The Buyer’s Journey and Why It’s Important in Inbound Marketing

By Madison Taylor
January 14, 2023
Double sided arrow sign in a desert

The buyer’s journey is a description of the phases that a buyer goes through before making a purchase. In the beginning, the buyer doesn’t yet know that they have a problem, and maybe has never heard of you. In the end, they’ve concluded that your product is the best fix for what ails them.

The buyer’s journey is broken into three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. It’s also sometimes expressed as a “funnel,” in which case we’ll talk about the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, where each stage of the funnel represents a smaller number of people.

We’ll go into more detail when we talk about the four pillars of the inbound methodology, but generally speaking, they match up as follows: the “awareness” phase of the buyer’s journey corresponds to the “attract” phase of inbound marketing, “consideration” to “convert”, and “decision” to “close”.

The “delight” phase of the inbound marketing methodology doesn’t correspond to the buyer’s journey — it stands alone, but it’s equally important. We’ll talk about that more later as well.

Attract Phase

The first stage of the inbound marketing strategy is all about attracting people to your website or business. Remember, this isn’t interruptive marketing — we’re not trying to get in people’s faces. We’re waiting for people to start seeking out answers and then doing the best we can to make ourselves visible when they do.

Make the Most of Social Media

Social media is an excellent tool for the attraction phase of inbound marketing. Since the attract phase corresponds with the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey, you’re just trying to make potential customers aware that you exist. Posts in this stage are all about showing people who you are and that you might have a solution to their pain points — at the very least, you know what those pain points are.

Write a Blog

Blogs let you dig a little deeper into your subject matter than social media does — it’s a good idea to link your social posts to your blog so that readers who want to know more can learn about a topic in more depth. Your blog is where you prove that you know what you’re talking about — demonstrate authority and expertise on a subject so that the reader knows that you’re familiar with their problem and know how to help.

Get Started on Whitepapers

Whitepapers are similar to blogs, but a little more packaged up — picture a print magazine vs. a website. Despite the name, whitepapers aren’t usually print collateral, but they’re a good downloadable asset for interested visitors to take with them and read later.

If you’re going to make whitepapers, make sure your branding is on point — fonts, logos, colors, formatting, language choices, and so on should be in line with your brand guidelines so that the association remains strong, even with relatively static pieces of information.

Show Off Your Best Work With Case Studies

Once you’ve gotten rolling, you can start to prove your expertise with real-world examples of how you’ve impacted another person or company. Talk about the person, the problem they had, and how whatever they were trying previously wasn’t working. Then talk about how you came along and fixed it. These stories should be emotional, not clinical — talk about how your customer felt rather than fixating on facts and figures.


Ebooks are similar to blogs and whitepapers but often built in more depth in order to be a one-stop shop for a particular topic. Ebooks used to be more popular, but they’re starting to be overshadowed by…

Pillar Pages: Ungated Content For All

Pillar pages! Just like the one you’re reading now, pillar pages are a comprehensive, in-depth look at a particular topic. While it was popular for a while to require some sort of form submission before downloading an ebook — just submit your name, email, and job title to download! — lots of companies (us included) are starting to lean toward open, no-strings-attached information.

Consumers are ever more concerned with privacy and don’t like to give out even information as innocuous as an email address. The way we see it, your main job is to show your visitors that you know what they’re talking about, and the easier it is for them to see that, the better! Hence the pillar page — detailed, useful, educational materials for anyone who wants to read them.

Convert Phase

The second stage of the inbound marketing strategy is all about converting visitors — the people you managed to attract to your site in the previous phase — into leads.

You’ve got someone to visit your site, read your blog, and check out your products. Now it’s time to start a conversation.

This stage corresponds directly with the “consideration” stage of the buyer’s journey — visitors are weighing their options, collecting information, and working toward a decision, but they’re not ready to pick a finalist just yet.

The Role of Social Media

At this phase, your social media posts are more direct about the problem you’re trying to solve. The people seeing this content are already aware that they have a problem — they don’t need the high-level education that you provided in the attract phase.

Your content should be directly addressing their needs at this phase. Wording and design are speaking directly to the customer, telling them that you can fix whatever pain points brought them to you in the first place.

Your social media posts should also contain a call to action at this phase. Whereas in the attract phase, you were merely trying to educate visitors about the capabilities of your product, now you’re trying to get them engaged. CTAs along the lines of “learn more” are perfect for this phase.

Don’t Sleep On Email Marketing

The convert phase is also a good time to focus your email marketing campaigns. You already know that potential customers at this phase are looking at you, so keep in touch with them! Use landing pages or social campaigns to get their email addresses — you know they’re interested if they’re willing to give you contact info.

Emails in the convert phase should be about checking in, asking about a problem, and providing detailed info like whitepapers and case studies to show off your credentials. If you run a B2B business, this is the time to offer an audit or demonstration to show people precisely how you can help them.

