In today’s age of short attention spans, media influxes and smarter advertisements, understanding your client’s journey is more important than ever. Making sales is no longer a case of cold calling or plastering your name on billboards. You must understand your client’s concerns, offer yourself as a viable choice, and make it easy for them to choose you as their solution.

What is a Buyer’s Journey?

“Buyer’s journey,” or “client’s journey,” is a term marketers and salespeople use to capture the process buyers go through before they purchase something. The client’s journey consists of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Awareness Stage

The awareness stage is the first stage in a client’s journey when they realize they have a problem or concern. This first step depends on the industry, but usually involves some preliminary research and surveying of the purchasing landscape. Questions a client may ask themselves during the awareness stage include:

  • What are the challenges I am facing?
  • How will a product or service help me reach my goals?
  • How should this need be prioritized? Is this a short, medium, or long-term purchase?
  • What do I need to know before moving forward with this decision?

As you market yourself, be there for your clients during their awareness stage. This isn’t the time to reach out to prospects and try to get them into your office for a meeting, but it is a great time to share educational content, show your knowledge of the subject, and start to foster a relationship with the client. Although they are just beginning their client’s journey, the early exposure will benefit you in the long run.

Consideration Stage

The consideration stage is when a client fully understands their need and is seriously considering their options. They will likely look into different providers, price points, business models, and more.

The consideration stage is a crucial for a marketer because this is when you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Some ways to ensure your prospects are considering your firm include:

  • Posting consistently on social media and sharing information about the industry
  • Adding prospects to your low-pressure email list, or the one you use to communicate more educational materials and less sales-focused content
  • Considering social or search engine advertisements

Just as you might survey multiple restaurants for dinner, a client surveys different options for their needs before making a decision. Make sure you stay at the forefront of their mind to close the deal in the last stage of their journey.

Decision Stage

Drumroll, please! The time has come for the client to make a decision after having researched and considered their options. The best salespeople and marketers track the whole client’s journey, not just the number of sales, to determine what made clients decide (or not decide!) to go with their company. Questions to consider during this important stage include:

  • What criteria did prospects use to evaluate their options?
  • If a prospect decided to work with your firm, what did they like about you versus your competitors? If they went with someone else, what swayed them?
  • How long did it take for a prospect to come to their decision?

Hopefully, you will have nurtured a relationship with a prospect before the decision stage and your communication, education, and guidance helped them make their decision. One common mistake that business owners make is thinking about the decision stage as the only part of the client’s journey worth consideration. In reality, though, the meat of your strategy should be in the awareness and consideration stages. The decision stage is the nail on the marketing coffin, if you will.

If you still have questions about your prospect’s client’s journey, consider this example:

John and Jane, a young couple in their 30s, are expecting their first child. They know they need to start planning for her college education early, so they start to research college planning options. They do a few months of research and find that a 529 plan sounds like a good fit for them. They do a search for 529 plan advisors in their area and come across a few advisors’ sites. They sign up for two of their newsletters.

Throughout the next year, they continue to receive educational and fun emails from one and don’t hear from the other advisor at all. When the time comes when they are ready to start working with a financial advisor they reach out to the advisor with the professional email campaigns. They set up a first meeting, decide they are a good fit, and work with that person for their college planning needs.

This is a simplified version of a client’s journey, but you can see all three stages represented; during the awareness stage, John and Jane realized they had a concern, the consideration stage was their further research and signing up for email newsletters, and the decision came when they decided to work with a financial advisor. Your prospects’ journey may differ from John and Jane’s, but the structure will remain the same.