Web Design for the Buyer’s Cycle: How to Grow Your Business
The buyer’s cycle is a term that marketers use to describe the various stages a person experiences when they interact with a brand. Depending on where you hear the term, it can describe anywhere from 3 to 7 stages, and you’ll hear several different terms to describe each stage. But the underlying concept is the same.
This concept is extremely important for businesses, especially when it comes to their website. Why? For many business owners, the key goal of their website is to bring in visitors and increase sales. That’s it. If the website succeeds in these areas, they count it as a success. If not, it’s a failure. What they fail to see is that there are several smaller opportunities for success, all of which grow their business.
The buyer’s cycle challenges the common thought process that their website is either effective or ineffective. Instead, it encourages marketers and business owners to think about what their target demographic is experiencing. It challenges them to create a website that targets users at each stage of the buyer’s cycle and to encourage those users to move further along the cycle. It makes for more attainable and measurable goals, but it also gives them an edge over their competitors.
The best websites are consistent and comprehensive, but they also target users in each stage of the buyer’s cycle to provide clear next steps. For the sake of this blog, we’ll stick to three stages and call them awareness, consideration, and conversion. Here’s how to account for each of these steps and how to use web design to encourage users to move to the next stage.
Awareness: a user becomes aware of your business
This is the part of the buyer’s cycle that many businesses focus on with their websites. They think about what they can do to drive more visitors to their site and often measure this by how many visitors their website brings in.
The strategy: how to connect with users in the awareness stage
It’s always important to think first about what your target market is experiencing rather than thinking in terms of what you can offer them. This is particularly true in the awareness stage. What many businesses do is hit their users over the head with their benefits and features. And what does the user do? They often tune it all out.
Instead, try thinking of what your lead is experiencing and what’s leading them to conduct a search for your business. Instead of starting with “here’s what my business offers,” start with “here’s the problem my target market is experiencing.”
This thought process will inform your web design and content marketing strategy in a way that’s helpful to your target market. It will also help users make a more personal connection with you, which is more powerful than any amount of marketing jargon. You want to describe the problem that they’re facing, showing that you empathize with their needs.
For example, let’s say you run a doggie daycare. The problem your demographic may be facing is a powerful internal struggle between leading their busy lives and making sure that their dogs — the source of so much joy in their lives — are safe and happy. If you’re a mattress company, your customers probably start their search because they aren’t getting good sleep. But what’s the bigger problem? This lack of quality sleep is making them grouchy, leading them to be late for work, and stripping away that one opportunity for rest from all of life’s responsibilities. If you’re a coffee shop owner, perhaps your demographic’s biggest problem isn’t a need for caffeine — it’s a need for community.
Start with these thought processes and then segue into how your business addresses those specific problems. If you do this, your overall web design strategy will have a competitive edge. You’ll begin to win over customers’ trust when they land on your site and think, “This company understands me.”
Web design for the awareness stage
The elements that will play the biggest role in the awareness stage are SEO, blogging, landing pages, and your marketing efforts. You want your business to be visible to a wide audience of potential customers, but you also want to make sure those customers are likely to be interested in your product.
SEO and research: Research your rankings in search and, just as importantly, research long-tail keywords that you may want to start targeting. Evaluate how your current site targets these keywords and prioritize which keywords are your highest priority. Consider starting a few PPC campaigns to attract new users searching for those target keywords.
Content strategy: Evaluate how your current pages could improve in terms of attracting new users to your site. Revamp your site structure, taking into account the keywords from the SEO phase as well as areas you believe could be more comprehensive. When choosing new pages to create, aim for at least ~500 words per page (any lower and you likely won’t receive any SEO benefits).
Web design: Create pages that organize that large chunk of content in a way that isn’t overwhelming to the user. Ensure that your branding is consistent and that elements that impact user experience (like color scheme and font) are accounted for. Design calls to action that grab the user’s attention and encourage them to move to the next stage in the buyer’s cycle.
