During my 20 years in the field of sales and market development I have gained some pretty useful and surprisingly simple insights on the triggers of customer behaviour. My experiences have shown consistently that those customers who make purchases do so because they have little internal resistance to refuse – a ‘hot button’ has been pressed.  The process begins with the customer’s acceptance that they have a need, for which a solution must be found. But how can you identify the need in the first place?


There are many models of customer buying of which the model shown below is one that has consistently brought in great results for me over some 20 years (there are many variations of this one).



From a digital content point of view, the idea is to create targeted content for each stage, thereby moving the prospect closer to purchase. Here it is:


Stage 1:  Lack of awareness of an existing need.



The hot button technique

Here, your content would need to press a ‘hot button’ for your prospect in order to trigger a response.  Here are some questions which will throw some light and which are loosely based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

·        Does their need affect their ability to master a task?

·        Does it affect their ability to make money or keep money?

·        Does it affect their ability to keep up the status quo?

·        Does it affect their ability to improve the status quo?

·        Does it affect their ability to be successful?

·        Does it affect their ability to live a healthy life?

·        Does it affect their principles or values in any way?

·        Does it affect their ability to avoid pain?

·        Does it affect their ability to pursue pleasure or a particular lifestyle?

·        Does it affect their ability to start or maintain a relationship?

Question and Answer sites are a helpful means of finding ‘hot button topics’. Positive responses to any of the above are material to your own ability to provide the solution your customer is looking for. Your content necessarily has to be interruptive, in order to be noticed. ‘How-to’ types of content work well here, eg ‘How to avoid…’ or Questions: ‘Do you make these 6 fatal mistakes with your home security?”


Breaking news technique



Can you use relevant, alarming statistics in your content? Can you tie your content in with current affairs? This is also referred to as ‘the power of now’. An example of using ‘the power of now’ could be for example writing an e-book guide to hack-proofing your phone.


The ‘emotional edge’ technique



Can you give your content an emotional edge? Here are some examples of how you might do this:



·        Present a view that swims against the tide:


eg, ‘Why your business does not need more twitter followers”. This could not only play into the emotion of the prospect, but also work for a customer’s buying proposition if for example it took the view that ‘content’ not social media, is King.


     Promise fast or easy results:

The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris; any takers?


·        Appeal to obsessives. 

Look at any micro-niche, eg Bass FishingYou’ll find obsessives there. And if you are a golfing obsessive, you probably won’t want to miss the opportunity read or hear an interview with a top golfer on his master strokes. The key thing here is to offer them unique content or content that is not readily available.


TIP: Develop solid personas for the Unaware Buyers to be sure your content not only speaks to them, but gets distributed through the media he already uses.  For the majority of ecommerce sites, this stage of the cycle also involves being found via search engine marketing, particularly PPC and SEO.



Stage 2 Evaluation of the offerings:


Here we see your prospect adopting a more proactive position as they begin the process of evaluation how you’re offering meets their need, including the evaluation of offerings from other sites

Content in this stage is best leveraged by giving it a strong educational bias; in other words this is an opportunity for you to lead with learning. You are betting in a sense on the superior quality of your offering by positioning yourself as an expert in your field and a resource that can be depended on for useful information. Examples of content include ‘What increased regulation on pricing of gold means for niche gold jeweler designers” has more educational appeal than ‘How Liberty designs keeps the price of gold low”. Or, ‘The impact of increased financial regulation on …’ Talk about the social, economic or technological impact on your niche of current or future developments.  Consider an educational series that is truly educational. White papers and webinars are effective, but usually associated with their marketing pitches.

Your prospect in this stage is still not ready to be ‘sold to’. They typically want to retain the feeling of control over the research process, though you can   almost subliminally guide her to your solution.  Your customer may not consider your product until she has researched all the alternatives—so this isn’t a ‘done-deal’. The objective of the content is to educate and make the process of evaluating the options a smooth one; being the ‘expert’ or authority in your niche.

