Align your Sales & Marketing with the Buyer Journey

Ankit asks the real question - how can you effectively integrate these learnings into your marketing campaigns?

Ankit Agarwal
Venture Development, Accel
Dr. Ajay Sethi
Venture Partner, Accel
10
 Min Read
Align your Sales & Marketing with the Buyer Journey

Once you understand your buyer persona and buyer journey, and map your sales and marketing activities accordingly, the next logical question to ask is: how do I effectively integrate these learnings into designing my marketing campaigns?

In this article, we will be covering a simple playbook to help companies and marketing teams design their marketing campaigns.

For the “beginners”, or for the people who have just joined in, we recommend you to first read the below articles to better define the ideal buyer journey for your product/ service and align the sales and marketing teams and activities accordingly.

If you are a B2C company, you’d want to read this.

<link https:="" medium.com="" accel-india-insights="" removing-buyer-friction-by-understanding-buyer-journey-aedb1d0f6598="" here="">

SaaS companies should read this article.

<link https:="" medium.com="" accel-india-insights="" decoding-buyer-matrix-buyer-journey-for-your-saas-business-803ca78d3fd1="" here="">

The crux of the marketing strategy lies in identifying the right buyer journey and designing marketing campaigns to reach customers with targeted and relevant messages. This article is meant to help you accomplish this milestone.

Why is it important?

The way people shop, online or offline, has changed. Gone are the days where one could acquire a potential customer by showing ads and telling them how great the product is. Today, before making a purchase, online or offline, consumers research the product, read reviews, compare costs, mentally map out the price value chart and so on.

This progression — that begins with becoming problem-aware (triggered by external stimuli or on their own), moving to solution-discovery and finally, to making a purchase-decision is called the buyer’s journey.

This transition that the potential consumer goes through has given rise to what Google calls the Zero-Moment-Of-Truth. You can read more about it here.

As you would understand from the articles cited above, the buyer’s journey is typically not a simple, linear path. Buyers explore multiple channels during this transition, making it imperative that a brand be omnipresent, with relevant and targeted messages at each stage of the buyer journey. In this example, for the sake of simplicity, we will be covering a single flow.

The ideal picturization of the buyer journey would be of bees buzzing around a hive. Only, in the real world, businesses are the bees trying to find ways to reach their customers (which is the beehive).

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Image Credit — Vectors by Vecteezy

When creating and refining buyer persona, it is important to identify four attributes: willingness to pay, triggers to buy/ try, barriers to try/buy and the various channels to reach that buyer at a specific time and point in his journey.

Let’s deep-dive into what each of these four attributes is and how they will be useful.

1. Willingness to Pay

Accessing information about the users’ ability and willingness to pay is not only important when making pricing decisions but can also guide you to the category of users you may want to pursue. Often, companies have had to change their positioning and target audience completely because the willingness to pay was very low among the customer class they originally targeted. Consequently these brands revised their positioning/ messaging and launched new features and products targeting the persona they later chose to go behind.

Bear in mind that even within the same buyer profile, willingness to pay — categorised as low, medium and high — varies across different product/service features. Once this is assessed, do a thorough research to arrive at a numeric value that the user is willing to pay for certain features. This will help the company identify the features that are valued the most by the users and help the company derive or optimize their packaging and pricing strategy.

“1% improvement in pricing leads to a whopping 11.1% hike in the operating profit” — Harvard Business Review, 1992

2. Triggers to try/buy your product or service

What are triggers to try or buy?

A trigger is a event that causes a buyer to have a clear need, which usually converts into a sense of purpose and urgency in their buying process. Triggers can also be factors that motivate customers to make a purchase decision

Why is it important to identify the triggers?

Identifying the buyer’s triggers to make a purchase decision can enable a marketer to create a favourable buying environment by doing the following-

  • Wait for the external event to happen. For example — The festive season,is a great opportunity for a sale. Other examples where one may need to wait for an external event to happen before pitching their product or services could be — waiting for a company to expand its operation in other markets or external rules and regulations that mandate companies to file financial statements every quarter
  • Look to see if you can create the trigger. For example — Black Friday or Big Billion Days
  • Help a customer realise that a trigger has happened. For example — Security audit report showing gaps instigating the need to purchase a security software

3. Barriers to try/ buy your product or service

Another step in decoding the buyer persona is to spot the ‘barriers’ in the purchase process. This is to focus on factors that prevent consumers from making the purchase. Right question to ask at this stage would be — “What is stopping the user from proceeding to the next step?”

Why is it important to understand barriers?

Identifying barriers can help the company make changes to its product, marketing or sales to help users overcome these purchase barriers.

For instance, in one of our portfolio companies, we found that the amount involved in product integration was a purchase barrier. By introducing the ‘within-one-week-integration’ offering, they were able to overcome this barrier and enable buyers to make faster purchase decisions.

Barriers can be related to:

  • Your product. For example, if your brand is not perceived to be ‘cool’ enough or the user interface is not intuitive enough
  • Post-purchase concerns. For example, inconvenient integration time, poor team bandwidth, support, etc.
  • The category or industry. For example: Seeking mental health counseling or talking about it is still considered taboo in many cultures. Hence, company looking to start an online consultation portal, will have to first overcome this category/industry-level barrier.

Sounds simple, right? It is. It comes with a small caveat, though: when listing down triggers and barriers try to separate them into functional and non-functional aspects.

  • Functional aspects would be related to your product/ service offering.
  • Non-functional aspects would be related to factors that are non-transaction or emotional in nature. These are related to the buyer’s broader goals related to personal or professional life.

For instance: For a cloud data platform, a functional trigger or barrier would be related to its security features, but non-functional triggers could be buyer’s desire for promotion or the goal to appear knowledgeable within the organization.

