fbpx
.st0{fill:#FFFFFF;}

The Real Buyer’s Journey for Professional Services Firms — Why Normal Funnels Fail


by Christina Hooper on April 28, 2020
in Business Strategy

If you’ve spent any time at all thinking about how to market your company, you know how confusing and exhausting even the idea of building a sales funnel can be.

You’ve invested hours into learning the buyer’s journey — how to attract the right audience, nurture them, convert them, and promote them into being raving fans. It seems so simple, so obvious, and so easy. 

A few landing pages, some compelling messaging, and a sprinkling of the right paid ads, and you’ll have a lead-generating machine that just churns away day and night drumming up new business.

Who wouldn’t want that?!

As great as all of that sounds, let’s get real for a minute.

Unless you have a data and research-backed understanding of your target audience and how they make buying decisions, you can’t guarantee that the content or ads you produce are going to be enough to persuade them to do business with you.

You need an effective marketing strategy that keeps you focused on creating the right content for your audience to get them to move along the different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Keep reading to find out more about the real buyer’s journey for professional services.

Are you in a hurry? Click here to read the recap and snag your free 5-step marketing plan before you go.

Personas, Goals, and Vehicles

You can’t just build a buyer’s journey as a first step. 

You have to do a bit of legwork first if you want to succeed.

Build Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas are also known as Customer Avatars or Ideal Customer Profiles. 

Think of your Customer Avatar like a character in an RPG (role-playing game) that you would play on a game console or computer.

You should create the character with your ideal customer in mind. Think about what they look like, what their interests are, what they do for fun, and how they spend their time.

The more detailed you can get with your character, the better your content and ads are going to be. Your content will end up more conversational and relatable to your audience if you fully flesh out Customer Avatars for each of your ideal customers first.

DigitalMarketer offers a free worksheet you can download and fill out to create Customer Avatars. Download the worksheet and create your Customer Avatars today: DigialMarketer Customer Avatar Worksheet.

Set Goals for Buyers

You can’t build a path to somewhere if you don’t know the destination. 

You need to think about what the end looks like for your happy customers that are telling everyone they know about your business and how you helped them.

What services or products did they buy? What questions did they have before buying? How did they hear about your business?

Once you answer those questions, start asking yourself more personal ones about them. Were they male or female? Do they share any hobbies or interests? Do they share any dislikes? You’ll likely notice patterns and similarities between the customers you had that were the best in the past.

Utilize Message Vehicles

Vehicles are devices that transport something from one place to another — in this case, we’re using them to refer to devices or methods that will carry your message to your audience. This can include things like:

  • Blogs to publish articles on (your own or you can guest post on others).
  • Posts on social media channels.
  • Ad platforms to run your advertisements.
  • Email lists you can use to send newsletters.
  • Trade magazines where you can write guest columns or place advertisements.
  • Public speaking opportunities — live or digital.
  • Trade shows and expos.
  • Target accounts you can call or send snail mail to.
  • Billboards or other large-format advertising.

How to Get the Most Benefit From This Article

You can start by visualizing one persona and one goal as you read this article. 

Think about a specific customer you’ve had that you like and that now refers new customers to you. Remember how your relationship developed. 

As you consider the questions you need to answer in each stage to build your funnel, think about your persona and their needs at that moment. 

Pro Tip — after you read this, and before you sit down to map out your own buyer’s journey, spend more time developing your personas and goals. Make sure you understand the journey and experiences you want to create for them.

The 7 Steps of the Buyer's Journey for Professional Services Firms

1. Unaware >> 2. Aware >> 3. RESEARCHING >> 4. Deciding
5. Onboarding >> 6. Enjoying >> 7.Excited

1

they are

Unaware

In this stage, the person isn’t aware that you or your solution exist. They aren’t even necessarily aware that they have a problem or need a solution. They may just be passively researching and learning things. 

They aren’t looking for you, and the only way to start a conversation or get them moving is to reach out to them where they are hanging out and wake them up.

Example Content for People that are Unaware:


Leveraging the existing audience of another site is a powerful way to attract unaware prospects. 

Social media sites make this easy to do with the use of business pages and paid advertising that allows you to customize whom your ad gets shown to based on location, gender, and interests.

DigitalMarketer used Facebook to target unaware prospects by alerting them to the possibility they could be making mistakes they didn’t even know they were making.

Let’s take a look at their post.

