Every visitor comes to your site in their own “stage” of their individual buying process. The buying stages are actually a wide spectrum, but I generally break them into Early, Middle, and Late buying stages:
- Early stage means that the visitor has a problem, and is looking for a solution. They may not know who you are, or that your product/service solves their problem.
- Middle means that they have an intention to buy a product or service that solves their problem, but not necessarily from you.
- Late means that they’re persuaded to buy from you, and intend to “close the deal.”
Sometimes, websites seem to be doing everything right, but the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) just aren’t as high as everyone expects. Their sites are functional, accessible, usable, and intuitive. Their look and feel is credible, and their content is high quality. So why do their visitors not behave as we expect? Why do well-planned and well-executed scenarios (e.g. PPC ad → landing page → lead generating form → thank you page) not always convert?
You guessed it: Buying Stage mismatch.
Buying Stage mismatch is when your selling process doesn’t jive with the visitor’s buying process. It’s when your conversion funnel is designed for a buying stage that the visitor isn’t in. Take a look at your site’s conversion funnel…it’s most likely designed for Late Stage buyers, right? Take a look at one of your PPC campaigns…are you showing Early Stage searchers a Middle Stage ad that sends the visitor down a Late Stage funnel? Poor visitor 🙁
The key point is to be aware that multiple buying stages are traversing your designed scenarios. It’s fine if your funnel is fine-tuned to Late Stage buyers, but do you have easy navigation paths to let an Early or Middle stage visitor branch out and get more information? It’s fine if your PPC landing pages are perfect for a Middle Stage searcher, but can an impatient Late Stage searcher “Buy Now”?
How do you identify buying stages to improve your scenarios?
A few ways, using basic analytics tools and skills, are:
- Look at your keyword lists (in-site search, organic keywords, and paid keywords) and start segmenting by buying stage. Guessing is OK.
- Look at click paths and navigation (which pages would be attractive/informative to the various stages?)
- Look for those who bail out of conversion funnels (it could be that they’re not ready to buy)
- Look at entrance sources (organic vs. PPC vs. referrals vs. direct visits)
[Originally published February 18th, 2009 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]