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The Buying Continuum: How to turn your social media followers into buyers

by Shareef Ayyad. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

Have you ever seen those Twitter accounts that are following tens of thousands of people, and are being followed by roughly the same number? It seems to be a growing trend with users of the social network to follow any and every account they come across, in the hope that they receive the same in return.

After some digging around, it becomes apparent that many of these frantic followers do not seem to have the same tenacity with the other channels at their disposal – their websites aren’t up to par, they blog infrequently or not at all, their tone of voice and use of language on other social platforms is not consistent with their tweets – generally, their activity is not integrated and they lack an overarching message.

leaflets

From a marketing perspective this is an ineffective use of what can be a very powerful tribe building tool. Their tweets are the equivalent of giving out leaflets at the high street on a crowded Saturday morning. Yes, the leaflet is exchanging hands, but meaningful conversations are rarely struck up, and there certainly isn’t an attempt to position the brand as being of value to these high street shoppers. Similarly, these Twitter ‘power’ users are frantically handing out follows, but are not tempting any one down the Buying Continuum.

Buying Continuum

There is a series of behaviours that a customer exhibits during the lifetime of contact with a brand – this is called the Buying Continuum. The behaviours are:

  • Unaware: A potential buyer has no idea that you even exist. They’ve never heard of you. Your aim is to get on their radar screen. Using social media, advertising, direct mail and attending events are good ways for you and your target market to find each other.
  • Aware: A potential buyer knows you exist. Your goal is to get them intrigued enough to care, then they’ll listen. Offering free content of value, like email newsletters, blog articles or white papers, will help to increase their interest, and position you as an expert in your field.
  • Trial: Now they’re on the verge of buying. They’re willing to give your service or product a try, you just need to give them a little nudge. Testimonials and case studies will help get them to cross the line.
  • Repeat: They’ve tried your product or service, now you want them to buy again. At this stage, you want to let them know you won’t forget them and just chase new clients, and launching customer perks, clubs and specialised newsletters can really help here.
  • Referral: This is the Holy Grail for marketers. This is when your customers are out doing your job – selling your product or service. They are creating buzz, word of mouth marketing, by acting as advocates and ambassadors of your brand.

Case study: Moo.com

Moo is becoming an increasingly popular brand in the print world, and a big factor behind their rise is their integrated approach to marketing. Despite being an ‘offline’ business, that creates real tangible objects (business cards, photo cards, mini cards etc), they are extremely effective at online marketing and selling. Why? Because they are producing activity that caters to every behaviour in the Buying Continuum.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, events (Unaware)


They have accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, where they have conversations, post how-to guides, share interesting links and funny pictures, and promote special offers. They have a consistent tone of voice, and use of language, across all three channels, and they strike a balance between selling their services, and being a source of interesting stuff on the web. They also have booths at trade shows, exhibitions and conferences, where customers can pick up the business cards they’ve ordered.

Website, blog and Newsletter (Aware)

moo-email-sign-up

The Moo website sets a great first impression, and has a well designed user experience that gently guides and persuades visitors to purchase. But, what sets Moo apart from their competitors is their Inspiration section – a plethora of useful content like expert tips, inspiration galleries, advice on business startups, and their blog. Moo have identified that much of their target market are new startups, perhaps buying their first set of business cards, and so they’ve created great content that intrigues new visitors to browse around. Furthermore, visitors are given the incentive of getting free delivery on orders when they sign up to their email newsletter.

Free Samples (Trial)

free-sample-pack

Moo understands that some customers hesitate when e-shopping, so they provide sample packs of their products, and sample print runs of business cards so potential customers are able to hold Moo’s actual products in their hands before they part with their cash. This is great for feeling the weight and texture of their print products. These sample print runs also give an insight into the Moo shopping experience. This is an extremely powerful idea, and goes a long, long way in tempting those on the verge of buying to commit to their first purchase.

Exclusive offers and discounts (Repeat)

moosletterThe team at Moo are very effective at using their email newsletter (The MOOsLetter) to persuade repeat purchase. They feature discount codes and special offers on products they think you’d want (based on previous purchases), and they also teach readers more about their products, giving them ideas of ways to use them that they might not have thought about.

Refer a friend scheme (Referrals)

moo-refer-a-friend

Because of the power of referrals, Moo have built a system to facilitate their refer a friend policy, where each referral will earn a user £4.50 on their account, and a whooping £45 if they’re a business account holder. This is a very novel way of bringing in new customers, and at £4.50 a pop is probably cheaper than new customers obtained through more traditional advertising methods. Besides, there’s nothing more powerful than a recommendation from a colleague, friend or family member.

Conclusion

Building a large following on social media platforms is only the tip of the iceberg. Your brand should work towards converting these followers into buyers by guiding them through the Buying Continuum. A consistent tone of voice, use of language, and persona, should be used across all of your channels, and careful attention should be taken to strike a balance between selling your services and products, and providing content of value for free. By producing activity that caters to every behaviour in the Buying Continuum, just like Moo, your brand will be able to convert your followers into loyal members of your tribe.