Buyer Journey to purchase is never linear.

When looking at the buyer journey to purchase there is not one way to close a deal with a buyer in today’s markets.  They have choice.  You have competition.  Other managers step in the way of closing a deal.  New technologies appear out of nowhere to become the latest new solution to their needs.   There are numerous paths to finding the products, services, and companies they need to fulfill their expectations.  The following article by Ted Kohnen looks at this problem and gives insights into the journey that buyers take to making a buying decision in today’s markets. 


The True Path Of The Buyer Journey Is A Winding Road

by Ted Kohnen
Chief Marketing Officer
Stein IAS (Americas)

The buyer journey is a well-documented paradigm, primarily of B2B marketing, on which messaging, creative, and go-to-market approaches are based. Modern marketers subscribe to the buyer journey, so much so, in fact, that I’m pretty certain it’s one of the few marketing bedrocks that has not been declared dead–at least not yet anyway.


  • The truth is that the buyer journey is far, far from linear.
  • Use technologies that enable you to truly master digital body language.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something that’s not considered a best practice.

However, there is a seldom-spoken truth to the buyer journey. It’s a truth that can make the difference between campaign success and failure. A truth that, if truly understood and learned from, makes all your messaging, creative, and go-to-market approaches even more relevant and powerful.

The truth is that the buyer journey is far, far from linear. Despite all the pretty PowerPoint slides to the contrary.

Go to Google images (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course) and search “buyer journey.” What you’ll find are pages and pages of images depicting a nice, neat linear model that follows a path from awareness to interest to consideration to intent to purchase (or something close to that nomenclature).

The many studies, articles, white papers, and videos published on the buyer depict a fairly simple left-to-right or top-to-bottom path that an individual buyer is supposed to follow.

Ahh, if it were only that easy.

In truth, every journey for the buyer is full of twists and turns, stops, back-ups, moves forward, moves to the side … you get the idea. A number of factors can cause the buyer journey space-time continuum to unravel (to paraphrase Doc Brown’s famous line from Back to the Future).

Factors that would cause buyers to stray from their forward progression include:

• Shifts in organizational goals or priorities: If your buyer seeks marketing technology, for example, does his or her brand campaign suddenly need to drive leads now, too?

• Shifts in budgets: Is he or she suddenly working with less budget (or more budget … it has happened!) than originally planned? And, therefore, are the originally researched solutions no longer feasible?

• Management changes: Is there a new top dog who wants to charter a different course?

• New knowledge: Did your buyer learn something new that changes what he or she initially thought was needed or wanted in a product, solution, or offering?

So while an artfully designed, linear buyer journey has some beauty, it merely looks great in a presentation. It’s not reality. Acknowledging this is your first step toward a cure. Adapting and planning for it is next. There’s not enough time (or blog space) to go into all the planning and technology best practices that enable marketers to be in the optimal position to capitalize on the non-linear buyer journey, but here are a few quick hits:

1. Use technologies that enable you to truly master digital body language. Looking at digital behavior (i.e. the actions the buyer takes online) gives you the most clues as to where the buyer is on his or her journey.

2. Use dynamic content across digital advertising, email, your Web site, etc., to continually serve the most relevant message at the right time. This will save yourself and your team a lot of development work.

3. Don’t be afraid to try something that’s not considered a best practice (yet). If you see your audience is not responding (or response rate has gone down), try something different–even unorthodox. If you’ve been sending thought-leadership and issue-oriented content because you think your audience is early in the buyer journey, then send them something about your brand and offering (case study, product video, etc.) If your audience isn’t responding to product or offer material, try sending a survey or thought-leadership piece to elicit response.

While the buyer journey may twist and turn, your marketing doesn’t have to. It just has to be agile.

About Ted Kohnen

The authors of the Brand Activator blog are from Stein IAS, BMA Global Agency of the Year.

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