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Understanding the Purchasing Cycle

7. January 2010 17:28

The customer buying cycle defines the stages a customer goes through while making a purchasing decision.

The purchasing cycle is important because customers need different information at each stage of the process.

In order to maximise the effectiveness of your website in generating revenue you need to optimise your website to help the customer at each stage.

The Purchasing Cycle

Lets look at each stage of the customer purchasing cycle.

 The purchasing cycle

Recognition of a Need

The customer has identified that they need a certain product or service.

This is where your marketing campaigns can be used to raise awareness of your products and services. Think email newsletters, search marketing campaigns etc…

Research Stage

This is the information gathering stage.  The customer maybe weeks or months away from making a purchase.

The internet is increasingly becoming a tool for product research, so it’s vital that you provide as much information on your website as possible to help potential customers at this stage.

Because a customer maybe months away from making a decision it's a good idea to try and make sure you can proactively contact them to remind them of your company’s products and services.

Try to get them to sign-up to email newsletters, request a call back at a specified time etc.

Analysis Stage

The customer has decided they need your product or service but they have not yet committed to purchasing it from your company.
They are now looking into the features and benefits of your product/service and comparing it to your competition.

You need to provide your customers with your unique selling proposition (USP) - Why should they purchase from you?

Consider the power of testimonials from previous customers to give people confidence in your company and its products and services.

Make it easy for the customer to compare the features of your product/service with your competitors solutions.

Provide detailed and accurate product specifications so the customer can determine whether it meets their needs.

Buying Stage

The customer has decided to purchase and is buying your product.

This is your opportunity to offer them special offers, convince them to purchase a different product or service or additional products.

Post Buying Stage

Product/Service has been purchased.  You will need to follow up the purchase with good customer service keep your customers satisfied.

Remember: Retaining existing customers is important as attracting new customers is much more difficult and costly in comparison.

Email Marketing Campaign Tips

26. September 2009 17:43

Sketch of an inbox overflowing Maintaining a customer database can be very useful to your business, it’s worth remembering that it’s much easier to sell your products and services to existing customers, than find new ones.  Therefore it’s important to maintain a dialogue with people you have previously done business with, as it’s a good way to inform those customers about promotions, new services and new or updated product lines that they may be interested in.

Your website should feature a newsletter sign-up form to encourage visitors to register for your newsletter, but don’t forget your offline marketing and customer contact points.  The more you spread the word about your newsletter and inform customers of the benefits of signing up, the more readers you’ll get.
Try asking for customers email addresses when they purchase a product in your shop, or include an newsletter opt-in when they purchase a product online.  Don’t forget to make sure customers understand why you’re asking for the information, they’ll then be expecting the newsletter.

Maybe you already send out a printed catalogue or special offer leaflet to your customer base, but why not offer special incentives to those customers that sign-up for the email newsletter.  For example: You might want to point out that the best offers get snapped up by email subscribers because they get to see your promotions before the printed catalogue reaches other customers.

Offering special incentives to email subscribers “adds value” to your newsletter and will ensure your email gets subscribers who are more likely to read and value the broadcast.

Make the newsletter useful and don’t abuse your marketing list by sending out newsletters too often.  Ideally you want your newsletters to be targeted to the individual as much as possible as this will ensure the products and services included are relevant to the recipient.  Relevancy will help you maximise the sales achieved via the newsletter, so it’s worth putting in the effort when you’re creating your email campaign.

Remember: It’s very time-consuming to grow a customer database so make sure you don’t abuse your list, as the unsubscribe link is always only a click away!

Sketch used under Creative Commons from 10ch

Email Marketing Strategy

28. July 2009 20:08

Just because email marketing is much cheaper than more traditional forms of marketing communications doesn't mean you should put less thought into your email marketing strategy.  Sending the same irrelevant message to thousands of in-boxes who aren't expecting email messages from your company is unlikely to be effective and will gradually reduce your future campaigns effectiveness as your emails will begin to be flagged by spam filters as annoyed end-users add your email to their spam list.  Remember that email marketing should not just be used for sales or promotional benefit but to maintain your relationship with existing customers.

Build Customer Lists

Crucial to the success of an email marketing campaign is building an opt-in list of customers who have actively chosen to receive your email updates.  How you do this depends on your business and website, but this needs to be thought through carefully as the wording will have a major impact on how many customers opt-in.  Don't just obtain your customers email addresses online as these may only represent a fraction of your customer base.  Remember you will need to state clearly how you will handle and store their data, especially in relation to 3rd parties; How you do this depends on the data protection laws in your country.

Market Segmentation and Personalisation

Producing emails that are relevant to your email recipients is vital.  Invest in Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) and use it to identify different segments within your list, you can then build emails that target specific audiences within your lists to maximise the response from your campaigns.  Consider using an approach like Amazon, which sends emails with recommendations based on your previous purchases.

Create Compelling Email Marketing Campaigns

Your email recipients are only one-click away from opting out of your email list, so it is vital that each campaign you send out has a clear purpose and objective which is relevant to each recipient.  Remember that your audience has chosen to receive communications from your company so reward these customers for their loyalty by creating offers and promotions especially for them which add value to your marketing messages.  Examples of this are restaurants such as La Tasca who regularly send vouchers to their customers by email.

Analyse and Learn from your Email Campaigns

It's important to spend time analysing each campaign you send out to make sure you listen to your audience.  Pay attention to hard and soft bounce-backs, keep records of every campaign, what changes you make and the resultant effect of the changes on opt-out requests, click-throughs and 'send to a friend' requests etc.  Determine which changes had positive effects and use this information to improve your future campaigns.