In the post above, DigitalMarketer includes the text, “DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE WITH YOUR BLOG.”

This message is bold and eye-catching so that it draws attention, and anyone who writes a blog is going to have to click and make sure they aren’t doing something wrong.

This is a perfect example of how to quickly move a lead from being unaware to aware, which we’re going to talk about next.

Content Checklist for People that are Unaware:

  • Message: What could you say to this person that would wake them up and get their attention?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona need from you the most at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
2

they are

Aware

Now they have become aware that a problem or opportunity may exist.

They might passively talk about this problem or opportunity with a spouse or friend, or they might do a little Google-ing, but they aren’t in a big hurry to learn more. There isn’t a sense of urgency at this stage.

Example Content People that are Aware:

A lead that’s aware already knows they have a problem, but they aren’t sure how to solve it yet. Thrive Themes attracts this type of lead in a recent post they published on their Facebook Page.

Here’s what the post looked like.

In their post, they’re targeting a business coach that is trying to figure out how to build a website that converts leads, and doesn’t just look pretty.

They speak to this type of customer by stating “How to Build a Conversion Focused Coaching Website” at the very top of the post and in the graphic.

This prospect knows they need to build a good website for their coaching business, but they haven’t felt rushed to do it yet, and haven’t actively been performing research.

After this post, they are moved into the research phase when they click and start consuming the content.

The more content they consume, the closer they get to making a decision as long as the content they are consuming answers their questions and objections that would stop them from making a decision just yet.

Content Checklist for People that are Aware:

  • Message: What could you say to this person that increases their sense of urgency about learning more?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
3

they are

Researching

Now your prospects are actively seeking information — solutions, providers, consequences of making (or not making) a decision. They want to know more and are trying to educate themselves on their options.

They aren’t close to being ready to make a decision yet. They may not necessarily be researching to find a provider or solution - they could merely be consuming information to become more knowledgeable in general on this topic and determine if it applies to them in some way.

Example Content for People that are Researching:

As we mentioned in the previous stage, you need to tailor your content around the questions and objections your potential leads have if they are already actively performing research and would consider purchasing your solution.

You need to create content that is informative and helps them learn more about their problem and the different ways they could go about solving it.

Let’s take a look at an example of content you could create at this stage.

Image Source: Windwood Bulk Website

Windwood Bulk supplies mulch, soil, and other gardening materials for customers like Rock City, located in Chattanooga, TN.

In the blog post shown above, they are providing tips for winterizing your lawn to organic leads that would be researching how to do that.

They’re aware they should do something, but they haven’t learned what, or exactly how yet. Windwood Bulk uses this post to help them learn what to do, and then they tell the reader to call them for advice if they still need help or have questions.

When your prospective lead makes the decision to call to ask for help and make a purchase, their solution is what moves the prospect from the researching stage to the deciding stage that we’re going to talk about next.

Content Checklist for People that are Researching:

  • Message: What are the answers they are looking for right now?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
4

they are

Deciding

Now they feel like they know enough to start making a real decision. They are emotionally ready and rationally seeking out the best route. They consider their choices in solutions and providers.

They are asking questions about cost, timelines, consequences, and wondering what questions they might have forgotten to ask. They are also considering the cost of doing nothing.

Example Content for People that are Deciding:

Prospects that are ready to make a decision have already determined whether or not they are going to try and do it themselves or hire someone.

The people who are ready to pay for a solution are the people you should be creating this type of content for.

You need to give them information about pricing, how you stack up against your competitors (honestly and without bashing your competition), and what they will get out of doing business with you.

Some of the best examples of content for prospects at this stage are sales pages with pricing information and blog articles with comparisons or reviews of your solution and your competitors’ solution.

In this blog article published by Sentral Services, they compare their cleaning services to their competitors by creating a round-up review article of the best post-construction cleaning companies in their area.

They provide honest information about their competitors and the services they offer, but they explain how they are different from their competitors and who their ideal customers are.

Their honesty is what will help push deciding prospects into making the decision to purchase their solution.

Content Checklist for People that are Deciding:

  • Message: What is holding them back from making a decision — what information are they looking for?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
5

they are

Onboarding

This stage actually starts from the first touch with your sales team and lasts throughout the process to the point where they are successfully indoctrinated into your services. They reached out and are talking to your sales team. They are signing contracts and starting their experience working with you.

This stage can take from a couple of weeks to a few months, depending on how long your sales cycle is and how long it takes before your new customer feels comfortable in their agreement with you.