One of the points to bear in mind here is that your content must demonstrate a full knowledge of the points of difference between your solution and the alternatives to your solution. Your prospect will have access virtual conversations that you can’t control, featuring others in the market, your customers, your competitors, and your competitors’ customers.


How do you provide content that educates, and preserves the buyer’s feeling of control?



Review your search keywords. If your keywords are more descriptive of your buyer’s needs, good. If however your search keywords point more towards your solutions then it would be better to challenge these assumptions. Provide educational content first, before giving solutions. .

·         Use interactive tools to give your prospects a sense of control; whilst at the same time capturing valuable information about them by interaction with your analytics or marketing automation system.

·         Make your web site a self-qualification tool. For example, let them lead the way into the deeper parts of your content with targeted profiling questions. Have a look at this hilarious presentation courtesy of Eloqua.

TIP: Don’t push. Be subtle. Resist the temptation to influence buying by constant emailing or demanding ‘Calls to Action’. It defeats the purpose of this stage.


Stage 3: Engagement of the prospect to purchase

Your prospects at this stage have registered their interest with you. He is now officially ‘engaged’. What he needs now is content that will validate the work that has led him to engage with your business.

Here are some techniques to pull out at this stage:

  • Case studies.  Show how how you have helped similar customers find their solutions.  This will help to reduce any feelings of doubt your prospect may have.
  • Testimonials. Written endorsement by similar customers will again help to move the prospect closer to purchase. 
  • Competitive comparisons. What works here are reports comparing the features of your product and corresponding benefits with that of the competition. Detail works very well here. Be confident enough to be generous about your competitors – if your prospect has got this far they are unlikely to change, particularly as they have invested much of their own time and energy with you. Consistency as a weapon of influence is a powerful one…

.Keyword centered Landing pages.

 Once customers find you in search engines, keyword-tailored landing pages are of the essence. Hub spot, as you will see are an authority site and this post is worth a read


Let your website do the work for you here. Product descriptions, your brand essence should all be clear and obvious, indeed your overall branding.  This is a really important stage to capture contact information.



TIP: This stage has to be earned. This means not bringing out validating information before you have established your authority as a leader in your niche and given your customer the freedom and time to arrive at this decision to engage with you. The secret is in the engagement, and engagement done well is what will differentiate your marketing from a bog- standard sales pitch and establish you as the business that will solve her problems. A customer that is not truly engaged will not buy from you- though they may still follow you on Twitter or like you on face book.



Stage 4- The expectant customer



Research has confirmed that a key reason customers leave a business they had previously invested in is because they do not feel valued. Don’t let this happen to your customers. Like your prospects, your customers are also buyers in a buying cycle. The only difference is that they have taken a punt with your business and have bought from him. As such they are expectant that they will be afforded with a certain amount of added value; after all, they chose your company and not another’s.

Give them content that smacks of exclusivity. Insider views of new products yet to be launched. Continue to inform with high quality informative content. Send them research that will be impactful to them.  A members only e-newsletter is a good idea here, but again for the purpose of strengthening the relationship, and not of ‘selling’ .Personalise their emails too, so they feel that you really do know them, and set the right tone based on your knowledge of their preferences… Do not educate in this stage. Invite them to launches, exhibitions. Proactively seek their opinion on a range of issues- they will feel valued.


TIP: Although they are now your customers, you do not own them. Therefore, make sure you don’t let them leak out of the end of the sales funnel. Invest time nurturing these customers and you will have them for as long as you need to. And they will willingly oblige.




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Ihubbusiness is an information hub for small businesses who wish to learn about internet marketing. The site was founded by Lola Bailey in 2010. Lola is a member of the Institute of Digital Marketing and has over 20 years sales and marketing experience. She is also a full-time copywriter at www.write-upcommunications.co.uk, a copywriter consultancy which she founded. Email: editor@ihubbusiness.co.uk

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