Today we’re going to take a look at; the “buying cycle”, why it’s important to align your bid media campaigns with this cycle and how to ensure you’re staying on track and prominent throughout.
“What is the Buying Cycle?”
The buying cycle is the journey a user takes from the first moment they become aware of their need for a product through to the completion of a successful transaction or the capture of enquiry.
Step 1: Awareness
The user knows they have a want/need for a product.
Owning the product would fulfil a need or desire.
Example… Users thought: “I need a new car to save money on fuel”. User searches “economical cars”
Step 2: Interest
The user becomes interested in the product. Attraction is built by detailing additional benefits that were previously unknown to the user. Example…. KIA.co.uk: “Did you know that certain economical cars don’t require you to pay road tax for the first year?”
Step 3: Research & Refine
The user researches and reviews the available varieties of the product to find it in a form that is best suited to them. (I.e. comparing features of different cars). Example…. User searches: “kia soul vs ford fiesta” or “kia soul reviews”
Armed with a wealth of knowledge from research the user will refine their search to more specific terms. …. User searches: “kia soul for sale Newcastle”.
Step 4: Shop Around
The user compares suppliers/offers/benefits whilst listening to the opinions of others that have already purchased from the suppliers.
Example…. User searches: “Benfield motors Newcastle reviews”.
Step 5: Purchase/Conversion
The user decides on which supplier can meet their expectations and proceeds with the purchase.
Example… User calls Benfield Motors in Newcastle to arrange a viewing, test drive or purchase.
Typical user expectations can include, but are not limited to: price, delivery charges, speed of delivery, level of trust/reputation, after-sales support, guarantees – peace of mind.
The stages of the cycle usually remain the same across different industries, but it is the length of time taken to pass through the cycle being that is the varying factor.
“So why should I align my campaigns with the Buying Cycle?”
When planning new bid media campaigns one should always consider consumer decision making processes and align campaigns accordingly. Being out-of-sync with this cycle can be detrimental to campaign performance for a number of reasons. This is a common oversight that we often see digital marketers making, simply because they’re unaware of the stages that make up the buying cycle. Trying to force users through the buying cycle will usually deter them from your business.
Search adverts should be as relevant as possible to user search queries and serve as the perfect match to their informational needs. Your adverts should be tailored to their questions during every stage of the buying cycle.
When creating search campaigns within Google AdWords you should consider the various stages of the buying cycle, ensuring that your brand is prominent throughout (provided that your budget will allow for this).
To do this you should try and use a combination of Search, RLSA, Display and Remarketing campaigns.
“How do I align my campaigns with the Buying Cycle?”
The phrase “aligning your campaigns with the buying cycle” does, on first hearing, sound like a very daunting task that requires you to devote countless hours of planning and analysis to new campaigns, but it’s actually a relatively simple process and only requires you to be mindful of the core principles.
Whenever you’re researching new keywords you should always ask yourself: “At what stage in the cycle would these keywords be categorised?” Once you’ve answered this question you should next ask yourself: “What messaging/information is the user expecting to see at this stage of the cycle?” – This will help you to write compelling ad copies and select the most relevant landing pages. So the alignment with the buying cycle is completely based on serving users with the information they were expecting to find.
For example: If a user is searching for reviews of a product we know they’re probably at “Stage 3: Research” so it’s unlikely that they’re interested in comparing the product’s price. They have little regard for price because they haven’t yet decided if the product is suitable for them. You should negate “reviews” from your product level ad group and create a brand new ad group promoting a review of the product on your website. This draws them back to your brand and serves them with the information they were expecting.
Broadly speaking: If you’re limited by budget, the one phase of the cycle that you can afford to cut out is “review” keywords as the clicks will cost you money and rarely convert into direct sales. This strategy is merely for building trust of your brand with the consumer.
“Why should I stay prominent throughout the buying cycle?”
Staying prominent (in the correct way) throughout the buying cycle builds the user’s trust for your brand as well as ingraining your brand name into their minds. Both of these points will be prove helpful further through the cycle when the user makes a comparison of suppliers.
Serving users with the right information at the right time can also demonstrate that the business is an expert in the field, and demonstrates their thorough understanding of customer wants and needs.
“How do I stay prominent throughout the buying cycle?”
In order to stay prominent throughout the buying cycle you need to first identify where your business fits into each step, and ensure that you have all the relevant information to support the user’s journey, all the way through from awareness to purchase.
Start by going through each step of the cycle and layout exactly what you need to do in order to align your business with this, once you have identified each step you can start to create tailored campaigns with specific keywords and ad copy messages that reflect the user’s search at any given time throughout the cycle.
Ensuring you are appearing on the landscape from the user’s initial search can really boost your chances of claiming the sale later down the line. The use of Remarketing can help you achieve this, drip feeding relevant information and pushing your USPs to the user throughout their consideration cycle will mean you are front of mind at time of purchase.
“How do I stay profitable throughout the buying cycle?”
Setting up campaigns that are visible to people who are in the awareness stage may appear unprofitable on a campaign by campaign basis if you are looking at ROI figures. But you must remember to take into consideration assisted conversions and the conversion path, looking at attribution will allow you to see the whole picture in the cycle.
If the initial click came through a paid keyword in an awareness campaign and converted through a product specific keyword in a campaign geared towards step 5 then the glory will be given to the product keyword, however that sale would more than likely not have occurred if it wasn’t for the initial click in the awareness campaign. The key to succeeding here is to make sure you consider this when optimising your campaigns as you might turn off a keyword that assists a lot of conversions and then you could see a dip in performance just because you have dropped out of one step of the process that assists with the full cycle.
Being prominent at each step of the buying cycle is a must, but remember to look at attribution and assisted conversions as not all stages of the cycle will appear profitable at a granular level. Cutting out the non-profitable stages can lead to a decrease in sales, so always try and look at the larger picture.
Make sure you utilise Remarketing and Display to aid the cycle and be as granular as possible in your messaging for each step.
Aligning yourself with this cycle shouldn’t be a daunting task, outline a plan and structure your campaigns, keywords and ad copies accordingly. Follow these steps and you should have yourself a successful bid media campaign.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog today, we hope you have found it insightful and remember ‘Don’t Pedal Against the Buying Cycle!’
Happy PPCing from the Bid Media Team @ RocketMill.