My Buyer’s Journey as a Parent Begins
One spring day, my son asked, “Can we please get a season pass to Elitch Gardens this summer? Pleeaase?” Elitch Gardens is one of several local amusement parks. “Hmmm, maybe, probably not, I don’t know,” I replied. My twelve-year-old was trying to influence my buying behavior. My influencer, A.K.A., my child, continued his lobbying until I said, “I will look into it.” I went to the website for more information. I learned that my buying options included a season pass, a day pass, or no pass. This is the story of my buyer’s journey and from both my perspective and the perspective of my son.
How Influencers Affect the Buyer’s Journey
Influencers influence potential customers. Influencers are people that the potential buyer listens to, including children, employees, friends, contractors, or someone on social media. One buyer may have multiple influencers for a single decision. For example, parents who are deciding what food to buy could be influenced by both a pediatrician’s advice and by their children. Influencers affect the buyer’s decision, but they lack the authority or ability to make the purchase. Smart marketers cater to the needs and desires of both the influencers and the buyers. This story illustrates the buyer’s journey and includes the perspective of my son, the influencer.
The Three Phases of the Buyer’s Journey
You may also hear of the “customer’s journey,” which is basically the same idea without infringing on the intellectual property of HubSpot, the originators of the concept and term. I use “The Buyer’s Journey” because I like to give credit where credit is due. The buyer’s journey is different from the sales funnel or marketing funnel because it uses the perspective of the buyer, rather than that of the company. Effective marketing requires you to think from the perspective of the potential buyer and translate that into specific marketing actions to advance the potential buyer into a happy customer. Think of it like the idea of backward planning often used in business goal setting and lesson plan designing.
The Buyer’s Journey consists of three basic phases.
- Awareness- The potential buyer notices a problem and looks for solutions.
- Consideration- The potential buyer considers various options.
- Decision-The potential buyer takes action on buying or not buying a product or service.
Marketers know that they need to help a buyer along each phase of the buyer’s journey. To learn more about marketing for youth programs, read my blog about helping youth enrichment programs use three critical marketing strategies.
Phase One: Awareness
My son, The Influencer:
My son was aware of a “problem,” which was the idea of a summer break that might be boring. He thought Elitch Gardens was a great solution based on the marketing the amusement park had done aimed at tweens and teens.
Me, the Buyer:
I was aware of the upcoming summer break and the amusement park. Yet, I was not considering buying passes before he asked me. I had other concerns about the summer, and taking my kids to an amusement park had not been on my list of solutions. My problem was different from his. My problem would be hearing, “I’m booored. All my friends get to go to places. I am stuck at home.”
Marketing to Influencers and Buyers in the Awareness Phase:
Getting your business into a buyer’s awareness stage is a significant hurdle. Influencers are a powerful way to get a product into a buyer’s awareness. People don’t buy things they don’t know exist. But, I am aware of millions of products that I routinely ignore. Knowledge is not enough. Your marketing must lead the buyer into the next phase.
Remember that the problems and solutions of the influencers and the buyers are not the same! In deciding whether to take my children to Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, I wanted to know all the costs, specs about the height requirements for the rides and other entertainment options. I could imagine plunking down a wad of cash and then end up hot, bored, and frustrated because the younger children would not be able to go on all the rides. My son, “The Influencer,” was only thinking about his own fun.
My influencer increased my awareness of going to the theme park. That was a critical step, but it was not enough. I had questions.
Phase Two: Consideration
My son, The Influencer:
My son sees ads for the theme park, and it looks like fun. His consideration phase is short and straightforward. He hears his friends say that it is fun. He knows it only takes 35 minutes to drive there, so if we got a season pass, he figures he would probably get to go several times during the summer.
Me, the Buyer:
Despite my son’s insistence, I wasn’t sure spending days at the theme park was the best solution to boredom for our family. Roller coasters and water slides are no longer my favorite activities.
I had many more questions before I would make a purchase. Going to an amusement park costs quite a few pennies and is a full-day commitment. In the consideration phase of buying passes to the amusement park, I researched a variety of factors.
- I read the height requirements for all the rides.
- I searched for alternate solutions to summer boredom, including pool passes, museum passes, and other amusement parks.
- I asked friends about their experiences at the park.
- I compared the price to other activities.
- I asked my husband (or co-decision maker) if he approved of the extra expenditure in our budget.
- I talked with my son, AKA, my influencer, about other solutions to his impending boredom.
- I read content and reviews about the park.
Marketing to Influencers and Buyers in the Consideration Phase:
Marketing campaigns persuade influencers to coax buyers from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next. Quality content and ad campaigns are powerful methods to keep influencers influencing.
When children are the influencers, their persuasion tactics will likely be simple. I have witnessed “influencers” A. K.A. kids use logical arguments, tantrums, promises, questioning, whining, cajoling, nagging, tears, and other tactics to influence they buyer A.K.A. the parent toward making a decision. Adult influencers usually (but not always!) use more sophisticated tactics. Adult influencers will use content and research to persuade the buyer. When I wanted my boss to approve a purchase order, I showed her case studies and costs.
Marketing campaigns definitely can’t ignore the buyers. They must show that their costs, ease of use, and effectiveness at solving the problem, meet the buyer’s emotional and practical needs. For significant commitments of time or money, like hiring a tutor or choosing a school, I would likely spend at least a week in the consideration phase. During this phase, I would actively seek information. High-quality content can make the sale during the consideration phase.
Phase Three: Decision
My son, The Influencer
His only role was to make sure I followed through with buying.
Me, the Buyer:
After all the consideration, I made a partial commitment. I bought a one day pass, but I didn’t buy the season pass. Buying the tickets was easy. First, I looked for coupons. Then I decided whether to purchase the tickets online or at the ticket window. I chose the ticket window. Online might have saved me a few minutes of standing in line, but my coupons only worked in person. While the tickets were pricey for one day’s entertainment, buying them was a simple transaction.
I didn’t have to:
- Call anyone
- Go to a website
- Give away personal information
- Drive anywhere out of my way.
- Get a purchase order.
- Sign a contract
- Commit to any future actions or expenditures
Marketing to Influencers and Buyers in the Decision Phase:
From the business’s perspective, a lost customer in the buying process is like throwing money into a fire. The more complex the buying process is, the more content marketing will help. Choosing a college is complicated, so you will find plenty of content on college websites.
Why You Should Care about the Buyer’s Journey and Influencers
Your business needs to allocate marketing resources to all phases of the buyer’s journey. You need to understand the role of an influencer in the buyer’s journey.
If those influencers are children, like my son, your marketing campaign should focus on awareness and fun. Children tend to focus on the moment and themselves, but parents think about the future and the group.
You need quality content that speaks to the pain points and offers solutions for the buyer and the influencer. Too many business owners neglect the buyer, the influencer, or a stage of the buyers’ journey. Their businesses suffer from the oversight.
For example, if you are marketing a tutoring program, you will want content aimed at the child and the parent. The content for the child may show how you empathize with their frustration in class. Content aimed at the parent should talk about tutoring as a solution for the child getting into college, or improving family harmony by taking away homework struggles.
If you are investing in marketing for the awareness phase but lack quality content for the consideration and decision phase, you are throwing money down the drain. You may need separate content for influencers and buyers.
Unless you are selling an impulse product, like gum, your potential buyers will probably research various options. They will read content and consult influencers to help them make a wise decision. If your content isn’t there, or the content is weak, or hard to read, the buyer will probably go to your competitor or not progress to the next step of the journey.
Your content should show that your solution is the best solution for solving the problems of the buyer and the influencer.
What is Your Next Step in Marketing to Buyers and Influencers?
Think about the typical relationship between the buyer and their influencers for your company’s products and services.
- Who are the buyers’ influencers, and what do they have to gain, or lose, by your buyers’ decision?
- Does your content speak to the desires of both the buyers and the influencers? If you ignore either, you are losing sales. Children influencers require unique marketing tactics. Sometimes the little influencers will help you sell, especially if your product or service is sweet or fun. In these situations, you will need content aimed at the parent to see the purchase as worthwhile and not detrimental.
- Is your product or service something that little influencers don’t want? These essential services, like pediatric dentistry and supplemental education, help the children but don’t excite them. These industries need content to help parents make wise decisions despite their influencer’s protests.
- Do you expect your potential customers to spend more than 10 minutes in the awareness, consideration, or buying phase? The longer each phase takes, the more content you need. You need content for each stage.
Want to chat about the buyer’s journey in your industry? Email me today. I can write an ad campaign with content that motivates children to become powerful influencers in a buyer’s journey. I can also write content that speaks to the parent’s problems. High-quality content can make the difference between a struggling and a thriving business.
Industries with children as significant influencers include:
- K-12 Education and tutoring
- Youth Sports and Recreation
- Pediatric Health, Fitness, and Nutrition
- Family Travel
- Electronics and toys