Paths to Action

Excerpts from Marketing Management Magazine – Spring 2010

It's a known fact that the most successful sales and marketing organizations understand their target markets and the unique characteristics of their shopping and buying patterns.  This article organizes purchasing decisions into four cells based on two criteria: 1) degree of purchasing expertise and 2) importance in the consumer's life.  When you determine into which box your products and services fall, you'll be well on your way to identifying marketing strategies that get you better results.  Here's a quick snapshot of the four different buyers and their associated purchasing processes.

Habitual:  Characterized by a high degree of purchasing expertise and relatively low importance in the consumer's life, Habitual buyers are willing to try new products easily and adjust their buying habits based on the results they get from new products.  Marketers should 1) reinforce existing habits and loyalty among existing buyers in order to retain customers, and 2) disrupt established habits to get new customers to test their products and services.

DiscoveredCharacterized by a high degree of purchasing expertise and a high degree of importance to the consumer, Discovery buyers are wiling to seek out alternatives and evaluate immediately whether an alternative meets their criteria.  Marketers should strive for a "blockbuster product" or a product that is so unique from the rest that it disrupts the typical buying process.

Considered:  These buyers have low purchasing expertise and the product is of high importance to them.  Consequently this process is all about research and in-depth evaluation.  This is the most challenging situation because marketers are tasked with deciding at which touch points marketing investments should be made.  One of the biggest challenges for marketers in this space is deciding how much to invest in marketing direct to the consumer vs. through trusted advisors.

Delegated:  With relatively low purchasing experience and importance to the consumer's life, this group relies on professionals in the industry to advise them on what to buy.  Because the typical "Delegated" buyer has low experience with the products and the products aren't terribly critical to them, they often delegate most of the buying tasks.  Good examples here are car mechanics advising you on how to maintain your vehicle or flooring salespeople advising you on the best floor materials for a particular room in your home.  The marketing focus here should be on participants in the channel through which the product is installed or made.  Direct-to-consumer communications are rare in this space.

Identifying the path to purchase provides powerful insight into how to tailor your marketing to accelerate growth.  It has implications across the full range of marketing activities, including messaging, media strategies and metrics.