Does your marketing strategy consider the entire customer buying process? Consumers tend to take a variety of actions before making a purchase, and marketing to potential customers in various stages of the buying process is a best practice.
Here are some tips to help auto parts and accessories companies market to consumers at key points during the typical consumer buying process.
The Customer Perceives A Problem
The first step in your customer’s journey goes something like this:
- “My brakes are squealing”, or
- “My car isn’t as fast as it could be”, or
- “My truck doesn’t sit high enough”, or
- “My car doesn’t portray my personality the way I’d like it to.”
These are all problems that the customer perceives, some more pressing than others. They are aware that they have a problem (or that they could have a problem), but the problem isn’t so urgent that they’re actively looking for a solution.
If you’re going to sell a customer at this stage of the buying process, you need content that helps the consumer better identify their problem and then offer solutions. Often times, this comes down to keyword research and content marketing.
However, you can also reach consumers at this stage with traditional advertising. If the problem is common enough (who doesn’t want a faster car?), mass market advertising talking about the problem and solution can be effective.
The Customer Searches For Answers
Once a consumer identifies a problem, they usually search for a solution. Sometimes, this search will last days or weeks. Sometimes, this search lasts only a few minutes.
Either way, consumers looking for answers frequently use a “search engine” to find them (go figure). Therefore, to market to consumers in the “looking for solutions” stage, you must rank highly in search engine results.
Ranking highly on search engines requires:
- Relevant, valuable content: videos, blog posts, or other original content that addresses subjects relevant to those seeking solutions
- A trusted website, as defined by a website with lots of links, engaged fans on social media, press mentions, etc.
To learn more about search engine optimization (the act of improving your website’s rankings), be sure to download our free SEO guide here.
Consideration and Justification
A customer who a) has identified their problem and b) identified solutions is in the ‘consideration’ stage. They’re looking at their options and figuring out which option(s) make the most sense.
Often times, winning over the consumer in the consideration phase takes some old-fashioned selling:
- Your website needs to explain the benefits of your product over the competition’s
- Your website needs to offer “proof” of your product’s supremacy, via things such as testimonials and 3rd party reviews
- Your website needs to explain that the consumer can’t go wrong by choosing your product, which means you need to offer a money-back guarantee, a generous return policy, a price match policy, etc.
If a customer is considering your product on your site, they’re looking for both proof that your product is good and justification for “taking the leap” when they buy. Marketing to these consumers is all about instilling confidence in your product’s quality, reliability, durability, and value.
A Note About Pricing
Too often, price is viewed as an objection. While it’s true that pricing impacts consumer behavior, it’s also true that the impact pricing has on a consumer’s decision is highly overrated.
In fact, consumers don’t care about price at all – they care about value. Consider the iPhone, which has a price ranging from $550 to $750. Any number of inexpensive Android phones can be had for $200 or less, and yet the iPhone outsells nearly all it’s lower priced rivals. Why? Because Apple has done a great job of building value.
Obviously, Apple is a bit of a special case…very few companies can compete with pricing that’s 200-300% higher than the competition. But still, what sounds better to you?
- A free car that will break down at least once a month, or
- A car that costs $200 a month, but will never break down?
NOTE: If you say you want the free car, consider this: The free car WILL leave you on the side of the road at least once a month. The $200 car is sounding better, isn’t it?
If we’re talking about a set of running boards that cost $350 vs. a set that costs $450, what’s the difference really? Can you convince a customer that the $450 set of running boards is a better value? If so, they’ll probably buy it.
The Purchase Stage
Once a consumer convinces themselves to buy, the next step is to make the process as painless as possible:
- Make sure the checkout process is easy. Keep the interface simple, make sure it works on all kinds of devices, and make sure it’s fast.
- Avoid surprises. An extra charge for shipping can kill a deal if the customer isn’t expecting it.
- Once the purchase process is completed, send an official confirmation and put that part in a box ASAP…the longer you wait to confirm a transaction and/or ship the order, the higher the odds the consumer will change their mind.
Finally, The Need To Reinforce A Decision
Once a customer has made a purchase, your last marketing task is to give the customer a chance to reinforce their decision:
- Ask them for a review right on the confirmation page. People are often inclined to leave a 5 star review immediately after buying, as it serves a need to confirm their decision.
- Give the consumer a chance to brag about their purchase. Make it easy to share the purchase decision on social media. Offer them a chance to send you a photo or upload something to Instagram or Facebook, etc.
- Give the customer a free gift. A couple free stickers, a free pen, or even a free t-shirt is a great idea. People love free stuff, and the surprise is incredibly reinforcing.
- Congratulate the customer on their smart decision making. It might seem a little over the top, but a quick “congrats” message from one of the key people at your company is a great way to make customers feel good about their purchase.
The more you can do to reinforce the decision to buy, the more likely your customer will become an advocate for your product.
This article leaves the impression that consumers proceed in a straight line from perceiving a problem to looking for solutions, to comparing and justifying, to buying. This is often the case, but not always. Sometimes, consumers skip from perceiving a problem to reinforcing an impulsive purchase. Sometimes, consumers spend money without a clear understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve. Sometimes, it’s all about product value.
Whatever the specific process, it’s important to understand the different stages consumers can find themselves in. That way, you can tailor your marketing to be as inclusive as possible.