Knowing how to market your products or services is both easy and hard. Easy because you are knowledgeable about the details of your product or service. It is hard because your customer may not be ready to talk about your product or service in the way you can sell it. Creating a marketing strategy that speaks to customers “where they are” is often overlooked by seasoned professionals.

Lots of research has been done on consumer buying habits, processes and preferences. While the info gets pretty deep and specific, it is very helpful to look at the process customers go through when buying a product. The way a customer goes from thinking about a need they may have to deciding what to buy generally follows a three step process.

The first step is gathering and sorting information about the product or service in general. At this stage in the process the consumer is trying to get enough information to consider the benefits of acting and what to look for when or if they decide to do so. Winning a customer over at this point is tough.  Marketing at this point is often targeted at benefits of a product or solution.

The second step is a refinement process. The customer, at this point, is able to understand and differentiate between features of similar products.  They also generally know what they need and what they don’t.  This is where most conventional marketing comes in.

The third step is the decision making process and it is typically logistical. The concerns at this stage center on availability and cost. The product or service has generally been selected; all that remains is to select the service or product provider. Different techniques are used to market to consumers at this stage including promotions, value added services, and appeals to instant gratification.

Understanding how the customer navigates the process from identifying a need through to spending money will help you write messaging for every step of the process. Creating marketing materials that meet the customer where they are in the process is a sure fire way to make sure your message is getting heard.