The ways in which people decide what to buy has changed. Shaping brand or product opinions is no longer the sole realm of big-dollar advertisers.
Advertising is still an influencer, but a new buying behavior has been established. Today, we go online to self-direct our buying decisions.
Translation: people spend more time researching and less time listening to sales spiels. In fact, we now often learn all we need to know to make purchases without ever talking to the seller.
According to Google’s landmark Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), before making a purchase we:
- Search for product or service information online
- Talk with friends and family about the product or service
- Comparison shop online
- Read blog posts, ebooks, and other types of content
- Seek product or service information (i.e. specs, pricing) from provider websites
- Read reviews and endorsements online
- Read comments following an article or opinion piece
“Today, we go online to self-direct our buying decisions.” (tweet this)
This behavior is encompassed by what marketers call the “customer journey” (if you’re not familiar with this concept, read What is the Customer Journey).
When marketers understand this journey, and direct their…messaging to the moments of maximum influence, they stand a much greater chance of reaching consumers in the right place and the right time with the right message.
David Court, Director
McKinsey & Company
What the Customer Journey Means For Photographers
Five key points to consider about the customer journey:
- Traditional sales cycles have shifted with consumer buying behavior. Businesses both big and small have less direct contact with prospective customers because buyers no longer need sales in order to make purchase decisions.
- For small businesses seeking to grow through online marketing, self-directed buying places an emphasis on content that answers the questions consumers ask before buying a product or service.
- Content that helps people make informed buying decisions establishes credibility and preference for your products and services. Inherently, this content is not about the business — it’s about customer needs.
- Informative content drives online engagement and sharing. Content that doesn’t get shared doesn’t get found.
- Content is today’s search and social media currency.
Do this: search online for a service or product you sell or want to sell. Depending on your line of work, example phrases might be “landscape photography workshop Death Valley” or “photo-journalistic wedding photographer Portland Oregon”. Just make sure that your search term is detailed enough to return relevant results.
Do you find competitors in the results? Other photographers with offerings similar to yours?
Ask yourself: How many times a day, week, or month does this search occur? When it does, would your business benefit from better visibility? Does your website appear high in search results for terms that lead to sales?
“If you’re not visible online when people are doing their homework, believe me, they’ll find others who are.”
Jim Lecinski, Managing Director
The customer journey applies as equally to photography as any other industry. People seek information about our services and products online, and during their self-directed buying process they define a need, identify options, create preferences and ultimately make a buying decision.
Everything that make us unique – our brand, credibility, technique, portfolio, pricing – matters at some point in the process, but these bits of information do not have equal utility at all points of the journey.
Photographers who understand this, and who create quality content that solves customer needs rather than simply promotes, can strengthen their brand, grow an audience online, gain better visibility in search engines for targeted search terms and drive business via the web.
Let Your Journey Begin
We once lacked the wisdom of the crowd to help decide what to buy, but this is no more.
“We once lacked the wisdom of the crowd to help decide what to buy, but this is no more.” (tweet this)
To illustrate how – and how photographers can build a better business online — read Bob’s Customer Journey. This short post series demonstrates the customer journey through the eyes and actions of a guy named Bob, tasked by his family to find a wedding photographer (if you’re not a wedding photographer, don’t fret – customer journey principles apply to your photography niche).
- Part one of Bob’s Customer Journey to Buying Your Photography describes how understanding the customer journey helps serious photographers attract customers.
- Part two of Bob’s Customer Journey describes Discover, the first stage of the customer journey and how photographers can leverage it to gain exposure for their work.
- Part three explores questions people ask at each stage of the customer journey and what photographers can do to answer them meaningfully while strengthening their brand and business.
So get started on your journey – jump on over to Bob’s Customer Journey, Part One to get a picture of how customers try to find your products and services online.
Image courtesy of porbital from FreeDigitalPhotos.com
- Content Marketing for Photographers: Customer Personas (Part 2)
- Bob’s Customer Journey to Buying Your Photography (Part 3)
- Bob’s Customer Journey to Buying Your Photography (Part 2)
- Bob’s Customer Journey to Buying Your Photography (Part 1)
- What is the Customer Journey (and Why Photographers Should Care)