Content writing: For the content of your website, follow the strategy outlined above. Determine which pages (or sections on a given page) are targeting users in the awareness stage, and craft content that empathizes with their needs and concerns. Incorporate keywords throughout and break up text with headings, lists, and shorter paragraphs.
Web marketing: Consider avenues like blogging and social media to spread awareness of your business. In your blogging efforts, brainstorm topics that are most likely to resonate with users in the awareness stage and write a long article (1,000+ words) that genuinely helps them find solutions to their problem. Link to other pages on your site throughout and at the end of the blog to show them how you can solve their problems.
Consideration: a lead is considering your products/services
Once a person is aware that your business exists, they can move into the consideration stage, where they will begin to look at the details and benefits of your product. When developing the content for their website, this is the cycle that many businesses consider.
The strategy: how to compel users in the consideration stage
This stage provides the opportunity for you to dig deeper into the problems your users are experiencing. It’s also the opportunity to focus on how your product solves their problems and to create pages that explain this in detail.
What will differentiate you in this stage is to provide answers to every single question your users may have about your business. This is the stage where your lead is actively looking for information, and they will leave your site as soon as they aren’t able to find it. By providing a completely comprehensive strategy to answering their questions, you will stand out from your competitors. You will also snatch up easy conversion opportunities.
With this strategy in mind, it’ll be important to include a variety of pages with a variety of different focuses (and, ideally, a variety of different media). Your users will need to consume several pieces of content before they’ll be ready to buy, so think about recycling content and presenting it in new forms. This is also where that call to action placement will be extremely important, giving your users a clear way to move from consideration to conversion.
Web design for the consideration stage
You want to take the problems that you addressed in the awareness stage and provide solutions to them in the consideration stage. A few ways to accomplish this include:
SEO and research: Research your top competitors and other companies in your industry, and craft a strategy for bringing users to your site who may be considering these companies. Create landing pages with tables, features, and/or pricing information that highlight how your solution is better than the other solutions out there.
Content strategy: The content that will be most helpful to a user in the consideration stage will be pricing pages, downloadable PDFs, FAQ pages, support guides, technical specifications, customer service information, and detailed product pages. Consider how to add pages that will include this type of information. Also consider where you want to incorporate forms and other calls to action and where you want them to link to.
Web design: A big piece of this will be those calls to action. Little details like a thorough footer, a push-to-call button on mobile, your key contact information in the page header, and noticeable and enticing calls to action on each page will be very important here. You also want to convey features and benefits quickly — through videos, pictures, screenshots, and other forms of media. Imagine that your user won’t read any of the content (because they may not), and use the design to convey your message anyway.
Content writing: Determine which pages (or sections on a given page) are targeted at users in the consideration stage. Go deeper than describing the problem. Make a clear connection that shows how your product solves their problems, and describe a world where their problems are solved thanks to your product. You want the user to imagine life with their problems being solved — thanks to you.
Web marketing: Once users have shown some interest in your company, you’re in a great place to begin marketing methods like email marketing. Consider how you can capture users’ emails and then thoughtfully segment those users. Send out periodic emails to highlight your features, announce new products, give exclusive access to sales, and encourage users lingering in the consideration stage to go ahead and make a purchase.
Conversion: a lead buys your product or books your service
The conversion phase is often the moment when a lead becomes a customer. It’s what so many businesses hope to achieve with their website, but it’s also a critical opportunity for encouraging repeat purchases or social shares that some businesses don’t consider.
The strategy: how to leave a long-lasting feeling of positivity
If a user is so convinced by your business that they make a purchase, you’ve probably done something very right. But now is the moment when you need to do more than just be happy that your website led to a purchase.
Three key things you want to do here are to evaluate what made this purchase happen, encourage the user to make another purchase in the future, and compel the user to be an ambassador for your brand.
First, knowing what exactly worked leading up to this purchase will be invaluable information that informs your efforts for others users who are still in the awareness and consideration stages. It will also inform which of your marketing efforts are most worth the continued investment. Whether you keep track of this information in Google Analytics, the back-end of your website, or in a simple spreadsheet, it’s important that you track it.
Second, you went through all the work to encourage this particular user to make a purchase. They’re already in a good place to jump into the awareness and consideration stages for another one of your products or services. Or, if you only offer one service, you’ve got to proactively encourage the user to take advantage of your services again in the future.
Third, the best asset you have in your marketing efforts is loyal customers. They’re the people who will share your product with their friends, help make your social media campaigns a success, provide testimonials that you can use throughout your marketing, and much more. But all of this is dependent on you giving them the opportunity to do that.
Web design for the conversion stage
In this stage, it’s important to think about how you can accomplish the strategy above after the user makes the purchase or converts in another way. At each point, think about ways that you can make it as easy as possible for a user to let everyone know they had a great experience when they purchased your product or used your service.
SEO and research: A simple but effective thing to do here is to make sure that your Google Maps listings are updated and verified. When they are, a user will be able to search your company’s name, find your listing in Google Maps, and leave you an official review (that is likely to impact your search rankings in the future). Make it as easy as possible for those happy customers to leave you online reviews — so that they do!
Content strategy: Think of all the conversions that a user can make on your website. Whether that’s signing up for your newsletter, purchasing a product, or filling out a contact form, you need to create content that will load after they complete the conversion. For these examples, that may be a confirmation email about their newsletter subscription with additional resources they may want, social sharing of the product they just bought, or text that describes what they can do next while waiting for you to respond to their inquiry.
Web design: You spent all that time crafting thoughtful and eye-catching calls to action. Now you need to spend an equal amount of time designing what happens after the user takes that next step. Do your high-converting pages have clear, noticeable social media share buttons? Does your after-form submission page include links and visuals to other helpful forms of content? Does that ebook download confirmation include links to related ebooks? Put yourself in the user’s shoes, complete the conversions throughout your site, and look for opportunities to help urge them along.
Content writing: In the content that appears after a user fills out a form, in a confirmation email, or anywhere else that a user has completed a conversion, your content should focus on the positive feelings the user is experiencing now that your product solved their problem. Do they have anyone else who could benefit from your solutions? Doesn’t it feel great for that annoying problem to be solved? You want to elicit these ideas with upbeat, positive content (that doesn’t need to be any less professional than the rest of the content on your site).
Web marketing: If you’ve built up your following on social media or you’ve established a great email list with high open rates, consider launching a referral or sharing campaign that encourages these users to spread the word about your product. Also consider reaching out to happy customers asking them to leave reviews, provide testimonials you can use in other marketing, or to allow you to write a white paper/case study about how your product benefited them.
Web design & the buyer’s cycle: be proactive and think cyclically
The “cycle” in “buyer’s cycle” implies that it’s a process that repeats itself. This is true with the buyer’s cycle in your web design. First, remember that buyers can go in and out of each cycle — and, just because you want them to move forward in the cycle, it doesn’t mean they will.
For example, 7 out of 10 customers abandon items in their online shopping cart, which is a very frustrating statistic for e-commerce website owners. But it may simply mean that the customer who was ready to convert has now moved back to consideration. How would you address this user differently than one who comes straight from awareness? You may want to go searching for elements that are acting as obstacles for your customers.
Just as importantly, you’ve got to focus on leading first-time customers through that cycle over and over again. In some cases, abandoning them after they make that commitment can even leave them with negative feelings about your business. Focus on highlighting the positive and give them many opportunities to become aware of your other products and services.
Now you can see how your website is about so much more than simply succeeding or failing to bring in leads. You may also see several opportunities that you’ve been missing on your own website. The key? Consider your user’s experiences, where they are in the buyer’s cycle, and how you can connect with them on a deep level that encourages them to move forward in the cycle.
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