Early Stage Buyer: In Early Stage, people have made the decision that they are interested in buying something, but don’t know exactly what they want/need to buy. They’ll want to see all the different types of products available, and what the pros/cons are for each type. They need as much information with regards to choices, options, and information as possible to feel comfortable when making a decision.
Middle Stage Buyer: Middle Stage visitors are prepared to buy a certain type of product, but aren’t certain exactly which.Â They need options and information as well, but will search with a progressively narrowing view.
Late Stage Buyer: Late Stage buyers know exactly what will satisfy their needs.Â They’re searching for specifics, and want to compare between brands and manufacturers.Â They’re extremely narrow-minded and very sure of their choice; they just want to be sure that who they’re buying from is worthy of their money.
These solid definitions serve us well in our analysis, and our clients benefit greatly from learning to view their online target audience by these three simple segments.Â It’s the best way we’ve found to quickly identify “low hanging fruit” and get significant optimization of conversion rate via continuous improvement.
However, the buying stage definitions were originally published in very eTailer-friendly language.Â In other words, if you’re selling product via an online catalog and shopping cart, these definitions fit very well into the view of how your audience interacts with your site.Â But, what if you are an online marketer responsible for a lead generation or subscription site? Are you “up a creek without a paddle,” as we sometimes say in rural areas of the US?
Of course not.Â We wouldn’t let you down like that!Â Besides, we work with plenty of lead generation and subscription/membership marketing teams.Â Instead, we’re proud to share these shiny, new buying stage definitions for marketers in the lead generation and subscription/membership marketing worlds!
LEAD GEN Early Stage Prospect: The prospect has identified that a problem exists, and is committed to solving it via some sort of investment.Â They are in self-education mode, researching various means of solving their problem and the various solution providers (vendors) that occupy the space.Â They want to make sure they understand any jargon or vocabulary that is unique to the space, and want to understand the pros and cons of any different approaches.Â This stage potentially ends when a prospect has come up with their “short list” of solution providers that warrant further investigation.
LEAD GEN Middle Stage Prospect: The prospect moves forward by gathering information on the vendors of interest, with increasing focus on specifics like the vendor’s credibility and reputation.Â They are comparing one website’s content against competitors, looking for what’s unique about any solution provider.Â They want to know what other clients you serve, what awards you’ve won, and are starting to think in terms of testimonials, case studies, white papers, and ROI calculators.
LEAD GEN Late Stage Prospect: The prospect has narrowed the field of competitors, and probably wants to use your solution, but needs to justify their “want” with references, sample contracts, and information about how long you’ve been around, who your Leadership is, and how stable your company is.Â They’re also starting to imagine what it’s going to be like working with you, and want to know what types of commitments they’ll have to make to be successful.Â Oftentimes, they’re in a “vetting process” regarding your solution to verify things they assume to be true.Â For example, that you’re insured, or your Service Level Agreement.
SUBSCRIPTION/MEMBERSHIP Early Stage Prospect: The prospect has some sort of problem to solve or goal to achieve, and is out looking for some sort of solution.Â They may be thinking in relatively broad terms like “help losing weight.”Â They arrive at your site to gauge your credibility and whether subscribing will help them achieve their goal.Â If the goal is to join a community, then the prospect will gauge the size and quality of the community, and whether the other members are “people like me.”
SUBSCRIPTION/MEMBERSHIP Middle Stage Prospect: The prospect is ready to compare various sites/solutions against each other, so they focus more narrowly on features, benefits, cost, guarantees, and 3rd party validations like testimonials or media mentions.Â This is where a good Unique Value Proposition that sets you apart from competitors can be extremely effective.Â The prospect is perhaps prepared to subscribe to emails or a blog (micro-conversions) even if they’re not ready to spend money on a membership yet.
SUBSCRIPTION/MEMBERSHIP Late Stage Prospect: The prospect has chosen you as the preferred solution to their problem, and should convert provided that you provide answers to last-minute questions and a trustworthy conversion funnel.Â This is where terms & conditions, cancellation policies, payment methods, and security are most relevant to conversion.Â Also, the prospect may not be comfortable signing up online, so alternate communication channels like email, phone, and live chat can be crucial to conversion in this stage.
As you can see, the 3 sets of definitions are the same, but different.Â They’re essentially the same psychological motivations, but the lenses can be adjusted to different types of sites and conversions.Â These newer sets of definitions are “drafts” at best, so I’d welcome feedback on them.
I hope these help a broader range of marketers think about their marketing, their funnels, and their content in more specific and useful ways.Â The key, high-priority things to do TODAY with your own, unique buying stage definitions are: