Welcome to a new series on this blog, “Small Business Marketing Tips“. This series is very specifically aimed towards small businesses just starting out on their digital marketing journey, and aims to provide practical advice and actionable insights.

Points we’ll be discussing in this blog post:

  • Why your marketing shouldn’t necessarily always push for an immediate sale
  • The different stages of customer intent
  • Matching up your marketing creative with the 3 stages of intent

Why your marketing shouldn’t necessarily always push for an immediate sale

In a real world setting, people seem to understand this without question. When you walk into a store, or into a car sales lot, or when you’re inspecting a house for sale… most people have an immediate aversion to the pushy salesman, right? We all know the sort, who immediately begins pushing their sales line on you. For the small percentage of people who have made up their mind about the purchase already, this goes well… but for the majority of folks who are still exploring their options, it tends to backfire and pushes the potential sale further away.

We see this every day in the “real world”.

However, when it comes to the “online marketing space”, it seems like we all seem to forget what it’s like to be harrassed by that pushy salesman, and we do it ourselves to our online users.

Maybe it’s because it’s easier to be pushy when not face to face. Maybe it’s because we’re impatient. Regardless, we need to remind ourselves of that experience we had with the real estate agent who called 20 times on Sunday to see if we’d had any thoughts about the property we just viewed 24 hours ago, and the owners already do have another 5 offers on the table (honestly, but 3 have conditions attached), so if we’re looking we really do need to make a commitment right here and now on the call, and the agent can come around in the morning to sign, because… ahem. Sorry. Bad flashbacks there.

What I’m getting at is, if we remember those experiences, we have to understand the same thing happens online. And we need to understand that people may not necessarily be in a position where they are receptive to a “sales” message up front. At least… not yet. Because they may be at a different stage of the intent funnel.

The different stages of customer intent

First off, most would be aware that there are a ton of frameworks that talk about the “customer funnel”; these generally talk about moving customers from awareness to consideration to purchasing. Personally, I’m a fan of Avinash Kaushik’s “See, Think, Do” framework.

Essentially, the framework allows us to understand how our marketing messages should adapt to a user’s intent.

Let’s use a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate Avinash’s point here:

After pulling on a pair of jeans, Ethan realises that he’s vaguely dissatisfied with the only pair he owns. He couldn’t tell you what it is, but something just doesn’t sit well with him. He doesn’t know what exactly he’s looking for yet, but he knows he’s not all that happy with what he has currently.

A few days later, Ethan’s reading an online fashion blog, and comes across a page that has two ads on it. Both ads are promoting stores that sell jeans. One ad has a big “Buy Jeans Now” button on it, while the other ad has a “Find Your Perfect Pair of Jeans” button on it.

Because Ethan is only thinking about buying some jeans, he doesn’t respond to the “Buy Jeans Now” ad, because he actually doesn’t know what he wants yet. But the ad that offers messaging around “Find Your Perfect Pair” does resonate with him, as it’s promising to help him explore different kinds of jeans, therefore easing him into the buying process.

The point here, obviously, is that – like Ethan – not every customer is ready to buy at this exact point in time. So we have to be cognisant of that fact when creating our digital ads, and ensure we’re catering to those different customer groups.

And here’s where the framework of “See / Think / Do” comes in handy.

The “See” group is the biggest and broadest audience. These people might be similar to your existing customers, but they may not have come in contact with your brand before, and may not be in the market to buy your product right now.

With this group, you want to grab their attention. You want to focus on introducing new audiences to your brand, and helping them get to know you.

To do this, you’ll want to make sure your advertising creative is focussed on branding and awareness. This doesn’t mean that you’re showing your ads to all and sundry, though. Make sure that you’re qualifying this initial audience by looking at websites that they visit, content they engage with and the searches they’re making.

Make sure that the content on your website contains links to your email newsletter, or social profiles. This enables you to potentially continue the conversation with these people at a later date.

With this audience, you’d want to make sure you’re keeping an eye on metrics like ad views, ad interactions, social media activity and website visitation.

The “Think” group includes people who are at least thinking about buying a product like yours, but aren’t quite ready yet. With this group, you want to communicate the value and benefit of your particular brand, and your ad creative should reflect that. Here’s also where you want to actively encourage people to sign up to your newsletter and social channels, because this is your chance for longer-term engagement. Encourage people to sign up to get notified when you next have a sale on the product they’re interested in, or offer the ability for people to save products to their “wishlist”.

Here you’re looking at metrics like ad click through rate, site visitation and bounce rates, add to cart/save to shortlist, newsletter sign up, email notification sign ups, email shares of a product, product review reads.

Finally, the “Do” group are those people who are very close to making that purchase decision. You want this group to choose your brand, and you want to provide them with the quickest and easiest path to buying your particular product.

Your creatives should definitely have strong calls-to-action at this stage (eg. the earlier-mentioned “Buy Now” button), and feature specific products. Remarketing (showing ads to people who have visited your website as they browse other websites) is a prime marketing tactic at this stage of the intent funnel.

Metrics here? Conversion rate, cart abandons, sales and revenue. Nice and easy.

Post Summary

  1. Just like in real life, not every customer is ready to buy immediately. You need to cater your marketing accordingly.
  2. 3 stages of customer intent to consider are See, Think & Do.
  3. Optimise your marketing and content for the different stages of intent.

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