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To consumers, making a major purchase usually means making a major change in their business or lives, which is a well thought-out and calculated decision. Whenever a consumer is making these calculations, they are at one of six stages in the buying cycle. It becomes our job as marketers to facilitate and advocate for these major changes by focusing on the correct tactics at each of the following stages:

  • Unaware
  • Contemplating
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Sold and Serving
  • Advocacy

Many prospects start out at the unaware phase, but won’t make it to the contemplating phase and even fewer will move on to planning. However, building your base of leads big from the beginning increases the probability you will have more clients in the end—and if you provide a positive experience—more advocates as well.


The “Why should I care?” phase

This stage is not titled for consumers unawareness of the product, service or brand, but their unawareness of a problem or opportunity for improvement. Many prospects in this stage have no idea why they need you. Most of them need to be shown exactly what their issue or requirement is and how your product can satisfy it.

Instead of focusing on individual prospects, focus on mass marketing. Prospects are unaware of their problem are not looking to buy, because they don’t feel a need to buy. They are content with the way things are and may even be in denial that they have a problem at all.


The “Hmmmmm … interesting” phase

Once shoppers move on to the contemplating phase, they are aware that a problem exists and are beginning to think that they may need change—but they aren’t committing yet. They may have seen something interesting—such as an advertisement—that piques their interest and leaves them wanting to know more. In this phase, individuals may start gathering information by browsing websites or other materials in search for solutions to their problem.

Having a solid presence online and offline is key at this phase, as your audience is doing its research on you and your competitors. The internet and other online sources provide access to almost every option—and the smart consumers are going to weigh them all. For a product to be on their radar, they’ll probably want a lot of information about the product, so make sure it’s available to them.


The “Tell me more” phase

The biggest difference between prospects in the contemplating phase and those in the planning phase, is that contemplating leads have not yet assigned a timeline to their action. Once they start talking dates and deadlines, they are ready to move into the planning phase of the buying cycle.

Buyers who are planning begin to narrow down their list of vendors and want something to change. They are picking and choosing vendors that best fit their needs based on a number of different components such as cost, quality and accessibility.

Buyers in this stage are comparing you with your competitors, and they have established a timeline for when they want change to happen.

Tracking prospects’ behavior becomes easier, as they are now acting with clear intention. By the time prospects reach the planning phase, they are making moves that indicate they are serious about change. Be sure to track and strategically respond to these prospects, helping them move deeper into the cycle.


The “Give me a proposal” phase

At the action stage of the buying cycle, buyers have narrowed down their list even further and are ready to make a decision. They have likely talked over the options with their colleagues and other decision makers. They’re probably assigning budgets, delegating out tasks and asking questions.

It’s important to keep momentum going with prospects who are exhibiting action behaviors because they are right on the cusp of a decision. If you aren’t playing an active role in their decision making process at this point, you could run the risk of letting the prospect slip back into another phase of the buying cycle or lose out to a competitor.

Sold and Serving

The “Here’s the money” phase

The sold and serving phase is a very exciting one. Money is changing hands and clients are making decisions—but be careful. Clients may begin to experience buyers’ remorse, and it’s your job to help them move beyond it. Make sure they feel good about their decision to buy from you. Clients are yours to lose if you aren’t careful about giving them the attention they deserve

Think about turning this client into a lifetime customer. Get the project moving right away and focus on delivering value as quickly as possible. If they have a positive experience buying from you, they are likely to make a purchase again.


The “We love you” phase

Clients who exhibit advocacy continue to purchase from you and refer business to you on a regular basis. A client is not likely to become an advocate until you’ve been serving its needs for six months. If you’ve done a good job of making them feel valued and meeting their expectations, you’ll find yourself with advocate clients.

Treat advocate clients like gold. They are important to building your business, and can eliminate your company’s need to keep pitching sales. The goal of understanding the sales channel is to eventually end up with a number of advocate clients who are profitable enough to reduce your amount of selling or eliminate it altogether.

Understanding the buying cycle is imperative in today’s manufacturing marketplace. Payoffs can be huge for those companies who broaden their base of sales leads from the beginning and follow through with those leads until they are advocates.

To learn more on how to market your product throughout the buying process with digital and traditional methods, download the upcoming white paper, The Smart Manufacturers Guide to Choosing the Right Digital and Traditional Marketing Tactics.

Enns, B. (n.d.). Identifying the Six Stages of Acceptance. In The Win Without Pitching Sales Process (pp. 7-1-7-17). Enmark
 Performance Development.