Example Content for People that are Onboarding:

Sales and product brochures, contracts, and receipts are typical content types that you might be giving to your customers.

Use these pieces of content to provide them with even more value and make sure they are happy with your agreement.

Give them more information they’ll find useful, make them aware of other services or products you offer they would be interested in based on their recent purchases and make sure they completely understand the benefits you're receiving from doing business with you.

Content Checklist for People that are Onboarding:

  • Message: What would help make this experience remarkable — what will their primary concerns be?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
6

they are

Enjoying

Now they are comfortable in their agreement, and they are starting to feel satisfied and enjoy their arrangement with you.

They know that something could go wrong, but overall, they feel reasonably confident that they made the right choice in working with you.

Example Content for People that are Enjoying:

Now that your customers are enjoying the benefits of doing business with your brand, you need to create content that gets them excited.

Customers get excited and raving about your brand when you make them aware of new products and services you offer, send them discounts, promotional offers, or free gifts (guides, ebooks, etc.) that will help them even more.

Content Checklist for People that are Enjoying:

  • Message: What is holding them back from being excited? What more do they want to learn?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?
7

they are

Excited

They have experienced your services, they truly feel like they made the right decision to work with you, and they are very pleased with their experience with your service.

This stage might happen at your first renewal step when they willingly renew their contract with you, or it might happen after the contract is completed. This is when they are willing to leave testimonials and tell others about you.

Example Content for People that are Excited:

Customers that are excited about your products and services are some of the best promoters of your brand that you could have.

These customers many times will refer you to someone else simply because they genuinely like you, appreciate the value of your service and want to help someone else, but don’t just depend on that. Leverage these customers to your advantage by taking the initiative. Ask them for referrals and give them some kind of incentive to send people to you.

You can offer them a finder’s fee or a discount on their services for every new customer they send your way.

Content Checklist for People that are Excited:

  • Message: How can they participate more — interact with other customers, share their success with others?
  • Vehicle: Where can you put your message so that they’ll see it?
  • Capabilities: Do you have the ability to deliver your message in those vehicles?
  • Fit: How would you recognize someone that’s a good fit for your goal at this stage?
  • Needs: What would your target persona be asking at this stage?
  • Experience: What is the experience they expect at this stage?

Quick Recap

I know that was a lot of information to take in all at once, so let’s do a quick recap of what you learned.

Attracting new leads takes more than just randomly churning out tons of content as fast as you can possibly create it. It’s not about posting all the time on every channel that you can.

Successfully attracting new leads starts with having a comprehensive understanding of the mindset your buyers are in when they make buying decisions.

The seven stages your leads will go through when making a buying decision are:

  1. Unaware: they are passively learning and searching and might not even be aware that they have a problem that needs to be solved yet.
  2. Aware: they are aware they have a problem or that a problem could exist, and they are talking to family members or friends, but they aren’t seriously researching yet.
  3. Researching: they are actively searching for more information and possible solutions, but they aren’t ready to make a decision just yet.
  4. Deciding: now that they’ve done enough research to feel informed, they are ready to choose a solution and proceed. They could choose to fix their problem themselves, hire you, or maybe even hire your competitor. 
  5. Onboarding: they’re determined you were the right company to help them, and they gave you money to seal the deal.
  6. Enjoying: they’ve started doing business with you and so far, so good, but there is still a chance something could go wrong, so they are wary and waiting to see it through to the end.
  7. Excited: they’ve experienced how awesome doing business with you is, and they are telling everyone they know about their experience with you and what you did to help them.

Turn Your Journey into a Strategic Marketing Plan

Now that you understand the buyer’s journey and the mindset that your ideal customers are in at each stage, you’re ready to take action on what you learned.

Our experts here at Sparkitive have been helping professional services firms like yours for over a decade, and we’re confident that we can help you too.

We don’t want you to take what you learned today and end up even more confused, so we made a free guide to help you navigate through the next steps and take action on your new-found knowledge.

Get your free 5-Step marketing plan now: Fast Track Your Business: The 5-Step Marketing Plan for Professional Services Firms.
FREE BOOK: 
Discover How to Build a Marketing Plan in as Little as One Day!

As a professional services provider, your billable time is valuable. You don't want to waste it on bad marketing tactics that won't yield the results you're looking for.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Do you want a reliable way to find the right customers for your business?

I just have a quick question.

>