One of the biggest mistakes you can make in B2B or large sale situations is not mapping out your typical customer buying cycle. The most common excuse I hear for not mapping the buying cycle is - "It's really difficult to map a typical buying cycle, every customer and sale is different - so what's the point." The point is that it is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can have on your customers.
First of all let's explore what I am referring to as the customer buying cycle.
In marketing terminology there are 3 common cycles that all have very similar names. The are interchanged regularly, which leads to confusion.
The Customer Life Cycle
These are the points at which customers can be in their lifecycle with your business. From being a stranger to being an advocate of your business.
The Customer Buying Cycle
The customer buying cycle or buyer's journey, is the journey that your customer goes on in regard to purchasing a product or service from you.
In this post I am referring to the customer buying cycle, mixed with the product or service purchase lifecycle, that we'll look at next.
The Product or Service Purchase Lifecycle
Is your potential customer looking to buy a product or service that is completely new to their business, or are they looking at a replacement, upgrade, or downgrade purchase?
For many products or services customers will also have a lifecycle for buying products and services, as their needs, desires and budgets evolve.
Here are some of the typical stages of a purchase lifecycle:
- New solution purchase
- End of life replacement purchase
- Upgrade purchase
- Downgrade purchase
Within each of these stages there will also be important purchase drivers, that you can use in your marketing. I'll explore these in another post.
Why is it important to map these cycles?
Understanding your customers' position in the buying cycle and purchase lifecycle, allows you to make more intelligent and therefore more powerful marketing decisions.
We all know that if we hit the right customer at the right time with the right product or service getting the sale is almost guaranteed.
If you know that why wouldn't you build that into your marketing strategy and centre your tactics around it? For that matter why wouldn't you make it the single most important element of your marketing strategy?
We need to map these cycles to understand them for our business. It is important that we agree and test the cycles with the sales team. When they have been tested, we can start creating marketing resources targeted at the different stages.
How to map your customer's buying cycle
We've created a simple to use Excel template that you can use to map your customer's buying cycle:
Identify your product's or service's purchase cycle
Depending on your product or service different customers may be on different purchase cycles. Also different products and services have lifespans that can dictate the purchase cycle.
Here's a few examples of common purchase cycles:
A computer - 2 to 3 years
A mobile phone - 1 to 2 years
A car - 3 to 5 years
A website - 3 to 5 years
A business phone systems - 5 to 10 years
If we look into a website buying cycle in a bit more details. A website for a typical business will typically need to be updated every 3-5 years.
After 3 years and definitely after 5 years, the technology the site is built on will probably be out of date (unless it has been regularly updated), the design will definitely be out of date and how well it is delivering on its results will likely be in question.
If you are in the business of selling websites (like us) - understanding where the customer is in the website purchase cycle is important. The customer themselves probably hasn't thought too hard about this purchase cycle, but they will display a number of symptoms that will indicate where they are in it.
By mapping and understanding the buying cycle and purchase cycle you'll be in a much better position to understand where your leads are and then to tailor your communications with them to take this into account. You'll also be able to assess how sales ready they are likely to be and if they are a good fit for what you are offering. If they are early in their buying cycle or purchase cycle they are unlikely to be sales ready and will almost certainly need to go into your lead nurturing programme.
If they are at the right point in their purchase cycle that's the stage at which to start assessing their position on the buying cycle or buyer's journey.
If you were questioning the value of mapping your customer buying cycle, hopefully I've convinced you to work on it.