Blogs Can Help Pull People Through The Funnel

Blogs oriented toward the convert phase — the “consideration” phase of the buyer’s journey — should be all about guiding readers further through the funnel. Content should be similar to the emails — educational, specific, and addressing the exact problems that readers are trying to solve — and CTAs should encourage readers to take further steps.

For example, CTAs could ask for contact info so that readers can stay informed on new developments, or offer a one-on-one call with a salesperson to answer any specific questions they might have. If you have a complex pricing model, you might offer to go over the reader’s exact needs and generate a price list for them.

The convert phase is precisely where CRM software comes in so handy. With a CRM that your marketers and salespeople are diligently updating, you can keep track of who’s visiting your site, which pages they’ve read, what info they’ve given you, how many times you’ve reached out to them, and so on.

Close Phase

The close phase corresponds directly to the decision phase of the buyer’s journey — the customer is ready to make a decision, and you’re ready to turn a lead into a customer. It’s the bottom of the funnel, so this is the hard part, but don’t give up!

If you have a dedicated sales team, make sure they’re in the loop with marketing efforts, pricing, promotions, and so on. You don’t want them to go in blind and over-or under-promise because they haven’t kept up.

At this point, the marketing work is mostly done. This is the sales team’s territory. That doesn’t mean marketing is out of the picture, though. It’s important for your sales and marketing team to work together (we call it “smarketing”) so that everyone’s goals and expectations are aligned. If they are, you should have no trouble handing off your leads to the salespeople.

How Do You Turn Leads Into Customers?

Sales is not an exact science, and the exact approach you take will depend on your business and personal style, but there are some good places to start.

Use your CRM and your closed-loop reporting software, as well as meetings between marketing and sales, to determine which marketing efforts are bringing in the best leads and which ones become the best customers.

Every lead also needs to be nurtured according to their interests and where they are in the process. Keep track of which pages they’ve visited, social posts they’ve clicked on, whitepapers they’ve downloaded, and the info they’ve given. All of those things will help you keep track of shifting interests and stay relevant in the customer’s mind.

Don’t forget about emails. If someone clicks on a CTA, fills out a form on a landing page, or downloads a whitepaper but isn’t ready to become a customer, email is the perfect tool. Use your knowledge of the kind of content they’re browsing to intuit their problems and questions, then send targeted emails to address those concerns.

If you’re not already, you should be scoring your leads. How you do so is up to you, but lead scoring is the idea of assigning values to various characteristics, like the channel the lead came from, their demographics, whether they’ve reached out to you, and anything else you think is relevant.

As you generate more leads, you’ll find that it’s not worth your time to reach out to every single lead. Lead scoring is the perfect way to prioritize the leads that are most likely to convert and most likely to turn into good sources of revenue.

Delight Phase

This is the final phase of the inbound marketing strategy. It doesn’t line up with the buyer’s journey anymore, but it’s just as important.

The delight stage is about three things: retaining your existing customers, turning them into repeat customers, and getting them to spread the word to new customers. Customers these days have high expectations — they expect quick responses, good customer service, and detailed, accurate information.

Why bother? Because repeat customers are the best customers. Acquiring a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one, so keeping your existing customers happy is the best way to keep your sales numbers up without ballooning your marketing budget. Always be looking for little ways to delight your existing customers, whether it’s exclusive discounts, birthday gifts, or just great service — remember, that’s money you’re not spending on marketing.

Not only are existing customers better customers — they’re 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than first-timers — but they tell their friends. Word of mouth and influencer marketing account for trillions of dollars in consumer spending and are estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales.

People trust their friends. More than ever, it’s easy to consult with friends, family, and people you trust online before making a purchase, so it’s vital that you become one of the companies people recommend. Word-of-mouth impressions result in five times more sales than paid impressions, and people are 90% more likely to make a purchase if it’s recommended by a friend. Every lead generated by an existing customer is a lead you didn’t have to spend marketing dollars on.

How To Be Delightful

Personalize everything! Your customers know that you’re not sending individual marketing emails just to them, but putting their names or other personal touches in the email will help make it feel more like a one-on-one interaction.

If you can, give them the opportunity to tell you what they’re interested in, and serve them content accordingly. If you make outdoor clothing, for example, you can personalize your email lists by not sending promos for a new women’s jacket to your male customers.

Offer little tokens of appreciation that make sense for your business. If you run a law firm or tax-preparing business, offer a free consultation for existing customers. If you run a restaurant, a free appetizer or exclusive all-day happy hour might be fun. If you own a brewery, consider a mug club or growler discount.

Don’t be too liberal with coupon codes or limited-time-only offers. Not only have customers seen hundreds of them before — how many 20% off coupons from Bed Bath and Beyond are in your mailbox right now? — but they’re impersonal, and the customer knows you didn’t have to spend any effort on them.