How to Capture More Buyers Earlier in their Journey

Blog Post
March 08, 2017

Capture more buyers earlier


McKinsey and Company recently published an article called The new battleground for marketing-led growth that explains in detail why marketers need to “win attention for their brands at the very beginning of a shopper’s journey.”

McKinsey’s research shows that, for shopping-driven categories (like cosmetics, personal computers, autos and financial services), the ratio of initial consideration to market share explains more than 60% of the variance in growth of market share.

So how, exactly, can we make sure we’re getting more attention early on in the buyer’s journey? Let’s explore.

Understand the buyer’s journey to capture more buyers…earlier.

In McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop, the buyer’s journey starts off with the consumer considering an initial set of brands.


McKinsey says to capture more buyers at the consideration stage of their Loyalty Loop.


The loop approach is certainly more viable than a traditional funnel. However, we believe that marketers need to back up a bit. The consumer does not start a journey by considering a set of brands; the consumer starts a buyer’s journey by identifying a need to fill or a job to complete.

The most effective framework through which to understand the buyer’s journey is therefore through Tony Ulwick’s Jobs to be Done theory. As Theodore Levitt said, “people do not want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” People buy products and services to get jobs done; and while products come and go, the underlying job-to-be-done does not go away.


As Theodore Levitt said, “people do not want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”


Looking at the buyer’s journey through this Jobs to be Done lens, there are 5 overarching stages:

  1. Problem Recognition
  2. Information Search
  3. Evaluation
  4. Purchase
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation

Within each of the 5 stages, there are specific goals a customer is looking to accomplish on the journey to solving his or her problem.


Stages of Buyer's Journey


To capture more buyers early on in their journey, we need to find them in their problem recognition and information search phases. We can only do this by understanding our personas: who our customers are and the situations that cause them to enter a buyer’s journey.

Personas—way more than demographics.

When was the last time you walked into a store and the sales associate asked you your age, gender, income and location? Never. So why do we start personas this way? A human sales associate would ask, “how may I help you?” to figure out your individual needs. Demographics-based personas cannot speak to an individual, and they cannot provide context.

We need to look at the real indications that we have a ready buyer—the small data. It’s our job to determine what an interested buyer looks like—and if there are some data points in that description that we can’t easily get to, it’s our job to figure out how to get them. This often means breaking down walls inside the organization to share information at a human level rather than at a channel or interaction level. It can also mean bringing in third party enhancing data that help you understand who the buyer is.

In this case, we need to determine what physical and digital breadcrumbs (or small data) indicate that a buyer is considering solving a problem with a solution that we can provide to him—and then start tracking these indicators in real time. We can do this by understanding what situations may lead to the consumer having this problem in the first place.

For example, why might a consumer be in the market for a new smart phone? Well, he may:

  • Be frustrated with his Android phone
  • Need to have newest technology
  • Be buying as a gift
  • Have a phone that doesn’t hold a charge
  • Be up for service contract renewal

Someone that’s frustrated with his Android phone may Google for feature alternatives in other phones. Someone whose battery doesn’t last may search for ways to improve a phone’s battery life. These types of behaviors and data points help you to pinpoint potential customers early in the buyer’s journey for a new smart phone.

Once we see a buyer appear early in the journey, and we know what situation drove him there, we can provide content that’s relevant to him in the moment, adding our brand to his list of those to consider.

It’s all about the job.

Remember, it’s all about the job. A consumer does not start considering a set of brands for no reason. Each individual that is considering your brand is doing so for a specific reason in a specific context or situation. Learn to recognize these reasons and situations, and it will be easy to speak relevantly to more prospects early in their journey.

You may also want to check out a related piece I wrote, CMOs: Where Our Heads Need to be for Success in 2017.