Growth Path: How to harness content to feed digital sales?

What marketing models typically lack is a real understanding of how potential customers behave - or more specifically, how they buy.

2018-09-28 – 6 min read

Why, how, when and where do customers buy your products? Understanding the mechanics of buying forms a foundation for building effective content and marketing strategies. So stop wasting marketing money on trivial impressions or clicks.

An ideal base for marketing and selling in digital channels should be a user or purchase journey. However, many companies are mapping customer paths and building funnels that could be leveraged by marketing automation. These funnels are usually based on REAN, AIDA or other similar models. What those models typically lack, however, is a real understanding of how potential customers behave - or more specifically, how they buy.

We can make the point simple by categorizing different buying behaviors into three broad varieties: impulsive buying, need-based buying or consideration-based buying. Therefore the first question a sales or a marketing director should ask is: Do customers buy this product on an impulse, in a situation of real need, or after careful consideration?

Impulse, need or consideration?

Usually, products and services which are easy to buy can be categorized under impulsive buying. These can be for example nutrition, clothing or apps – something that isn't too new or too expensive. Something that has clear benefits for the buyer.

The second category is those products and services usually buy only when we really need them. A good example is a refrigerator. If our fridge breaks, we not only want to buy a new one, we need to buy a new one in order to continue fulfilling our various other needs.

A common problem is getting stuck with tactical and short-term marketing ploys, instead of purpose-driven, top-of-mind brand building.

In the third category are commodities that need proper consideration - more complex products and services. These are usually things like B2B services, entirely new technologies, or expensive investments like solar panels.

All the above categories are simple generalizations - practical tools to start building your marketing and content strategy. It's a framework to start making decisions. After you have categorized the product or service you want to sell, it's much easier to choose your marketing approach and where to use your limited budget.

Buying behaviour defines tactics

At this point you might already have an idea as to where you will allocate money, time and resources. Each way, and each “buying behavior”, defines which marketing action is the most effective - or which part of the sales funnel you should concentrate on feeding with fresh content.

Impulsive buying is the easiest. With tactical and targeted ads, you can effortlessly drive traffic and potential customers towards your buy-buttons and get good, measurable results. But the downside is that you quickly end up with short-term results and a long-term sales expense.

A common problem I have encountered in companies is that marketing departments get stuck doing tactical and short-term marketing ploys, instead of purpose-driven, top-of-mind brand building, and thus focusing on customer loyalty.

In need-based buying, marketing efforts should focus on a brand’s top-of-mind awareness and search engine optimization. When a need arises, where and how are potential customers searching for a solution? Wherever it is, you should be there too. If your brand content works as it should, potential customers would go straight to your service.

Take a moment to think about your fridge breaking. We’ve established that it no longer works - so now where do you start searching for a new one? Do you go straight to

Consideration-heavy commodities require a lot of sales and marketing effort. Therefore, you should first think about if it would be possible to make your product more “impulse-friendly” to buy. For example, you might consider splitting the payment or launching a subscription model. Another possibility is to offer free trials before buying.

Consideration-heavy services and products need real sales efforts, like direct sales, cold calls, events and so on. All these should be linked to, and with, all your marketing moves. It could be useful to think of marketing as lead generation instead of sales. Then you can stop doing impractical tactical marketing, and concentrate on building your brand’s positioning, top-of-mind awareness or related thought leadership. Moreover, you can then start producing content and stories that provide genuine value for your customers instead of constantly trying to sell them something.

Once you understand how your customers buy, you can start creating focused marketing plans guided by that behavioral north star. By mapping their journeys, you begin to grasp how your customer’s buying behavior can be supported with content at every stage of their experience.

Growth Path is a series of articles in which our experts share their insights in strategy, content and digital sales.

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Written by

Niclas Storås

Niclas is a Concept Designer at Motley

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