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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at 9:25 am

The Diagnosis? Buying Stage Schizophrenia

By Brendan Regan
February 18th, 2009

Every visitor comes to your site in their own personal “buying stage.”¬† The buying stage is a wide spectrum, but we generally break it into Early, Middle, and Late stages:

  • Early 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, to landing page, to lead generating form, to thank you page) not always convert?

You guessed it: Buying Stage Schizophrenia.

Buying Stage Schizophrenia is when our selling process doesn’t jive with the visitor’s buying process.¬† It’s when our 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 keywords 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 I identify buying stages to improve my 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)

Coincidentally (read: not coincidental at all ;) ), we just launched a subscription service that can help with this very issue, you can start improving your conversion rate for as low as $1,000 a month.

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Comments (26)

  1. Very interesting…I have not classified my buyers into three different stages. I usually gear my sales pages towards buyers who are already looking for the service.

  2. I wish I could get more clients to understand this. Great article, I’ll forward clients to read.

  3. It’s nice to see someone break it down like that.I had no idea it could get so specific.

  4. I have not classified my buyers into three different stages.

  5. Excellent point, though when you separate these out, its tough to maintain an acceptable CPA goal with ‘early’ and sometimes even ‘middle’ stage keywords.
    Much more effective is to keep keywords where they are, but adjust LP selection.

  6. [...] Lees echter voordat je dit doet dit interessante artikel: [...]

  7. I hadn’t thought of this before. I think our visitors are in the 2nd stage, and will have to look at the site to see if it really caters to that particular mind stage.

  8. I think there should be a fourth stage: “Browsing” (or “Surfing”, “Social” etc.).

    The stage where the user is just surfing around on the Internet, because he/she is bored.

  9. @Sev√¶rdigheder: If a visitor is “just browsing” on a retail site, then we’d classify them as Early Stage. This is one reason why Early Stage conversion rate will be MUCH lower than Middle and Late Stage. If we were optimizing a social media/networking or content site, we might not use these classifications at all. They’d have to be classified in groups that better matched the business goals of engagement, pages viewed, etc. Good comment.

  10. [...] a general search term.¬† Use your keyword knowledge to get a sense of visitors’ differing stages of the buying process?¬†¬† Are they just starting out and searching for general info?¬† Do they already know exactly what [...]

  11. [...] can be very persuasive and exciting.¬† Finally, product configurators can be a great way to convert Early and Middle Stage buyers; those who aren’t quite ready to pull out their credit card yet.¬† The ability to save what [...]

  12. Great article.It has certainly made me think.Thank you

  13. In medical terms Schizophrenia is a disintegrating mind and very serious. You and anyone else who uses this in a colloquial English term should be ashamed of yourselves.

  14. I wish there was a little script to read the mind of the customer and direct them to the appropriate landing page for their buying stage. =)

  15. [...] I’m excited see how these sites continue to change the online retail space and morph the buying stages into a single-stage process. What I wouldn’t give to have a look at their [...]

  16. this theory for the customers will really helps a lot of peoples

  17. Yes it is hard to try and achieve that balance for all the buying stages.

  18. I think most I find are early to middle. You have to find and understand the stage, before you can close on it.

  19. That is a very insightful point. A PPC campaign should be segmented that way.

  20. [...] [...]

  21. A grand every month might sound like alot, but honestly it isn’t that bad when you think about the profits involved!

  22. Great article $1000 a month is still a bit rich for me but I will try to incorporate your information into my sites and may be able to afford you some day.

  23. Yes this is the ultimate problem with SEO and any internet advertising method.

    Conversion rates aren’t always ideal–so it really is hard sometime.

    We’ve personally been seeing results by using an external company to track calls, on different numbers, per different ad campaigns.

    That way you know which marketing campaign the sales are coming from…

    Surprisingly–door hangers are working VERY well…just really expensive for the normal small business.

  24. This is one reason why Early Stage conversion rate will be MUCH lower than Middle and Late Stage. If we were optimizing a social media/networking or content site, we might not use these classifications at all.

  25. I have not category my business yet, but it will be a good idea. Early Stage should be much lower, but who knows!

  26. Thanks for breaking it all down, it can be a bit overwhelming for companies new to online marketing but with insightful articles like this it really helps!

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