Solving or considering the non-functional aspects is what helps the company build a brand association in the minds of the consumer.

Some examples of non-functional triggers are -

  • Need for validation/ self-love
  • Desire to stand out from the crowd
  • Longing to feel secure, have confidence in future
  • Need for the feeling of belonging to a community
  • Goal of enjoying a sense of well-being

Some examples of non-functional barriers are -

  • Societal norms
  • Taboos
  • Perception of “cool” and “uncool”

Try listing these for your product/ service. They will differ across across the various buyer personas that you intend to reach out to. These can be identified by doing in-house user research or by doing more detailed consumer research. You will be surprised to notice a huge difference in triggers and barriers across different personas.

As an example, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario from UrbanClap, India’s leading home service provider. For their beauty service, two key buyer personas can be broadly defined are:

  • Persona 1: aged 25–35 years, F (migrant, graduate, working professionals, without kids)
  • Persona 2: aged 30–40+ years, F (homemakers, mid to high disposable income, busy balancing life)

Based on user research, following are the likely triggers and barriers for the above personas to try at-home beauty service:

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Persona classification and understanding their triggers and barriers

Triggers for Persona 1 (Working Professional) could be related to the desire to avail at-home service on weekends due to “laziness” (and desire to avoid traffic, heat, and other hassles related to commute to the beauty parlour and the desire to stay at home on weekends).

For Persona 2 (Homemaker), the triggers were related to convenience of at-home service so that they can multitask with other personal tasks and word of mouth — recommendations of the quality of service from friend or family member.

Barriers for Persona 1 were related to the potential use of cheap products by the service provider, while for Persona 2, barriers were related to concerns around hygiene. More specifically, it could be the use of beauty products from unsealed (and previously used) products as well as the potential mess left behind due to availing the service at-home. Another barrier that came out from our user surveys for Persona 2 was the inertia to change her regular beautician whom she had grown to be friendly and comfortable with.

Once the triggers and barriers are identified, the business can tweak its product, service offering, and processes to suit the market The process may also involve introducing new services or products to address and alleviate buyer concerns

Subsequently, the marketer can reach out to the buyers through specific digital or traditional marketing campaigns targeting at these personas as shown below:

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Understanding and communicating with Persona 1 (working professionals)

Link to the videos targeting above persona (working professionals):

Digital video #1 for Persona 1 (working professional)
Digital video #2 for Persona 1 (working professional)
Digital video #3 for Persona 1 (working professional)
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Understanding and communicating with Persona 2 (Homemakers)

Link to the videos targeting above persona (homemakers):

Digital video #1 for Persona 2 (Homemakers)
Digital video #2 for Persona 2 (Homemakers)

Once we have identified both the triggers and barriers for each persona, the next task is to list these for each buyer journey in the format as shown below:

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Buyer journey & sales and marketing flow alignment template

This template can serve as an easy go-to reference when prioritizing content [bottom-up approach, preferably] or when designing lead nurturing or customer engagement campaigns. Since the objective is always to push users down the funnel, it is good to identify potential triggers and barriers at each step and use them sequentially to design your marketing campaigns and communications strategy.

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The sequential flow of user actions and messaging

For example — You may want to show an ad like the one below, mentioning reasons for booking the service today, for a user in the middle of the funnel [aware of UrbanClap but not aware of the USPs/ differentiating factors and therefore have not added product/ package to the cart]

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Facebook ad #1

For a user who has added a product to the cart, but not converted, a testimonial format of another customer sharing her “wow” experience of the service, could be one of the ways of getting users to try your service.

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Facebook ad #2

The above-mentioned example and the process shows the importance of understanding functional triggers and barriers and how to use them in structuring your marketing campaigns and communicating with users at each step of the funnel.

How to sequentially target customers with relevant messages to drive them further down the conversion funnel can be one of the potential outcomes of this exercise.

The non-functional aspects become important when connecting with your users or potential consumers at an emotional level. Hence, this is useful when defining brand essence and when designing a brand communications strategy.

Example — Below are the non-functional triggers and barriers for home services as a category [UrbanClap].

Non-functional triggers can be the ambition to:

  • Feel confident & secure (easy and quick access to task partner)
  • Be independent
  • Have guilt-free personal time

Non-functional barriers:

  • Trust and safety concerns
  • Concerns around professionals’ reliability

Now, take a look at the campaigns below. Are you able to notice how the functional and non-functional insights are leveraged in UrbanClaps brand campaigns?

Brand videos emphasizing non-functional triggers and barriers
Brand videos, also emphasizing non-functional aspects

4. Channels

Another significant aspect of the buyer journey is, channels. This is listing down different channels that can be used to reach out to target users. It is important to bifurcate channels into the ones that the user typically browses and the channels the user uses when searching for products/ services in the category offered by you.

Conclusion:

It is important to first understand the buyer journey based on buying behavior and product complexity. Post that, align your marketing to the buyer journey by understanding their willingness to pay, triggers and barriers to try/ buy the product. Different user personas will have different functional and non-functional triggers, which can be used to target them individually. Understanding non-functional aspects that can potentially motivate/ demotivate the user will help one enhance the brand and make the target set of users resonate with the brand.

Written by

Ankit Agarwal
Venture Development, Accel

Ankit was a part of the Venture Development team and worked with portfolio startups to help them with branding & marketing stategies

Dr. Ajay Sethi
Venture Partner, Accel

Ajay joined Accel in 2013. Over the last few years, he has worked with almost all portfolio companies to help them achieve deliberate and sustainable growth. Along with a team of domain experts (the "Growth Team"), he helps portfolio companies to build better "castles" and dig broader/deeper "moats".

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