new behaviours.
Example: “After every workout, I have a decadent bubble bath with my favourite tea.”
- Environment Control (manage your habitat): People use various prompts, cues and reminders to reinforce the newly acquired healthy habits.
Example: “Before going to sleep, I pack my gym bag, including my daily training program, and put the ingredients of the breakfast on the kitchen counter.”
Now we’re ready to…
Project Physical and Psychological Changes onto The Buying Process
When you look at the mindsets of buyers, you’re likely to find them in different states of mind, so, your content has different jobs to do to start (dis)qualifying them.
Your content has to help buyers to…
- Loosen the status quo
- Raise their interest in changing
- Transform interest to commitment to changing
- Explore possible solutions
- Select the best solution – best for the buyer, that is. Seller must be willing to admit that his solution is not the best solution for the buyer.
- Justify decision for the specific solution
- Justify the investment in the selected solution
And now, knowing the job descriptions, we can start…
Selecting the Right Content
When you look at the mindsets of buyers, you’re likely to find them in different states of mind, depending on their awareness level of the problem or solution.
In Breakthrough Advertising, legendary copywriter, Eugene Schwartz writes about five levels of buyer awareness.
- The most aware buyers only need to know “the deal.” They need long-tail content. They are on your list and have already bought something from you.
- Product-aware buyers know what you sell, but aren’t sure that’s what they want. They’ve searched you and keep an eye on you.
- Solution-aware buyer know the desired solution, but don’t know your product provides it. They’ve searched the competition.
- Problem/pain-aware buyer know there’s a problem, but don’t know there’s a solution. They’ve searched for problem.
- Completely-unaware buyers have no knowledge of anything except their own identity or opinion. They need long-tail content. They are on the very top of your sales funnel.
Depending on buyers’ awareness levels, you need different offers.
- The most aware buyers need solution- and solution-provider-specific content.
- Product-aware buyers need product-specific content.
- Solution-aware buyers need solution-specific content.
- Problem/pain-aware buyers need problem-specific content.
- Completely-unaware buyers need eye-opening content to re-evaluate their situations for certain problems.
And last but not least, after figuring out so much, now we can now order specific content formats to specific buying cycle phases and buyer mindsets.
It’s human nature that we don’t like surprises.
It also means that you don’t want your content to trigger unwanted or unexpected responses from buyers. This is why you have to match so many seemingly irrelevant factors.
It’s as simple as matching your car engine to the octane grade of the gasoline. If you put high-octane gas into a low-performance engine, then your car can perform some acceleration miracles. Then soon you need a new engine.
If you put low-octane gas into a powerful muscle car, then the car’s muscles will suffer from instant atrophy.
Either way, the response you get is surprising and unexpected.
You get the same surprise if you send a product data sheet to an unaware buyer or a newsletter subscription to most aware buyer.
The mismatch is as obvious as a ham sandwich and the response may not be as cool as a cucumber.
But if you match all the relevant components and based your content pieces on that match, your communication will be as smooth as a baby’s butt and both you and your buyers will be as happy as a rat with a gold tooth.