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How do customers make purchasing decisions?

No matter what type of business you’re in, the end goal is always the same: sales. Whether you’re selling tangible goods, services, or just your expertise, your target audience will be faced with the decision to either move forward with your company or not.

This decision-making process is occurring constantly, and if you’re honest with yourself, it probably doesn’t always end up in your favor. But understanding how this process works can help you gain insight into how your key demographic thinks: how they view your business, and ultimately, why they may be deciding not to move forward.

Phase 1

It’s not terribly likely that your customers are impulsively making purchasing decisions (unless you’re selling cinnamon buns and I can smell them from a mile away; it happens). There’re actually several stages to the decision-making process, the first of which involves, well, figuring out that there’s a problem to begin with.

It means looking around and realizing something is making you unhappy. This is their problem; for example, their refrigerator is broken and their food is spoiling. That’s definitely a problem. Or (more apropos) their business isn’t attracting new customers and is losing sales. Which is, incidentally, a much, much bigger problem.

What this means for your business

So you want to make sure your customer knows that you know what their problem is, even if your audience doesn’t realize they’re having it yet. Particularly in marketing, many businesses fail to realize that if they do not maintain their strategy, their marketing will not be effective. The “set it and forget it” approach has never really applied to marketing. What issues do you anticipate for your ideal customer? Whatever they are, you should include them in your messaging, and you may even get the ball rolling on a decision your target audience didn’t know they needed to make.

Phase 2

Next is the search for information about this problem. How is this need alleviated? How do other people fix this problem? What are the options? Today, these questions almost always involve some good old-fashioned googlin' around.

What this means for your business

First and foremost, it is important to make sure that your business can be found online when searches are conducted. If you have not implemented any SEO, you will lose your audience at this phase. Your blog is also incredibly helpful not only for providing solutions to the kinds of questions your audience is asking, but also for increasing your site’s rank on Google.

Second, if the online “face” of your business (your website) is out of date, overwhelming, takes too long to load, or isn’t mobile-friendly, people will leave your website – and your business will be out of the running. Consumers tend to evaluate the legitimacy of your business based on your website alone, and failing to keep it up to date will hurt your bottom line.

Phase 3

When you’re looking to purchase a new car or home, do you go with the first one you find? No, and your customers don’t either. That’s why the next phase consists of comparing service providers. Your audience is comparing much more than the total cost of your product or service; there are, after all, a truly staggering number of things that can go into a purchasing decision, from proximity, to perceived expertise, to just really liking the logo.

So how can you stand out from the competition?

What this means for your business

Content is your strongest weapon.

Content like blogs and ebooks lets you establish yourself as an industry expert and earn your audience’s trust, which is pretty much gold to you. You know what their problems are; speak to those problems.

You’re running a roofing company, tell them when the right time to re-shingle their house is.. Articles like “Top Signs Your Roof Needs Replacing” will both talk to immediate pain points and establish you as the dude who knows what’s up. Even if the potential customer decides they aren’t exactly ready to replace their roof, they’ll remember you when  the time is right.

Phase 4

The decision. The fateful decision. At this point, the consumer has done their research, weighed their options, and the information they’ve uncovered has led them to making a purchasing decision with the business they’re confident can help them. If you didn’t fall flat anywhere else in the buying process, you’re still in the running right now; but ultimately, all you can do is equip the customer to make a good decision.

In other words, at this point it’s out of your hands.

But if you’ve done the legwork and made sure you spoke to their pain points and gave them strong information all the way down the line, you can be confident that the right customers will find you – and stick around long enough to buy.