Inbound is all about providing resources and value to prospects, leads, and customers. A solid understanding of the Buyer Lifecycle and it's stages is critical to optimizing these experiences.
The "Buyer Lifecycle" refers to the different internal classifications we assign to contacts as the convert from website visitors, to leads, to sales opportunities, to advocates.
In case you're unfamiliar with the Inbound buyer lifecycle, here's a look at it's stages:
This is discint from the Inbound funnel, as it goes a little deeper into what happens before and after your TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU stages.
Of course, your leads are generally not conscious of their stage in your buyer lifecycle process. However, they do naturally develop different questions and expectations as they experience your company on each level.
Let's take a look at what our contacts are looking to uncover or accomplish in each lifecycle stage, and explore how we can optimize our communication to best satisfy their goals and convert them all the way into advocates.
Who they are: A prospect is anyone who visits your website and explores what your company has to offer. Your prospect pool is huge, but not every prospect will convert into a customer. In fact, few prospects will even make it into the next cycle stage of subscribers. It would be cool if all 5000 of our monthly site visitors converted, but we know that's not realistic.
What they want: People who visit your site are universally looking for two things: clear information and an enjoyable experience. Prospects have just realized they have a problem of some sort, and are looking at all possible solutions.
How you can be useful: Use the 5-second rule and ask unbiased parties for their opinions on the usability and value your site provides. Make it easy for prospects to subscribe to your email list with a visually engaging call to action and a compelling reason for them to join your community.
Who they are: People who have subscribed to your blog or newsletter email list
What they want: When someone subscribes to your list, you've presumably done a great job demonstrating the value of membership and explaining what they can expect. They probably didn't sign up under a prompt that read "Have your inbox bombarded by unending sales pitches" - so don't tarnish your relationship and credibility by failing to provide useful messages.
How you can be useful: Useful really is the operating word in email marketing. That's why I've repeated it three times in the last three sentences! Rather than going straight for the sale, use your email list to build a relationship and provide valuable resources to your contacts. Strategically include your premium content downloads to guide their conversion into a lead.
Who they are: People who have downloaded one of your premium content pieces
What they want: Information, not a sales pitch. A common mistake among marketers new to the Inbound realm is to use content offers as a piece of sales collateral, rather than a "no strings attached" resource intended to genuinely help leads. While the overarching goal of your content is of course to eventually guide the lead to a purchase, that should not be reflected in your content pieces.
How you can be useful: Aim for "brand agnosticism" in your TOFU downloads, provide unbiased solution comparisons in your MOFU downloads, and only create brand-specific benefits and selling points in your BOFU downloads. By the time a lead has reached your BOFU stage, they are ready to learn the specifics of your company versus others.
Who they are: Marketing qualified leads are individuals who have downloaded your BOFU content and are ready to be handed off to sales
What they want: To understand the benefits of one brand over another, and make a decision to best solve their original problem
How you can be useful: When MQLs are passed off to sales, provide all relevant information to your sales team to help them make the best decisions moving forward. At Savvy Panda, we send an "MQL Snapshot" to our sales team and give them a quick overview of a new lead's information and download history, which they can use to fine tune their outreach efforts.
Who they are: People who have been vetted by your sales team and identified as a viable buyer
What they want: People are generally not aware when they are going through the MQL/SQL stage, so there's not much involved on the forward facing end in this stage
How you can be useful: Behind the scenes, make sure leads are moving swiftly from MQL to SQL. HubSpot found that reaching out to leads within the hour lead to a 7x higher conversion rate - that's a goal the marketing and sales team can certainly both get behind.
Who they are: People who have purchased your product, subscribed to your service, etc.
What they want: More than just a great product, customers are looking for a unique and personal experience. The "Relationship Era" mandates that we go far beyond the simple market > sell > repeat strategies of the past. Today, customers expect unique benefits and personalized interactions associated with their purchases.
How you can be useful: Establish a system for getting to know your customers on a personal level. Set metrics for customer satisfaction and retention. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
Who they are: Advocates are the most valuable ingredient in your marketing recipe. Advocates are more than happy customers - they are stewards of our brand, who share our solution with their own valuable networks.
What they want: Big brands make advocacy look easy. If you look around your personal social networks, you'll notice how many free mentions they're getting. For a smaller business, advocacy is a fine art which requires deep analysis into the motivations and goals of each customer. Your potential advocates are looking for a killer experience to share, and a reason to tout your brand above the rest.
How you can be useful: Go back to your customer satisfaction metrics, and identify the places you're falling short. Invest resources into community building, and be patient. It won't happen overnight, but if you're providing an exceptional experience and easy ways to spread the word, you'll be rewarded with a robust community.
And there you have it, a quick start guide to making the most of each Buyer Lifecycle stage.
Which stage is currently the weakest in your organization? What will you do to optimize? Let's chat about it in the comments!
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/19006657@N00/679899723