Great Business Ideas: The buyers cycle

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: The buyers cycle

To understand how to influence someone or to sell an idea, it is essential to know how people buy. The buyer’s cycle provides a clear picture of the stages that need to be influenced to make a successful sale.

The idea

One of the factors behind the success of businesses such as Dell is their ability to understand their customers. This firm (and others) ensures that its approach is as flexible as possible and as informed as it can be. Understanding buyers’ attitudes will enable you to influence behavior more easily and effectively.

Buying attitudes are determined by the buyer’s perception of the immediate business situation, how your proposal is likely to change that situation, and the extent to which that change will close a gap between the current reality and future goal.

In practice

Focus on each of the stages in the buyer’s cycle. Consider what you can do to influence your customers at each stage:

  1. Increase awareness. The first challenge is to develop awareness of your business or new product among potential clients. This provides a feeling of familiarity, comfort, or intrigue. This awareness can then be used to lead customers into the next stage: information. The potential market size at this stage is 100 percent.
  2. Provide information. This stage is when specific details are provided to the customer. Their interest may vary from a passing willingness to find out more, to a passionate need to explore the offer. Whatever the customer’s motives or situation, the information needs to be clear, useful, and specific. Inevitably, the market size will have shrunk as some “aware” customers fail to pick up the information, through either choice or circumstance.
  3. Help customers prioritize. Customers weigh up the benefits and then prioritize their expenditure. For example, they may consider whether this is something they want to buy now, at this price, and in this form. They may also evaluate alternatives. Clearly, some people will not make the move from having the information to making a purchase.
  4. Help customers purchase. Having decided to buy, the next step for the customer is to complete the transaction. It is important to enable the buyer to move as easily as possible through the process. Purchasing should be easy and satisfactory—even enjoyable.
  5. Support the customer’s use of the product. This is a stage that is often forgotten, hidden in the shadow of the purchase. A sale is not the end of the process, because customers have to use and value their purchase. If they don’t, then the product may be returned, customers may stay away in future, and the resultant poor publicity and a declining reputation are likely to adversely affect future sales.
  6. Promote reuse. This is when the product or service (or one of its components) is bought again. This generates additional revenue at a higher margin (without the cost of customer acquisition) and highlights customer loyalty to the product, resulting in a stronger sales process.
  7. Encourage advocacy. This stage is highly prized by sellers: it occurs when customers are so impressed with their purchase that they tell others about it (Harley-Davidson is an excellent example of this). Advocacy increases awareness of the product or business and feeds back to the first stage of the process.
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