Selling things can be tricky.
People often don’t want to part with their hard earned money and you have to convince them that your product is worth the time and the cost.
There are many ways to improve your potential to make money online, but one of these is to understand the stages of consumer buying.
I know… I know… This sounds like something you would learn in a marketing class, but it is actually worth taking the time to consider.
People really do go through stages when they are buying things, and if you can tap into this, you can increase your sales.
Think about yourself for a moment.
Most of the time, you don’t buy a product the very first time you see it or hear of it.
You probably go away and think about it for a while.
Maybe you look at other similar products or ask a friend about the product you are considering.
In fact, there is so much product information available now that you might end up comparing products for quite some time.
This process gets even more significant for big purchases.
Sure, you might spend $5 without thinking much about it, but you might spend quite some time deciding if the item cost $20 or $50 (or higher).
Customers do the same thing.
It tends to take a person around seven different interactions with the product before they decide to actually go through with the purchase.
Now, if you are selling a product of your own, you might actually have to walk your customers through all of these steps.
This might include information on the website, using email newsletters, forum threads and other approaches.
However, if you are marketing a product that already exists, it’s possible to specifically target people at the end of the buying cycle.
These are the people who are really close to making a purchasing decision.
If you target people in this way, you can do away with a lot of work, and make the process of selling much easier.
For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to break down the topic into three main stages of consumer buying.
From a marketing perspective, these stages can be broken down further, but using three stages is more than enough for our purposes and for targeting buyers in the latter part of the process.
So, the stages look something like this:
The research phase is where people start.
They are looking for information on the topic in general.
For example, a person might be looking for information on fitness, health or nutrition.
At this stage of the process they probably don’t even have a product in mind, and they may not have even decided they are looking for a product.
People who develop authority sites tend to target this part of the process.
Authority sites are comprehensive websites that contain a lot of information about their topic area.
Not only do these sites provide information about the field, but they also provide direction towards specific products.
It is very possible to target people while they are in the research phase, but it is time-consuming.
One way of supporting this aspect of the cycle is to get people following you and your site, whether it is through social media or being part of an email list.
This way you have the ability to engage with them and step them through the entire process.
In the decision phase, the person knows they want a product and they may be relatively sure of what product they are going to buy.
In this part of the process, the person is looking for information about the product they are interested in and in alternatives.
This is normally the group you are targeting when you write product reviews.
With positive reviews, you are basically trying to convince a person to purchase a specific product by making it sound good and showing how it fits their needs.
With negative reviews, you are essentially trying to steer people away from a product or products, often by showing them to be a scam or not as good as they seem.
Negative reviews are a little trickier, because you need to transition from that product to what you want to convince the consumer to buy.
If you get this transition right, you may get a sale out of it.
If you get it wrong, you come off as manipulative and simply trying to make a profit – which is why developing trust is so important.
When you target this phase, it is best to look for keywords that involve review, versus, comparison or scam, as these are likely to be part of the search that people make.
It is relatively easy to get a person to buy at this stage as long as you have developed enough trust, as your information acts to either confirm or refute what they previously thought, and this is often enough to seal the deal.
The act of purchase is the final part of the process.
Getting this part right is absolutely essential because this is where you make your money.
If you step someone through the process right from the start but they end up purchasing somewhere else, then you have just wasted a lot of time and effort.
The purchase stage is the shortest of the three, because once people have decided what they are going to purchase, they normally make the purchase pretty quickly.
In theory, you can target people in this stage by using keywords that involve the terms purchase, buy or best price.
However, this isn’t always effective, as people often progress from the decision to purchase phase on the same site.
Additionally, many products, particularly affiliate products, have a large number of different places selling them, and they tend to be sold at the same or similar prices.
Because of this, people don’t hunt around for places to purchase the same way the hunt for items.
This means that in many cases, it is worthwhile focusing primarily on targeting the decision stage and stepping your customers through to the purchase stage.
This way there is much less chance of losing the person in the process.
Things to Watch Out For
When you are targeting consumers, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
For starters, people purchase from sites and stores that they trust.
If your readers don’t trust you, then you have already lost your sales.
This means that you have to be careful with how you interact with your readers and the image that you present.
You need to appear trustworthy and legitimate.
A good example of this comes from affiliate marketing.
When you affiliate market, you are promoting the products of other people – often through reviews.
There are many sites out there that review products in a heavily biased manner.
They will promote products they earn money from but insult anything else.
Readers will notice this pattern, and they will start to get annoyed at it.
If you have a large number of biased posts and reviews, you will probably find that you lose readers and sales, rather than gaining them.
After all, how many glowing reviews have you seen online where the reviewer ignored everything bad about the product?
In some cases, the reviewer may even make things up or bend the truth to make the product sound better.
Anything for a sale, right?
If you mislead people to get that one sale, you will lose ten others in the process.
You also kill any chance of getting repeat customers – and repeat customers are what you really want.
You’re better off being honest in a review, even if it scares a few people off because it builds trust.
Most of your readers will already know that any product will have good points and bad points, so any overly positive review will look suspicious.
Ideally, you should also be honest about where you are getting your money from.
When you are affiliate marketing, it’s very tempting to pretend you have no bias and that the products you are promoting really are the best out there.
Readers aren’t stupid.
Some of the people visiting your site are going to figure out you are affiliate marketing and when they do, this undermines their trust and your sales.
However, if you are honest from the beginning, you can get around this.
There are even ways to admit to affiliate marketing without sounding like you are selling out.
For example, there is the classic line that the promotions you have are what keeps the site free and allows you to help your readers. Another approach is to state that you will only ever market products that are actually good and that you would (or do) use yourself.
In either case, it is best to only promote products that are actually good on your site.
Promoting low quality or scammy products is a really good way to lose audience trust quickly and it is never advisable.
Know Your Customers
Effectively targeting the stages of the consumer buyer process really involves knowing your customers to start off with and having an idea of what they need.
This means you have to know your target audience inside out – and I don’t mean just thinking you know them.
If you don’t know what your audience is looking for, then you will end up focusing on keywords that have little to do with the audience you are wanting to find.
For example, if you were trying to sell a highly technical camera, like one a person might use to photograph weddings or to do nature photography, you wouldn’t want to target general keywords like ‘camera’ or ‘best camera’.
Instead, you want to be picking keywords that focus on specific things your audience might be looking for, such as a specific type of lens or a highly specialized camera type.
You might end up with less traffic overall, but you are getting the people who are interested in what you are selling – which is always better.
Exceptions to the Stages of Consumer Buying
Every so often there are exceptions to the buying process. People will sometimes skip a number of steps and get to the actual sales quicker than you would expect.
A key example of this is impulse purchases.
People will sometimes buy an item on impulse, without weighing up their alternatives or doing any real research.
Think about lining up at the grocery store.
How often have you picked up a candy bar that looks appealing and added it at the last minute?
People might also do this with a new type of chocolate that just came out or a new addition to a brand they already like.
Most of the time, people impulse purchase things that stir up emotion (which is why impulse purchases are commonly chocolate or candy) and they tend to be small purchases.
For the most part, impulse purchases are something to ignore, unless your niche focuses on products that are likely to be purchased on impulse (like chocolate).
While impulse purchases are useful for sales, they are difficult (if not impossible) to accurately predict and if someone impulse purchases an expensive product they will probably be looking for a refund later anyway.
If you want to learn more about ways to get the most out of your site, especially in relation to keyword research, have a look into Wealthy Affiliate and the training that the site offers.
Wealthy Affiliate is a powerful online training site, which teaches people how to develop websites and make those websites profitable. It is a great option for beginners and also for those with some experience in internet marketing and website creation.