Buying Process-Core Concept (Male & Female)
The Buying Process is a representation of customer behaviors that occur before, during
and after the decision to use your product. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes to
understand how and why they make their decisions you can identify specific actions to
take at key points to profitably influence their behavior.
Let’s examine The Buying Process in this real-world example in the financial services
industry. You’ll have the opportunity to work as a member of the team developing a
Buying Process for financial advisory services. You’ll have access to expert advice to
guide you through the process. At any point you can stop along the way, go back, or link
to other modules using the navigational tools on the page. When the characters on the
screen become active, you can click them to get tips and feedback.
[Henry Character] I’m Henry Logan, marketing director for Acme Financial. We’ve
been tasked with growing our base of new clients for financial advisory services.
Although 85% of people know our brand, most don’t realize that we have a large agent
network offering planning and investment advisory services. Corporate has asked us to
turn the advisory business around. We’ve got to present a marketing plan that will grow
this business, so I’m open to new ways of approaching our challenge.
[Expert Character] I’ll be working with you to develop the marketing plan. I’ve
proposed the team start by taking a fresh look at how customers make choices about
buying financial advisory services. These behaviors can be captured using the Buying
Process framework that let’s us visualize how customers move from consideration to
purchase and use of a product. This will help lay the foundation for a new growth
At the most general level the Buying Process can be represented in five Stages through
which customers move:
In the first, Origination, customers recognize a need or problem that triggers a decision to
act. This is followed by Information Gathering, where customers seek out data from
different sources in relation to the product. In the Evaluation stage, they critically assess
the information they’ve gathered. This leads to a Purchase decision in which they select
a particular brand and channel. The final stage is Usage and Post-purchase Evaluation
where customers use the product and decide whether they like or dislike it.
When constructing a Buying Process for a particular offering, you can customize the
Stages to fit the market you want to describe. It may require more than five steps to
accurately represent customers’ buying behavior in different industries or for different
types of products.
Let’s construct the stages in the Buying Process for financial advisory services. The team
proposes using a seven stage process to represent how customers behave in deciding
whether to consult a financial advisor.
How would you order the stages to represent this Buying Process? Drag and drop each
item into the right spot in the framework on the right. You can also consult the Expert
for tips on customizing the Buying Process to your own offering.
[Henry Character] This is important work. We’ve never mapped out the steps
customers go through in this kind of detail before. It makes me realize there are more
places where we could potentially influence behavior, even before customers get to the
point of choosing between us and our competitors. I wonder if we’ve been focusing our
attention in the right areas?
Next, you’ll want to come up with a thorough list of what your customers do at each
stage of the purchase decision and the actions that follow from those choices. The choice
that a customer makes is known as a Behavior, while the actions that follow are known as
Results. For example, a customer Behavior may be: clipping coupons from the
newspaper. The Results of this Behavior could be that they clip your coupon, or they clip
a competitor’s coupon, or they may not to clip any coupons at all. Think about the
context in which the behaviors occur and who influences them. Start by brainstorming as
detailed a set of Behaviors and Results as possible, then simplify your list.
The Acme marketing team is brainstorming a list of Behaviors and Results that customers
exhibit in purchasing financial advisory services. The Buying Process is built up by
assigning the specific behaviors to the Stages where they occur. Drag and drop the
behaviors suggested by the team members to the appropriate Stages.
[Henry Character] I think we’ve done a good job brainstorming behaviors – what
people do, where they do it, who influences them. It’s kind of a messy, creative process
at first. We’ve captured a lot of ideas that we can refine with more data. Now we can
start to understand how customers flow through the choices that lead them to or away
from Acme. It really brings the process to life.
Once you’ve got your list of Behaviors and Results, you can simplify the picture by
grouping related behaviors and eliminating less important ones. By arranging categories
of behaviors into a flow chart diagram you can construct a visual representation of the
choices customers can make at each Stage. Use quantitative data to measure how often
the behaviors occur and identify typical paths customers take through the Buying
The Acme team wants to understand which behaviors lead people to purchase, or not
purchase, their offering. Click on a Behavior at each Stage to select a path through the
Buying Process for a hypothetical customer. Each path is essentially a “story” about the
choices customers make in purchasing financial services. Using data to quantify
behaviors lets you determine which paths typically lead people to consider Acme.
[Henry Character] This really gives us a living story of how customers make choices.
Quantifying the paths has been especially revealing! I don’t think we realized how many
people dropped out of the process before taking any real action at all: 62%!
[Henry Character] We also found that some triggers are more likely to lead to action.
[Henry Character] The most exciting thing is the strong link we found between how
people think about the products they need and the advisors they choose. They’re much
more likely to come to Acme if they think broadly about their investment needs than if
they’re focused on specific products. How they flow through the Buying Process makes
all the difference. This tells me there are upstream behaviors that really have a huge
impact on our business. How can we leverage these insights?
Once you’ve identified and quantified behaviors, you can zero in on “Leverage Points”
where you can intervene to shape customers’ decisions. Research revealed the presence
of potential Leverage Points for financial advisory services at the Origination and
Evaluation stages. Changing how customers act at these points in the Buying Process has
a major impact on the eventual purchase decision. Think about specific desirable
behaviors that occur, or could occur, at these Leverage Points that would drive customers
to your offering. The specific things you want the customer to do become your
A Behavioral Objective should be as specific as possible. Try to put it in a single
sentence: Who is the customer? What do you want them to do? Instead of what?
Start by generating a list of desired behaviors. Next you’ll apply a screening process to
see whether they meet the test for a Behavioral Objective. In order to qualify, the
behavior must represent a significant opportunity: does it happen often, is the impact
substantial? It also has to be targeted: does it lead to an advantage for your offering over
your competitors’? Finally it has to be feasible: does your organization have the
necessary capabilities, how much would it cost? Use data to quantify the impact where
you can. For example, if customers adopt the desired behavior, what will the effect on
Using the information gathered from the Buying Process, the Acme team has identified
desired behaviors that would favor the purchase of Acme advisory services. Click on the
suggested behaviors to evaluate them against the criteria for Behavioral Objectives.
[Expert Character] [Something about order of screening criteria being important –
look first at whether it is a significant opportunity – how you answer this might change
your evaluation of whether it is affordable, etc. Stress that behavioral objective must be
very specific and say where evaluation data comes from: surveys, market research, etc.]
[Henry Character] Mapping the Buying Process has given us a much clearer
understanding of our customers’ behavior and lets us zero in on where we can profitably
influence their decisions. In particular, it’s helped us identify some specific upstream
behavioral changes we want to encourage that should drive business to Acme. Not only
do these represent a significant opportunity but they’re achievable at reasonable cost and
make use of many of our current capabilities. Great work!