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Projects-to-Products: The Buyer's Journey

By Brian Nathanson posted Nov 25, 2019 09:05 AM

Before we move on, there's one more marketing (or sales) model that I think makes sense to consider as a Product Manager.

In 1910, John Dewey introduced the concept of the buyer's decision process -- the mental/psychological steps that a person goes through when deciding what products to purchase and use. Over the years, the concept has been popularized under the phrase the "buyer's journey"

My favorite version of the buyer's journey is broken into 6 key steps or phases. (Some models have more or less; feel free to let me know if you prefer a different breakout.)
  1. Awareness -- Exactly what it sounds like. The buyer becomes aware that a particular product or offering exists.
  2. Interest -- The buyer realizes they are interested in the product and decides to educate themselves further about it.
  3. Consideration -- The buyer, now educated, weighs the pros/cons of the product (and alternatives) to determine whether they should make a purchase.
  4. Purchase -- The buyer actually makes the purchase. Note that this step includes the tactical steps required to do this. That's not always as easy as you might think. If you've ever been in a situation where you (a) wanted to buy something but could not find it in stock anywhere or (b) could not make it through the necessary purchasing steps on the website due to some issue or error, then you have run into two situations where the Purchase step was not handled properly.
  5. Retention -- Once purchased, the buyer decides to keep using the product as opposed to return the product, stop its use and switch to another product, or abandon the desired outcome altogether in favor of something else.
  6. Advocacy -- In some cases, if very impressed, a buyer will become an advocate for others to purchase the product. This leads to the other steps in this cycle for other buyers. In B2B situations, advocacy can be critical to successful adoption of an enterprise system. You want to enable your product champions to advocate for the use/growth of your product vs other competing priorities within the organization.
The point here is to understand that each step in the journey represents an opportunity for Product Managers to be engaged -- as well as a potential threat to product success if handled improperly. As part of your overall rollout for a particular release, you will want to consider each of the above stages and how you will address them since every new release must be "bought" by your customers/users. Otherwise, they will probably not appreciate the value you have delivered.