No matter what business you’re in, your ultimate job is to lead your customer along the buyer’s journey.

This is defined as “the experience prospects go through before they become customers.” All buyers go through it, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process and the ways you can influence it.

It starts with AWARENESS. Because every purchase fulfills a need or solves a problem, your prospect first needs to realize that there is a problem.

Awareness often begins with a weird sense that something is just not right. The buyer goes online or contacts fellow members of affinity groups such as the Exmerce trading community to learn if anyone else has ever run into the problem before. This information helps define the problem and often yields suggestions that identify sources of assistance.

This is a critical time because if your business is not part of the universe of potential solutions, you’re not going to be part of the second stage, which is CONSIDERATION.

In this stage, the buyer evaluates options for solving the problem. Your visibility – on the Internet or in an association of businesses like the Exmerce trading community – is vital at this point. Without it, the buyer is not going to include you as a possible source of assistance.

During this critical stage, the buyer narrows a universe of choices into a workable number of potential solutions. As you can see, buyers don’t even start to consider suppliers until they are quite far along on their journey. To be considered at this stage, you need to make sure you have adequately communicated what you offer and how you can solve problems like those the buyer has defined.

In other words, you need to prepare well in advance if you expect to be part of the next stage, which is the DECISION.

The buyer is aware of the problem and the range of possible solutions. He or she has identified companies that offer solutions. The things they look for include the approach to solving the problem, pricing, guarantees, testimonials, and one that is often forgotten – how easy it is to do business with the potential supplier. At the end of this stage, the buyer has decided which is most likely to solve the problem.

Once the buyer considers all these factors, they make the PURCHASE. But there is one final stage in the buyer’s journey, and success in this stage is entirely up to you.

It’s called the NURTURE stage, and it consists of how well you, the supplier, handles your fulfillment of the order. Are you informative? Are you friendly? Do you accommodate the customer’s needs by making minor adjustments whenever necessary?

Nurturing is essential because it reassures buyers that they have made the right decision, fends off buyer’s remorse, and encourages customers to recommend you to others within their chains of influence.