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October 16, 2018

Digital Tactics Throughout the Buyer’s Journey: Research Stage

In our three-part blog series, we’re breaking down each stage of the buyer’s journey and what tactics work best for reaching and engaging audiences online.

In the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, tactics focus on getting information in front of the prospect in the course of their normal online activity. During the research stage, however, you begin using digital marketing tactics that will help your prospect in their search for a solution – that solution being your solution.

The research stage is where digital tactics have a huge advantage over offline tactics – brands have the ability to engage, react and quickly serve up compelling marketing messages to audiences already seeking a solution.

In the research stage, tactics focus more on interacting with the prospect, anticipating their needs and delivering relevant content. Using the right tactics at the right time is key to engaging audiences and moving them along the buyer’s journey.

How to Engage Audiences in the Research Stage

Search and display advertising

With 80% of shoppers conducting online research before making a purchase, search literally tells us how to solve a prospect’s problem.

However, this doesn’t mean reaching audiences is easy. Online searchers look for information in several ways:

  1. Identifying the specific product: In some cases, they may search for a specific product or brand. If you offer that product, you need to make sure your message and positioning are more attractive than the competitor’s.
  2. Describing the potential solution: Searchers may have some idea what product or service will address their need, but don’t know what to call it. In that case, they might use a query that describes the potential solution. For example, a weekend tennis player may search “soft brace for elbow pain” to describe a compression sleeve for tennis elbow.
  3. Describing the problem: If they’re at a loss for how to describe the solution, prospects may phrase their search in terms of the problem they’re trying to solve. A consumer who’s just discovered a puddle on their basement floor may Google “leaky water heater” if they’re not sure whether they need a plumber or a part to stop the flow of water.

If you’re introducing a product or service that’s unique or outside your target audience’s current awareness, your search ads will need to concentrate heavily on that problem-based search behavior. Prospects can’t search for a specific solution if they don’t know it exists, but you can still reach them by focusing on the pain point they’re trying to resolve.

The same query-based approach can carry over into display advertising. By aligning ads with third-party content that contains the same problem or solution keywords, marketers can ensure their message displays in the right place at the right time.

Website content

Search and display ads that target keywords related to specific features, benefits or pain points draw potential clients and customers to your website or blog, and connect them with content that addresses their needs.

If your website content aligns well with the keywords and messaging used in your search and display advertising, Google will attribute a higher quality score to your ads and improve their performance. As you create content on your website for your audiences, make sure they are relevant and address the pain points your audiences are looking to fix.

Additionally, calls to action on your landing pages should encourage prospects to sign up for an email newsletter or download more information. By encouraging audiences to provide their email addresses, your brand will then have the potential to contact them (following GDPR guidelines) and build a relationship through content marketing.

Social media

Social media can be an incredibly useful tool for engaging audiences in the research stage, but marketers must first understand how the platform is used differently across various demographic groups. Men and women research purchase decisions differently, particularly on social media.

How men and women use social media differently:
  • Men use social media to gather the information and perform research
  • Men compile relevant contacts and ultimately increase their status on social media
  • Men are more likely to ignore social media ads
  • Women are less likely to use social media for business reasons
  • Women are more likely to seek out and trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their friends when it comes to purchasing decisions

So, what is the key to engaging men and women on social media? For men, a well-optimized Facebook profile that can be found through search, along with straightforward organic posts and information, can engage them. And for women, look to your existing customers. Current happy customers in the retention and advocacy stage are a prime source for testimonials that can influence women in the research stage.

After gathering sufficient information, prospective clients and customers identify a consideration set - a group of products, services or brands that can all potentially meet their needs. Their focus shifts from finding as many options as possible to narrowing down those options to arrive at a final selection. Now, they’ve officially reached the decision stage of the process.

Learn what tactics to use to engage your audiences during the decision stage part 3 of our blog series.

learn the tactics

buyers journey
digital marketing
digital marketing strategy
digital tactics
research stage
research stage digital tactics

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