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Building Marketing Plans Using the Customer Buying Cycle

Are you ready to build a marketing plan?

Defining a target market and understanding the Customer Buying Cycle are keys to the development of an effective marketing plan.

Here is what you need to know to start that development.

Who is Your Target Market?

Although you may want to sell your product or service to everyone, it may not be practical nor a good fit. You need to focus on a segment of the total population that is the best target for your offering and you need to learn as much about them as you possibly can. For example, who are they, where do they live, what is the ‘pain’ they are trying to solve, and how do they shop. A well-defined target market is the most crucial piece of an effective marketing plan and will be the backbone.

How Do They Purchase?

Once you have defined your target market, you need to understand how they make their purchase decisions and develop activities that will influence those decisions.

There are six distinct steps that an individual goes through when making a purchase decision. Some of these steps may be done instinctively when a simple purchase is involved (e.g. a magazine or a pair of shoes). However, deciding on a larger purchase (e.g. a car or a new home) may require more time and more thought as the buyer moves toward their purchase decision.

The ultimate goal of a good marketer is to reach the right target market and have them take an action leading to a specific result. Satisfied customers become loyal customers and will refer your product or service to others. You need to create activities in your plan that will help guide prospective purchasers through the buying cycle towards the desired outcome.

Marketing for each stage has unique definitions, goals and activities. Below we provide a definition, goals for the target market and for the marketer and typical activities for each stage.

To illustrate each stage, we will use the example of buying a car. It is important to realize that purchasing a service (instead of a product) would follow the same cycle and stages.

Stage 1 – Awareness

Definition: Realizing; being conscious of something

Goal for the Target Market

In the Awareness stage, the target market realizes they have a problem to solve. In the example of a car purchase, the customer has a transportation problem. They will start to consider different options – public transit, car pooling, or buying a car. They need to become aware of all their options including the different car companies.

Goal for the Marketer

As a marketer, you need to make your presence known and attract the attention of potential customers so that you are included in their list of solutions to their problem. You want your target market to receive a glimpse of who you are and what you are offering. In our car purchase example, you need to make the buyer aware that you make and sell good cars. The goal is to get the buyer a bit excited and looking for more information about your product or service.

Typical Activities

Typical activities or tactics for creating awareness might be an advertisement in the local newspaper or on the radio, or business cards or the creation of a new website.

Stage 2 – Knowledge

Definition: a body of facts accumulated over time; the fact of knowing

Goal for the Target Market

Here, the target market is looking for more information about any of the options that have piqued their interest. They will gather information to help them narrow down the list. In our car example, they will try to find out more about different car manufacturers through brochures, websites, magazines or car shows.

Goal for the Marketer

The marketer must ensure that there is enough information available to their potential customers in places where they can find it. In our car example, you want to provide them with information about your different car models and to provide that information where they will go – i.e. car dealerships, websites, car shows, detailed ads in car magazines, or reviews.