Making a sale depends on being able to move customers through the buyer’s journey with the right content at the right time.

In 92 per cent of cases, when shoppers visit an e-commerce site for the first time, they are not looking to buy. Rather, they are doing their research. They’re comparing prices or looking for information about products and brands.

When customers visit a website or mobile app with the intention to make a purchase, about a third rarely or never follow through. This is according to a study of 1,100 shoppers by digital experience platform Episerver.

What does this mean for sales and marketing teams? Making a sale depends on being able to move customers through the stages in the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. This means you must supply the right personalized content at each stage to convince them to move to the next.

How to move customers through the buyer’s journey

1. Establish clearly defined objectives

What are you trying to achieve? Setting clear goals for each stage of the buyer’s journey will create a domino effect. The goals will point you to the right tactics and marketing channels to use, which in turn will lead you to the most effective content to create to help customers move to the next stage in the buying journey.

For example, if you want to drive people to your website, you’ll want to put search engine optimization (SEO) to work to help you boost your ranking on Google and other search engines so buyers become aware of you. SEO positioning is a subset of search engine optimization that focuses on driving specific web pages to the top of search engines.

Fast fact: Google is responsible for 94 per cent of organic traffic to websites.

Tip: Use Google Analytics to learn the search terms people are currently using to land on your website. Are they using specific terms or broader characteristics that relate to you? Use these keywords and phrases throughout your website to make it easier for more people to find you.

2. Know your customer

Shoppers are less likely to make impulse purchases online. Thanks to the Internet and easy access to information, today’s consumers want to learn as much as they can about a product and brand before they buy.

This requires sales and marketing to work together to help customers move through each stage of the buying journey. And this can only happen if you have a clear picture of your target buyers.

Develop buyer personas for the buyers you’re trying to attract. These are research-based fictionalized versions of your target shoppers. The persona describes who they are, what they want, their challenges, interests and how they make decisions. The buyer personas will inform and allow you to personalize your marketing and advertising campaigns. This is critical as 66 per cent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.

Tip: At each stage of the buying journey, make sure your messaging and content align with your buyer personas.

3. Create an email strategy

Email marketing remains the best way to drive traffic to your site and convert those visitors to customers. That’s because you are directly connecting with your target buyer in a personalized way. Build an email database and segment your email audience by purchase history, interest, demographics and where they are on their buying journey. 

Once you have segmented your email audience, you can provide the kind of personalized information they need to move to the next stage of their buying journey. This can include updates or reminders about a product or service, and regular newsletters with information they will find relevant and that will keep your brand top of mind. You can also send them personalized messages about special promotions, events and sales.

4. Use social media marketing and advertising

Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of Americans use some form of social media. It’s a big number and represents a big opportunity for businesses regardless of whether you sell your products and services online.

Marketing and advertising on social media allows you to show up where your target customers are. The key is to establish your authenticity online and to create content and creative specific to each social media channel and that your ideal customers will find relevant.

For example, LinkedIn is the top social platform for B2B companies. It’s where professionals and decision makers are. For this reason, LinkedIn recommends creating articles that are strategic and help answer the top questions your company receives.

When developing content for Facebook and Instagram, stay true to your brand’s personality and be sure to feature high-quality visuals.

Fast facts: 61 per cent of marketers see video as a “very important or extremely important” part of their marketing strategy. And 74 per cent of marketers say video has a better return on investment than static imagery.

Use social media optimization (SMO) to get the most out of your social campaigns. SMO involves analyzing, auditing and adjusting your accounts and content to make sure they align with your business objectives and brand identity. For example, is your creative consistent across all your channels? Even incremental improvements can boost your visibility and reach.

Tip: Take a page from some of the most successful brands: create an online community.

5. Develop content for each stage of the buyer’s journey

When you have a clearly defined buyer persona and know which social channels they visit, you can develop relevant content that is customized to each channel and that will help potential customers become actual customers.

Hubspot has identified the best content for each stage of the buying journey.

Content for the awareness stage

This is the start of the buying journey and the top of the sales funnel. Customers are doing their homework and looking for credible information and insight. This is when they will find your brand.

The best way to show up is to develop educational content they can use. This can take include:

  • Blog and social media posts.
  • Whitepapers, e-books or webinars.
  • Checklists and tip sheets.
  • How-to videos.

Content for the consideration stage

Customers are building on what they’ve learned and digging deeper. They are conducting more specific research and comparing and evaluating their options. This is the middle of the sales funnel.

The best way to show up is to provide easy ways for customers to rank and test your products. Content can include:

  • Comparison guides.
  • Case studies.
  • Free samples.

Content for the decision stage

This is it. Customers are evaluating specific products to make sure they find the right fit to meet their needs.

The best way to show up is to give customers an opportunity to see your product in action by offering:

  • Live demonstrations.
  • A free trial or consultation.
  • Special offers or coupons.

Today’s shoppers in both the B2B and B2C spaces don’t need you to sell to them. They need you to help them. And they want that help at each stage of the buying journey. Creating content that aligns with your buyer personas and mapping it out to accompany the buying journey will help you close the sale.