7 Steps to a Considered Purchase
Acknowledging all purchase decisions are emotional at their core, a considered purchase is more complex as it often carries greater costs and commitment through time - with a correspondingly higher degree of risk and reward. Clearly these dynamics suggest a deeper investigation and comparison of alternatives before a brand selection and purchase.
I’ve worked with many clients who were completely convinced their marketplace success would be immediate if we could only find the way to let people know they, in fact, had the better mousetrap. These include both B2B and B2C brands; insurance carriers to financial planners; from boutiques to multinationals; commodity traders to investment bankers; and a slew of professional and research service firms. The majority of which had a tangible, performance based advantage. And they all knew it: “Look Lou, ours is the best by far, no kidding, anyone can see that. Just tell ‘em; that’s all they need to know; trust me, I know; just tell ‘em we're the best by far.”
But telling alone simply isn’t enough, particularly when promoting a considered purchase that’s complicated by either unseating the incumbent or introducing the brand and the category to an anxious, untutored new user. This is abundantly true in the big time B2B realm but it’s also true for any number of consumer categories as well. It’s true for my friend’s daughter who’s thinking of transferring from a top public university to a much smaller school. It’s true for my neighbor with three children under five who’s trying to decide where to turn for online in-home grocery delivery. And it’s true for a surprising number of my clients who’re currently surgery shopping for athletic injury repair!
Marketers today face wave upon wave of evolving new models, platforms, and paradigms. All of which reflect our struggle to keep pace with the vast transformation digital and mobile have wrought on consumer choice, selection, and purchase decision. To a degree, one could argue the array and immediacy of information available today have subtly conditioned consumers that every purchase is a considered purchase. But still and all people don’t live their lives in models, platforms or paradigms. And in addressing them we need to understand them and their behavior.
This isn’t so much new as it’s just constantly being re-learned. David Ogilvy famously admonished his struggling mad men that “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.” This advice implicitly calls for a more intelligent and informed approach and tone. Friend and former colleague, Austin McGhie, succinctly built on Ogilvy’s critique when he simply said "…the customer is you".
Of course this all speaks to consumer knowledge and understanding, but that strikes me as somehow too rationale. At the end of the day it’s really about empathy, isn’t it? My favorite view of this comes from Daniel Pink, “Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place”. Agreed, and on a different level, it also makes marketing work. As it’s the key to breaking through and creating real connections and transactions in reciprocal self-interest.
I believe this is true with an impulse purchase off the shelf and even more so with the considered purchase that takes more time and attention to come around to. And here’s what experience tells me goes on in each journey from prospect to customer.
The seven steps to a considered purchase that your prospects will travel:
1. What happens if I do nothing? Don’t yet fully recognize either an issue that’s troubling them or an opportunity to improve.
2. How can I achieve better results? Now see the problem but don’t know the best route to a solution.
3. Where can I learn the best practices to get better results? Engaged with various sources – and most importantly, their various communities – in researching answers and gaining the knowledge and confidence to take action.
4. How do people like me get better results? Assessing particular offerings as appropriate solutions in the context of their own quite individual short and long term needs.
5. What risks are involved? At this point we’re all prone to take a few steps back: revisiting the problem, checking and then reconfirming our assumptions, in the process of overcoming inertia and the remaining reluctance to proceed.
6. Right, just how well does this service/product work? Can I be sure this particular brand/company will deliver on their promises?
7. Who can I trust the most to provide the best results and make me successful? This then is the final choice; moving the prospect through journey of intent a menu of options to their final selection and commitment to purchase.
My sense, as broad as these seven may appear, is that when you’ve an in-depth, real-world, empathetic understanding of these steps – specifically tailored to your category, offering, customer, and brand – then you’ve a rock solid foundation for effective brand stewardship, product development, and ultimately competitive advantage.
Content marketing communications may then proceed from:
A clear and consistent storyline that speaks to prospects in their language
Qualifying your solution through answers to their questions and key concerns, large and small
Educating and nurturing them generally while featuring the unique benefits of your solution
And demonstrating your brand’s expertise through compelling evidence of that expertise in action
So, where are you and your brand in the considered purchase decision journey today? Do you have a model and a map? And did you stop there: or is your entire strategy informed by an authentic empathy with your target - and awareness of the journey they will travel from a qualified, nurtured lead into an initially delighted customer? You only get one chance to make a good first impression…